Forest fires, Walker's Medicaid expansion drives supplemental budget - Must Read Alaska
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Forest fires, Walker’s Medicaid expansion drives supplemental budget

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It’s not just the costliest forest fire season in America in 2019 that has driven the supplemental budget past $262 million.

It’s the residual effect of the Obamacare expansion under Gov. Bill Walker, whose Administration brought Alaska two types of Medicaid expansion — one where the federal government would pay 90 percent of the cost, and the other where the federal government would only pay 50 percent, with the State picking up the other 50 percent.

That 50-50 expansion is causing continued and unsustainable growth in state Medicaid.

Under Walker, a concerted effort was made to sign up the “50-50” population along with the “90-10” population.

Walker succeeded in his mission of signing Alaskans up. In 2013, 122,334 Alaskans were on Medicaid. By 2018, that number had burgeoned to 209,000 people.

Today, Medicaid pays for 220,690 Alaskans’ medical bills. There is no cap on the expenditures.

The legacy of the Obamacare expansion in Alaska has cascaded on this year’s state treasury, and the the supplemental budget shows just how much Medicaid expansion is now stressing state resources. Medicaid add-on expenses are nearly half of the supplemental request:

  • $110.5 million in State funds to cover expenses following last summer’s devastating wildfires in the Southcentral and Interior regions of the state
  • $3 million in State funds for infrastructure repairs from the 2018 Cook Inlet Earthquake
  • $128 million in State funds for Medicaid services
  • $6.7 million in State funds to hire new Alaska State Troopers, Wildlife Troopers, and purchase Trooper equipment
  • $1 million in State funds for the Pioneer Home Payment Assistance Program
  • $6 million in State funds to achieve full capacity at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute
  • $12.050 million in Marine Highway receipts for the Alaska Marine Highway System

Last year’s supplemental appropriation was $73.1 million. This year, it’s $262.5 million, with the lion’s share going to forest fires and Walker Medicaid expansion.

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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

  • So in summary, there was no significant budget cut last year. Instead we drew down the CBR again to pay for un-affordable Dividends. In ordinary times, the CBR would be used for extraordinary expenses such as fires.

    PS Suzanne, do these stories we receive by email ever get published on the site? I wrote a lengthy comment in a recent story that seems to have not made it to the site.

      • Allrighty, now I know the program.

        But it seems you would want to publish all the content you can.

        The website people don’t ever see the article. Seems weird

        I’m going to copy that comment of mine on the supplemental budget before it is lost to history!.

        Cheers

  • May we suggest commissioning a statewide audit of Medicaid providers and pharmaceutical suppliers before handing $128M to Alaska’s Medicaid industry.
    .
    Why? Because we who are about to be stuck with the bill have no idea whether Medicaid charges are reasonable, consistent, and lawful or whether overcharging and outright fraud are still rampant.
    .
    What we know is during fiscal years 2013 through 2015, the Alaska Medicaid Fraud Control Unit obtained 80 criminal convictions; 36 civil judgments and settlements; and combined criminal and civil recoveries totaling $10.4 million, and it increased its combined criminal and non-“global” civil recoveries each year. (https://www.oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-09-16-00430.asp)
    .
    “In May 2013 Alaska’s attorney general announced… (recovery of) more than $45 million for the State on behalf of its citizens and programs defrauded by pharmaceutical companies. The Attorney General’s Office filed the complaint against more than two dozen prescription drug manufacturers accused of overcharging the Alaska Medicaid program for medications.” (https://www.beasleyallen.com/news/alaska-ends-medicaid-fraud-litigation-with-justice-for-its-citizens/)
    .
    Here’s more: “A special Alaska prosecution team accused four people of attempting to defraud the state’s taxpayers in medical billings …
    .
    Nicole White, 31, is charged with 10 counts of medical assistance fraud, two of them felonies”…
    .
    White’s case is among the first of 2019 filed by the MFCU, an arm of the state Department of Law that retrieved more money for the state during its latest fiscal year than it cost to run…
    .
    In September 2018, a jury found Flamingo Eye Corp. owner Margaret Williams guilty on several charges in connection with what the unit called “several hundred thousand dollars” of services billed but never provided at Flamingo Eye assisted-living homes in Alaska.” (https://www.ktva.com/story/39835401/alaska-takes-on-its-first-2019-medicaid-fraud-cases)
    .
    Is the rot gone, or are these gems just the tips of a really big iceberg?
    .
    Medical providers (almost) get away with these things because their community is so tight-knit nobody who wants to do business in Alaska will challenge them?
    .
    Can’t happen here? Ask Dr. Bruce Kiessling why he’s not allowed to take callers on his radio show.
    .
    Last, we’re still trying to understand this one:
    .
    Then: “Rates are set to increase dramatically Sept. 1 for elderly Alaskans living in Pioneer Homes.” (https://www.alaskapublic.org/2019/08/02/rate-increases-coming-for-pioneer-home-residents/)
    .
    Now: “…$1 million in State funds for the Pioneer Home Payment Assistance Program” https://mustreadalaska.com/forest-fires-walkers-medicaid-expansion-drives-supplemental-budget/

  • By nearly doubling the number of people on Medicaid in a little over 6 years we have invited fraud on a rampant scale. We recently had the hoverboard dentist convicted of fraud and allowed to leave the state to work on a farm in California, also known as flee to a non-extradition Country. The dope pushing doctors on the Kenai and in Wasilla, the entire Medicenter complex also on the Kenai, the Dr. Zipper guy from Tennessee with fraud shops in Fairbanks, Anchorage, Soldotna and Eagle River…the lost goes on and on.
    .
    When politicians talk about expanding medicaid they should be talking about expanding medical fraud, it’s no wonder the cost of medical care is so high…makes me wonder how high the kickback these politicians are getting is.

  • What is the means testing to be eligible for SOA Medicaid. What is the threshold of wealth a person can have and still be granted SOA Medicaid.
    Hypothetically speaking, you could own your house, have all the alaska toys, a cabin in the Bush, and money in the Bank. You have chosen not to have a medical plan. So because you need a new heart and a couple of dental crown s, you quit your job. With no income coming into your household you qualify for SOA Medicaid.
    I asked this question to the Consultant that pays the Medicaid Billings for the SOA.
    He said Joe the SOA does not do a means testing.
    Add this to the unlimited medical available to a SOA Medicaid participants, ( my plan is set at a million $ lifetime) and man were have problem.
    Why would a person not take advantage of the system? The system is asking to be abused.

  • Kill it. The only way to get medical expense under control is for everyone to have to pay for their own medical care. BTW, I make too much money to qualify for subsidy or medicaid, but not enough to pay $2,400/month for the o’care bronze plan – you know, the one that has a $6,000/year deductible each… The State should not be providing medical care at any price for 40% of its citizens.

  • But the Democrats told us expanding Medicaid would save us money…..

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