Governor Bill Walker has notified state lawmakers this morning of his intent to accept federal money to expand Medicaid coverage in Alaska.
Walker, who was elected last fall, campaigned on expanding Medicaid, but ran into resistance from leaders in the Republican-led Legislature, who said they had concerns with adding thousands more people to a system they saw as broken.
Walker’s office said he sent the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee notice of his intention to expand the program and this morning Walker held a news conference to further discuss his plans. He announced that he intends to unilaterally move forward on Medicaid expansion.
"This is the final this option for me,” says Walker. “I’ve tried everything else. And one thing people have to learn about me, I never give up and I won’t give up, and it’s good for Alaskans.”
Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens says he’s happy about the move forward.
“It covers a lot of people, maybe some 40,000 people who have not been covered before. It helps hospitals out and unpaid bills and all of that. It brings in some federal money that has not been in the state before. And it just helps a lot of folks,” says Stevens. “So, I think it’s good to look at it. The governor has I think made the right decision to move ahead and get started on it.”
He says now it’s time to think ahead.
“It goes to the legislature eventually to figure out, is it really a cost-savings matter for us? Is it going to be a continual cost that we’re going to have to find out a way to pay for in the future? So, there are a lot of details there and the saying is always that the devil’s in the details,” says Stevens. “We’ve gotta find out what exactly what it’s going to cost the state.”
Stevens says on the surface it sounds like it could have a positive impact on Alaska.