Alaska's new governor aims for Medicaid expansion

December 15, 2014

Alaska Governor-elect Bill Walker (I) campaigned on the promise he'd expand Medicaid, a promise for which he'll have to face Alaska's Republican-controlled legislature that hasn't been willing to even consider the idea. Around 40,000 low-income Alaskans would receive health benefits under Medicaid expansion. The federal government would pay 100% of the costs until the end of 2016. After that, the state's share would increase to 10% by 2020. Walker says Alaskans already pay taxes that fund the expansion. The Alaska Chamber of Commerce, the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium all support expansion. Walker appointed Valerie Davidson, a leader in the Alaska Native healthcare system and a determined advocate for expansion since the health law passed, as health commissioner. Beyond the legislature, Alaska faces big technical hurdles before Medicaid expansion can work. The state's payment and enrollment systems aren't functioning properly and Davidson wants to address those issues before any expansion.