Parnell remains against Medicaid expansion

Governor Sean Parnell at Thursdays' Press Conference.

Governor Sean Parnell at Thursdays’ Press Conference. (Image courtesy Gavel Alaska)

So far, eight Republican governors have decided to split with their party and accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion in their states. Today, Sean Parnell announced that he won’t be joining them — at least for now.

On Thursday, Parnell said that he will not ask legislators to put any money toward broadening the health program and opening it up to more low-income Alaskans. His concern is that the federal government could end up reneging on promised funds, given the current fiscal climate in Washington.

“So if we expand the Medicaid population and the federal government fails to keep its financial commitment, the state would likely have to backfill forward-lost federal dollars to cover beneficiaries of the expansion and to protect the health coverage of everyone currently in the program,” said Parnell.

Parnell plans to revisit the prospect of Medicaid expansion in December, when he rolls out his annual budget proposal.

If Medicaid were expanded in the state, it’s projected that it would extend coverage to 40,000 Alaskans. Under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will cover the full cost of growing the program for the first three years. After that, the state share would gradually go up to 10 percent.

Because the federal government will start offering extra money for Medicaid expansion in January, putting off a decision on the program means that Alaska will be opting out of that funding for the first six months that it is available.

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