Anchorage Chamber joins business, health organizations backing Medicaid expansion

Tegan Hanlon

The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce says Alaska should expand Medicaid, joining a handful of organizations who back the Affordable Care Act provision that would provide some 40,000 uninsured Alaskans with healthcare coverage.

Andrew Halcro, president of the Anchorage Chamber, said the business organization passed a resolution last week in support of expanding Medicaid. The Alaska Chamber, which operates statewide, has done the same.

"If we're really serious about reducing health-care costs, we had to do more on the prevention side and expanding Medicaid does that," Halcro said.

He said the Anchorage Chamber supports expansion if the federal government stands by its pledge to pay 100 percent of the cost of expansion for the first three years and sliding down to 90 percent in 2020 and afterward. If not, the governor and the Legislature should "reevaluate Alaska's participation in Medicaid expansion," according to the resolution.

Gov. Sean Parnell initially rejected the expansion, but has said he will reconsider asking the Legislature for funding when he submits his next budget in December. He has said he's concerned about Washington covering its share of expansion costs.

Halcro said the Anchorage Chamber supports Medicaid expansion as a means of providing health care coverage to thousands of uninsured families, adding nearly $2 billion to the economy and catching illnesses early.

"It's a win-win for the economy," he said.

In recent months, the Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Anchorage NAACP, Alaska State Hospital & Nursing Home Association and Anchorage Faith & Action -- Congregations Together have backed Medicaid expansion.

Reach Tegan Hanlon at or 257-4589.