Opinions

Gerjevic falls flat in criticism of Alaska Republican lawmakers' explanation of Medicaid suit

Frank Gerjevic is an opinion page editor at the Alaska Dispatch News, one of the old guard from the world of print who somehow survived the acquisition by the digital Dispatch. It was never a secret Gerjevic didn't care for Republicans, but it is a surprise he would expose his prejudice so transparently and in print. His commentary, printed Aug. 20, was especially offensive to me on several levels.

• He dismisses the fact there are clear constitutional issues with the governor's plan to extend Medicaid to a new class -- young, single, able-bodied individuals earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level -- without the consent of the Alaska Legislature; putting them at the head of the line with 100 percent reimbursement, while existing Medicaid "safety net" clients and Medicare patients move to the back of the line with only a 60 percent reimbursement.

• He ignores the fact the current system is broken and the state is already obligated to refund tens of millions of dollars of misspent or unaccounted for funds to the federal government;

• He doesn't acknowledge that implicit in the governor's plan is the shifting of large numbers of already insured veterans, Natives and "public safety clients" off of other programs and onto the "new" class of Medicaid recipients;

• Nor does he admit the fact this program in its current form will further damage elderly clients of Medicare, such as myself, who already find it difficult to get service because of the paltry reimbursement rates the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pays providers.

It is with wry humor my health providers joke with me that they practically have to pay me to let them provide me services. That's how they see Medicare reimbursements -- it costs them far more to provide services than they are reimbursed.

With a new class of "insured" reimbursed at a much higher rate than for Medicare, we can expect to see services for the current Medicare and Medicaid patients decline even further.

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Meanwhile, Gov. Walker is busy designing a new tax on medical service providers as a potential new source of state revenue, separate from his plans to pay for Medicaid expansion. That tax is up to a 6 percent gross tax on all providers, except nonprofit and Native entities.

For example, Providence Medical Center, a huge "nonprofit" health provider that pays its chief executive here around $1 million a year, will not pay the tax, but Alaska Regional Medical Center will -- as will all of the smaller private sector providers, such as independent family doctors. Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium will also not pay the tax, and it can afford to pay its executives mid-six-figure salaries.

The art of an argument is divided into three categories: ethos or ethics, pathos or emotion, and logos or logic. Gerjevic makes no pretense to either ethos or logos in his piece but relies heavily on using emotion, stoked by misinformation, to make his case.

Most egregiously, Gerjevic refuses to defend the rule of law -- our constitution -- and instead is effectively advocating for either lawlessness or the cherry-picking of Alaska's statutes.

AS 47.07.020(a) states: "All residents of the state for whom the Social Security Act requires Medicaid coverage are eligible to receive medical assistance under 42 U.S.C. 1396-1396p (Title XIX, Social Security Act). Additional groups may not be added unless approved by the legislature."

I and many other Alaskans are thankful the Legislature did not take the path of least resistance and allow the governor to break the law. The separations of power is a principle worth defending.

Frank McQueary is vice chairman of the Alaska Republican Party and chair of its rules committee.

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.

Frank McQueary

Frank McQueary is vice chair of the Alaska Republican Party.

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