Alaska Medicaid Expansion Will Benefit Women and Families

PRESS RELEASE FOR: Monday, November 24, 2014

Medicaid Expansion Under Governor Bill Walker Will Benefit Economy While Supporting Alaska Women and Families

Juneau, AK — With Governor-elect Bill Walker and Lt. Governor-elect Byron Mallott set to take office on December 1st, Alaska women and families are already looking forward to the many benefits of Medicaid expansion. Departing Governor Sean Parnell repeatedly refused to increase Alaskans’ access to health care, but Walker and Mallott successfully ran against him with expansion as a central plank of their campaign platform. Walker has said on multiple occasions that “his first act as governor would be to accept federal money to expand Medicaid.”

“Bill Walker and Byron Mallott’s clear promise to expand Medicaid is welcome news for all Alaskans and we applaud them for it. They understand that hardworking individuals and families should have access to quality health care when they need it without facing huge medical bills,” said Jessica Cler, Alaska Public Affairs Manager. “Affordable health care is particularly important for women. Women of reproductive age comprise almost three-quarters of the adult Medicaid population. With Medicaid coverage, women are able to receive important health care including birth control, life-saving cancer screenings, and maternity care.”

Medicaid provides critical preventive and primary care services to low-income women, and protects women’s access to family planning by ensuring coverage and giving them the ability to choose their own health care provider. APRN reported last week: “Medicaid expansion has the support of a long list of organizations in Alaska including the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.”

“Affordable health care expansion isn’t just good for the health of Alaskans, it’s also a huge boost to our economy,” said Cler. “Bill Walker is right when he says that this is a ‘no-brainer.’”

The federal government will finance 100 percent of the cost for Medicaid expansion through 2016. Starting in 2017, the federal government will cover no less than 90 percent of the costs on a permanent basis. In 2013, it was estimated that Medicaid expansion could create $1 billion to $1.5 billion in new wages for Alaska “from added jobs in health care and employment generated by new business activity.” And earlier this year, it was calculated that under Medicaid expansion Alaska would see a net increase in federal spending of $3.3 million between 2014 and 2016, and the creation of 1,400 jobs between 2014 and 2017.

Under the shaky and soon to end leadership of Sean Parnell, Alaska is one of over 20 states that have refused to expand Medicaid. According to an April Gallup poll, states that have expanded Medicaid and opened their own exchanges have seen a higher rate of decline in the number of uninsured. At the time, the 21 states and the District of Columbia which have both expanded Medicaid and opened their own exchange, saw an average decline in uninsured of 2.5 percent.  The other 29 states that didn’t enact both measures had a dip in uninsured of less than 1 percent on average.

MEDICAID EXPANSION IN ALASKA BY THE NUMBERS

  • 19,000 women aged 18-64 could gain Medicaid coverage under expansion. [Center for American Progress, 2/27/13]
  • 64,000 residents will be newly eligible for the expansion, 44,500 of whom are previously uninsured. [The Lewin Group, 4/12/13]
  • Due to Parnell and the legislature’s refusal to expand, about 17,000 uninsured adults who would have been eligible for Medicaid fell into the “coverage gap,” left without access to affordable health care. When a state does not expand Medicaid coverage, many low-income adults without children remain ineligible for Medicaid and are also unable to access financial assistance to purchase private coverage in the Marketplace. [Kaiser Family Foundation, 1/6/14]
  • An additional 900 women will receive mammograms and 1,500 will receive pap smears, increasing access to important preventive health care services. [The White House, 7/14]
  • Federal dollars for Medicaid expansion would reduce the burden on our overcrowded emergency rooms. In 2008, state and local governments spent nearly $10.6 billion (20 percent) of the cost of caring for uninsured individuals in hospitals. [American Heart Association, 11/6/14]

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