Perry's lead isn't one for Parnell to follow

By JOHN HAVELOCKJuly 20, 2012 

It was no great surprise when Texas Gov. Rick Perry rejected federal funding to expand Medicaid to provide health care to more of the poor people in his state.

Most Americans had him down already as an "Aw, shucks, best guy to share a beer with kinda fella" when in the presidential debates he couldn't come up with the third department to abolish. OK, so that's Texas. They get what they voted for. But Gov. Sean Parnell?

Parnell's office said he will take "weeks or months" to decide whether to follow Perry. But this week, in a tip-off to what his decision may be, he rejected state management of the Insurance Exchange Program, also a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), notwithstanding full funding available, which would save many Alaskans thousands of dollars in insurance bills. He prefers federal administration. (Huh?)

The ACA, aka "Obamacare," is intended to provide near-universal medical care to American citizens.

To avoid disturbing the millions who already have medical insurance and to keep the insurance industry and its employees happy, the ACA seeks to achieve this goal through subsidizing expansion of private insurance systems and broadening eligibility for Medicaid to provide for the poor as well as the dirt-poor. This program is administered jointly with every state.

The original fuss over ACA came from the provision that says you don't have to buy insurance, but if you don't, you must pay a penalty (or tax).

The reason is simple: It is unfair to allow those who don't buy insurance to dump their costs on the rest of us. When they actually get sick or hurt, they go to the emergency room (if handy) and you pay.

There is nothing radical about the ACA. It was originally thought up by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and was incorporated into the Massachusetts Commonwealth Act Providing Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care (CAPAAQAHC). Maybe "Romneycare" is the better name.

But what about broccoli? Does the tax on a person who refuses to buy insurance mean the government's next step is to make you eat broccoli?

Who among Alaskans, even among the handful of broccoli lovers, would not take up arms against the government to fight such a requirement?

There are a great many foolish things any government, yes, even Parnell's Alaska, might make you do. The worry here is what Parnell won't let you do -- see a doctor.

The main protection against foolishness is democratic accountability. No, the ACA is not about broccoli; it's about health care for those who can't afford it.

The country has come many miles down that road already, particularly with Medicare and Medicaid under cheaper, single-payer systems. The Supreme Court has said Medicaid expansion is a state choice.

Apparently, math is not Gov. Perry's strong point either. The government is paying 100 percent of the money only for the first few years; then it settles in at 90 percent, imposing a 10 percent burden on the taxpayers of Texas to extend the lives of hundreds of thousands of its citizens.

Some Texans, boasting they run the biggest state in a consensual union, sound like they are ready to start their own country.

The protection of state sovereignty and the right to die early from preventable illness may well be a superior cause, at least for Perry and his friends.

But since when did Alaska start turning down 90 percent federal funding, let alone 100 percent money? What's next, refusing the 90 percent federal highway match?

By the way, the tens of thousands whom the state declines to cover via expanded Medicaid are not eligible for subsidized insurance. That's standing for principle on the necks of the sick for you.

Has anyone advising the governor mentioned the thousands of new Alaska jobs in the medical field these expanded Medicaid payments would bring?

Is there something wrong with making sure poor folks get medical treatment?

Gov. Parnell, respectfully speaking, get with this program or join a Fairbanks militia.

John Havelock is a former Alaska attorney general who enjoys 100 percent coverage between Medicare and state retiree insurance. He lives in Anchorage and his new book "Let's Do It Right," addressing the November vote calling a Constitutional Convention, will be available by August.

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