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Legislative researchers predict negative fallout from Medicaid decision

Alex DeMarban
Courtesy: The Advisory Board Co.

The nonpartisan Legislative Research Services office is now weighing in on the Medicaid debate and concludes that Gov. Sean Parnell’s decision not to expand the subsidy in Alaska will have a variety of detrimental effects.

The division, compiling information from national and instate reports, noted that the lack of expansion means:

• An increased chance more Alaskans will suffer from serious illness and disease and reduced longevity.
• "Scores of deaths” may occur that could have been prevented.
• Alaska healthcare providers will pay more without receiving offsetting benefits.
• About 5,500 jobs and $220 million in wages won’t be generated.
• The state won’t receive $1.1 billion to $2.9 billion in federal funding, after chipping in $79 million to $240 million.

Despite broad support for the expansion from business groups, Parnell announced last month he would not expand Medicaid to cover more than 40,000 Alaskans. He blasted the Affordable Care Act as a “hot mess” that would strap future generations with huge debts. He said he was launching studies aimed at improving access to health care and reducing soaring medical costs in Alaska.  

The Legislature’s research division did the work at the request of Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski of Anchorage. The division noted that additional research is needed to get a true understanding of the consequences of not expanding Medicaid in Alaska. But it noted that the results of studies conducted outside Alaska can generally be applied here.

“For now, available research on the impacts of obtaining medical insurance in general, and of expanding Medicaid specifically, indicate that health care access and outcomes, including reduced mortality, are likely to improve as a result,” the assessment said.

The assessment also found that “if even half of the reduction in mortality found by the study on Medicaid expansions in Arizona, Maine and New York were to occur in Alaska under the (Affordable Care Act) provisions, scores of deaths would ultimately be averted among the roughly 40,000 currently uninsured Alaskans that would be expected to enroll in Medicaid by 2020.”

Contact Alex DeMarban at alex@alaskadispatch.com.