Online petitions are a dime a dozen and it's unlikely that Gov. Sean Parnell or his health and social services commissioner, Bill Streur, pay close attention to the progressive political action committee known as MoveOn. A notable number of urban Alaskans use MoveOn to petition local and state lawmakers; lately they're organizing to sway the governor's decision on whether Alaska should expand Medicaid, a critical plank of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).
The Medicaid decision is a hefty one: Parnell's decision is worth $3.69 billion. That's according to studies commissioned (PDF) by the nonpartisan Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium – as reported first by Alaska Dispatch – and includes increased economic activity in the healthcare industry along with new jobs and salaries that such an expansion would create.
And yet there's more. $3.69 billion does not account for the longterm effect that Medicaid expansion would have on driving down costs in the nation's second most-expensive health insurance market. Nor does it account for the net social value that will likely accompany access to preventative care for the 66,000 Alaskans who would be newly insured under the federally-guaranteed Medicaid expansion – Alaskans who are too poor to qualify for the tax incentives offered for healthcare exchange participants and who don't work for employers that offer health insurance in exchange for labor – and who are most likely to rely on emergency rooms and first responders in lieu of a doctor's visit.
The Alaska Chamber of Commerce, the state's business lobby and a key constituency for the governor as he seeks reelection, recently endorsed the expansion. Last week, the politically potent Alaska Federation of Natives conference resoundingly endorsed the Medicaid expansion. Parnell rejected it outright in February but has lately dropped hints that he might be inclined to reconsider. Fifteen of the 50 states have rejected the expansion, according to the global consulting firm Advisory Board Co.
Contact Eric Christopher Adams at eric(at)alaskadispatch.com