House passes fast-track bill to keep ferries and Medicaid funded through spring

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, during the hours-long deliberations on HB 111, an oil tax bill, April 10 , 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)
Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, speaks on the House floor in April 2017. On Monday, Seaton supported the fast-track supplemental bill. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The House Monday passed an extra funding bill to allow the state to make Medicaid payments to hospitals and the Alaska Marine Highway System to operate through the spring.

House Bill 321 is known as the “fast-track supplemental.”

It would appropriate $110 million. That includes $45 million the House added in an amendment Monday to pay for Medicaid. Hospital advocates have expressed concern that some small hospitals wouldn’t be able to pay their bills if the Legislature doesn’t pass the Medicaid funding.

Homer Republican Rep. Paul Seaton said the state made a commitment to those providers.

“That’s why this $45 million is in the budget now,” Seaton said, who caucuses with mostly Democratic majority. “And that is, you know, probably our responsibility, if we have statutory requirements that providers provide services, that we make the payments.”

Eagle River Republican Lora Reinbold, who is in the Republican minority caucus, opposed the amendment to fund Medicaid and the overall bill. She noted the large number of Alaskans enrolled in Medicaid. There are 200,000 in Medicaid and Denali KidCare.

“Now they’re dependent on a government that is growing out of control,” she said. “We have a recession going on and every dollar that we spend – every single dollar that we spend, whether it’s federal or state dollars – comes out of the private sector. And a lot of the private sector people can’t afford health insurance.”

The bill also includes $24 million for the ferry system and $18 million for the Department of Corrections.

The House voted 32 to 7 on the bill. All of the no votes were cast by representatives from Matanuska-Susitna Borough or Eagle River. It now heads to the Senate.

Andrew Kitchenman

State Government Reporter, Alaska Public Media & KTOO

State government plays an outsized role in the life of Alaskans. As the state continues to go through the painful process of deciding what its priorities are, I bring Alaskans to the scene of a government in transition.

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