THE BLOG
02/27/2015 09:28 am ET Updated Apr 29, 2015

In Alaska, Republican Lawmakers Challenge Governor on Medicaid Expansion

JUNEAU -- The Republican-controlled House is poised to strip funding to expand the Medicaid health insurance program from Gov. Bill Walker's budget, the first shot in what's expected to be a contentious debate over one of Walker's central campaign planks.

The Walker administration says expanding Medicaid would give more than 40,000 low-income, uninsured Alaskans access to health coverage, bring to the state more than $1 billion in federal spending over the next six years, and reduce annual state spending by millions of dollars -- even in a few years from now, when the federal government's contribution to the expanded program scales back to 90 percent from full coverage.

In a news conference Thursday morning, Republican legislators said they want Walker to introduce a standalone Medicaid bill as a substitute for his current proposal, which would expand the program through changes to the state operating budget. State Rep. Mike Hawker (R-Anchorage) dismissed the projected savings by the Walker administration as "gratuitous assertions."

"I'm very concerned that those claims can be substantiated," Hawker said.

Those comments come in advance of a Friday-morning committee meeting in which Republican leaders are expected to strip money tied to Medicaid expansion from the health department budget submitted by the governor.

READ MORE AT ALASKA DISPATCH NEWS