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Medicaid expansion in Alaska will save lives, boost economy

  • Author: Robert Lieberson
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published December 22, 2014

Alaskans have the opportunity to receive federal support for our uninsured by accepting Medicaid expansion. Right now, this is the tool available to our new governor. We strongly support Bill Walker's plan to get insurance for Alaska's most vulnerable residents. As doctors, we know what a profound impact health care policy has on Alaskans' quality of life and economic security.

Never has Walker's Medicaid expansion been more important. Medicaid expansion will save lives. According to nonpartisan studies, accepting federal Medicaid expansion in Alaska will prevent hundreds of premature deaths per year. Since babies and young children are one of the largest groups benefiting from Medicaid -- also known as Denali KidCare -- many of these lives saved will be some of our youngest neighbors. We should do everything in our power to protect the health and safety of young children.

Medicaid will not only save lives, but also will save money for state taxpayers. The Kaiser Family Foundation, which is recognized as the preeminent nonpartisan organization tracking Medicaid, released a study showing that Medicaid expansion saves money for states that participate. At a time when Alaska is struggling with deficits left by the previous administration, we have an urgent need to save money with Medicaid expansion.

As doctors, we know how expensive it is when Alaskans don't have health insurance. Uninsured individuals still use health care, and those of us with insurance foot the bill to the tune of $1,000 or more per person, every single year. Medicaid expansion will reduce the number of Alaskans without health insurance, saving money for everyone who already has coverage.

In fact, states that have accepted Medicaid expansion are saving consumers money compared to states that rejected Medicaid. For example, Arkansas accepted federal Medicaid investment and reduced its health costs. By comparison, Alaska's previous governor rejected Medicaid and had the highest growth in health costs of any state. We need to reduce health costs in Alaska, and Medicaid expansion is the single most powerful tool we have to accomplish that goal.

A wide range of groups have already endorsed Medicaid expansion in Alaska, including our state Chamber of Commerce, the state Hospital and Nursing Home Association, and community groups like Anchorage Faith and Action -- Congregations Together and the NAACP. As doctors, we appreciate all these organizations speaking out in support of Medicaid expansion.

Our health and our pocketbooks would benefit from Medicaid expansion. We applaud Gov. Walker for moving forward with this essential policy.

Robert Lieberson is an Anchorage neurosurgeon.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com

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