Alaska’s Medicaid population explodes



At this time in 2015, the State of Alaska had 9,175 applications for Medicaid that were considered “out of time frame.”

That meant the applications were backlogged for more than 30 days. Some applications went back a year, which meant low-income, children, elderly, and disabled Alaskans were suffering because they couldn’t get qualified for Medicaid.

Then along came the tsunami — the Obamacare Medicaid expansion population brought on by Gov. Bill Walker with a stroke of the pen, over the objections of a majority of legislators. By 2018, the backlog of applications had increased to 20,000.

As critics predicted, the new applicants of able-bodied adults who earn up to 38 percent more than the federally established poverty level are crowding out the truly sick and needy.

Complaints started coming in: Applications were lost; there was no way to get a response from the Division of Public Assistance. The State Ombudsman’s Office was receiving more than two complaints every working day — over 400 in a year from both the regular Medicaid recipients and the new applicants under expansion.

The office had been working with DPS on individual Alaskans’ cases to try to get them resolved, but saw no improvement.

In January of this year, the Ombudsman’s Office initiated an investigation. It did a deep dive into the processes and challenges at the Division of Public Assistance. It looked over the shoulders of workers who were trying their level best to determine eligibility in an enormously complicated system.

The office’s report, released in May, documents a systemic failure of the Department of Health and Social Services under the direction of Commissioner Valerie Davidson to roll out the Medicaid expansion program in a way that would not harm the existing non-expansion population.

The Ombudsman’s report shows an agency overwhelmed by the flood of Medicaid expansion applicants, with a 24 percent increase in applications since Gov. Bill Walker grew the program starting Sept. 1, 2015.

Read the Ombudsman’s Report here, with several examples of complaints directly related to Medicaid expansion burdens.

Although the agency has not been able to retain its key workforce in this program, with a 54 percent turnover in the eligibility specialists and office assistants at DPS year over year, the Legislature authorized another 20 positions to address the growing backlog. The department had asked for more than double that amount.

The division now has the challenge of trying to prop up morale in the existing workforce, while hiring and training for dozens of unfilled or new positions, and answering the needs tens of thousands of Alaskans who are knocking on the door for an entitlement promised to them by the Walker Administration.

[Read: People starving because of Medicaid expansion]


  1. The good news is that this bloated, parasitic bureaucracy may sink under its own weight, even before Governor Dunleavy removes every “able-bodied adult” from the trough, or roster if you must.

  2. A “How To Guide” to import more demorcat voters. The takeover is almost complete. Make Alaska Like Portland Again” and flip that state blue.

  3. Is it too late to bring impeachment charges against Bill Walker? He has crippled this great state. Doubtless, it will take the first two years of the next governor’s term to just dig out.

    • More like it will take two decades. Two decades later I was still trying to take back or buy back stuff Gov. Sheffield gave to the unions to try to placate them after the Legislature refused to fund the last year of the 84-86 labor agreements. If you’re going to get any reduction or concession you pretty much have to get it in the first year of a governor’s term and then hold on to it during the grievances and court cases for the rest of the term. If the matter is still on appeal in the courts it just goes up for sale in the next election. We made some very significant gains in restoring the State’s management rights during the Hickel Administration but the unions with the help of holdover Democrats in the Department of Law sandbagged all the court cases so that they would still be live in the ’94 gubernatorial election. Everything on appeal got sold to the unions by the Knowles Administration. Works that way every time you have a change of party election.

  4. Once an entitlement is created, the appetite for it is insatiable. But then Governor Walker and Kommisarrin Davidson already knew that.

  5. Here are a few facts::
    Gov. Bill Walker’s Medicaid expansion has created an environment of underemployment, so when we think of Alaska with a 7.3 unemployment rate, we (the people in the know) know that those very people who are choosing NOT seek full time employment in fear of losing their subsidies, are perpetuating the Alaska welfare state. It’s mind blowing to think Walker, who started out as a proclaimed conservative, has morphed into the epitome of a liberal actor. And if re-elected, will put Alaska on a trajectory of no return.

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