Alaska News

Alaska Gov. Walker to announce plans for Medicaid expansion Thursday

Gov. Bill Walker will announce his plans to expand Medicaid in Alaska on Thursday, bringing him closer to fulfilling one of this top campaign promises, his spokeswoman said Monday.

The scheduled announcement Thursday morning won't mark the initiation of the program, but will explain how Walker intends to go forward on expansion without a mandate from the Republican-controlled Legislature, said Grace Jang, Walker's spokeswoman. The Legislature, with opponents of expansion in key leadership roles, failed to hold a vote on Walker's expansion bills.

Lawmakers also included a provision in the budget that said Walker couldn't expand Medicaid, but many attorneys say the provision is an unconstitutional overreach.

Walker met with a key legislative member Monday -- Rep. Mike Hawker, an Anchorage Republican, Jang said. Other Republican legislators in the Anchorage office of the Legislature said they heard of Walker's planned announcement and were unhappy about it.

Medicaid expansion, a key element of the Affordable Care Act would bring federally subsidized health care to thousands of Alaskans who are currently uninsured, with some estimates saying the program could grow to cover up to 40,000 more people in Alaska.

Walker has said the additional health care will save lives and improve the health and productivity of thousands more, as well as pour millions of dollars of federal money into the Alaska economy, help pay for the medical care of prisoners, and ensure many medical bills at hospitals and clinics get paid.

Opponents of expansion have said they are concerned the state would be on the hook for the extra Medicaid costs if the federal government drops its subsidies.