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Saturday, September 22, 2018
HomePolitics and PolicyAlaska Medicaid expansion enrollees now nearly 50,000

Alaska Medicaid expansion enrollees now nearly 50,000

Gov. Bill Walker’s experiment in universal health care coverage is expanding, and costing the State more each year. With the fiscal year 2018 ending on June 30, and a $100 million supplemental budget item needed to keep the program going, it was time to take a hard look at where Walker is leading. Some fast facts:

  • Gov. Walker announced in July of 2015 that he would accept Obamacare Medicaid expansion in Alaska.
  • Three years later, more than 30 percent of Alaskans — 219,734 — are enrolled in Medicaid, the federal- and state-funded program that pays for health care for Alaskans earning up to 138 percent of the federally established poverty level.
  • Of the babies born in Alaska this year, 50 percent will have their prenatal, birth, and postnatal care covered by Medicaid.
  • The total unduplicated “Medicaid expansion” enrollee population has grown to 49,719. These are able-bodied adults of working age, without children or disabled dependents, who are up to 138 percent of the federally established poverty level.
  • Some Medicaid expansion enrollees are Alaskans being released from prisons. As the incarcerated are shown the exit, the State enrolls them in Medicaid as part of a plan for re-entry into society.
  • The total number of enrollees — regular and expansion — is 21 percent higher than what Gov. Walker projected it would be in 2015, when he signed Obamacare Medicaid expansion into law by executive order.
  • Three years ago, he announced that 20,000 people would sign up for Medicaid expansion the first year. The Lewin Group, advising the Department of Health and Social Services, projected the total expansion enrollment would be 41,000.

“Medicaid expansion would reduce state spending by $6.6 million in the first year, and save over $100 million in state general funds in the first six years. Every day that we fail to act, Alaska loses out on $400,000. With a nearly $3 billion budget deficit, it would be foolish for us to pass up that kind of boost to Alaska’s economy.” – Gov. Bill Walker, July 2015

COSTS BALLOON 

Hawkins

Foolish indeed. But those promised savings have not materialized.

In fact, the governor was off by $100 million in his Medicaid estimates for the fiscal year that ended on June 30.

To save the program from collapse this past fiscal year, the Legislature approved $73 million of the $100 million that Walker requested as a supplemental patch; the federal government came up with $27 million. The Medicaid program made it through June.

But although it survived, Medicaid cost the State of Alaska (including federal dollars) $2.34 billion this past year, once the supplemental funds are added. That’s $10,649 per enrollee, or about what it would cost to buy each of them a bronze plan in the Obamacare private health insurance exchange.

This was the second time the Legislature has kept the Obamacare program from collapsing. The first time was in 2016, when the Senate realized that with the departure of all but one health insurance company, it would have to jump in and save the individual insurance market from imploding.

The problem then was that Alaska lacks enough healthy people buying insurance on the individual market created by the Affordable Care Act to offset the high cost of chronically sick Alaskans.

The Alaska Senate passed a high-risk reinsurance subsidy that covers the sickest people. Some 500 individual Alaskans account for $53 million or more in health care costs that are now paid for by the State. This allows the rest of the 18,000 Alaskans who buy their insurance from Premera Blue Cross to have insurance.

Premera is still the only insurer offering coverage in Alaska’s individual market. The number of people enrolling in the individual market dropped 4 percent year over year, from 19,145.

BY THE NUMBERS

Prior to Gov. Bill Walker’s Medicaid expansion, 163,505 Alaskans were enrolled in the Medicaid health care program — many of them poor families with children.

Today, out of the total of 219,734 Alaskans enrolled, only 7,000 are “regular” enrollees of the very poor. The other nearly 50,000 are the expansion population of the able-bodied adults without children.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Can anyone name a single statement made by Bill Walker about what he would do or not do, or about what he was going to cause to happen that turned out to be even remotely true? That is, when has Walker ever told the truth? Moreover, can anyone name a single large expenditure approved by the Alaska Legislature and signed into law by any Governor that was claimed to save money that has actually reduced the cost of government over what was being spent when the expenditure was enacted? As others have said, put a for sale sign on the back of the Mike Dunleavy for Governor sign that you have in front of your house. If Dunleavy doesn’t win you had better turn that sign around and take the first offer. I’ll offer you my house right now; 90% of city assessed value if Dunleavy doesn’t win. But I really do expect Dunleavy to win. I also expect all of us to do the work that is required to have Dunleavy win.

  • Two questions. How much of that 2+Billion was Federal funds ?
    What would be a better way to spend that money than on citizens of, and in Alaska ?
    I can’t think of any…

  • What is so bad about this is the people who really need Medicaid, elderly, children and disabled are having their services cut in order to pay for able bodied working people.
    It is a disgrace.

  • To Re-Coin an old phrase: How do you know when Walker is lying? His lips are moving.

    Unless of course he is talking to Alice, the bankrupt, Rogoff.

    Wait a minute, isn’t Treadwell, who is running against Walker, a partner of Rogoff?

    What a gang of no good niks.