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Alaska Becomes 30th State to Expand Medicaid Eligibility

September 3, 2015

Many more low-income Alaskans — including direct-care workers — can apply for Medicaid now that the state expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, beginning on September 2.

In July, Alaska Governor Bill Walker (I) moved ahead to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid eligibility to up to 138 percent of Federal Poverty Level (FPL) despite strong objections from the state legislature. The lawmakers in August sued the governor to put a stop to Medicaid expansion, questioning his authority to do so.

A Superior Court judge on August 28 denied the state lawmakers’ request to halt Medicaid expansion. The Alaska Supreme Court concurred three days later, saying that the lawmakers’ attorneys failed to show that the lower court judge had “erred when denying the motion for a preliminary injunction,” the Associated Press reported on August 31.

“Many Alaskans are working two or three jobs to make ends meet, and have not been able to afford health insurance,” Walker told the Associated Press. “The Healthy Alaska Plan ensures that working Alaskans will no longer have to choose between health care and bankruptcy.”

A recent PHI analysis on how state decisions to expand — or not expand — Medicaid eligibility impact the direct-care workforce found that in Alaska:

  • nearly 2,000 direct-care workers (21 percent) have incomes below 138 percent of FPL;
  • 1,230 workers (14 percent) have incomes below 100 percent of FPL; and
  • 2,420 (27 percent) of the nearly 9,000 direct-care workers in the state are uninsured.

Alaska is the 30th state to expand Medicaid eligibility, along with the District of Columbia. Estimates for how many more Alaskans are expected to apply for Medicaid range from 20,000 to 41,000, according to the Associated Press.

The governors of Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio were also able to expand Medicaid eligibility in their states despite opposition from their state legislatures, The New York Times reported.

— by Deane Beebe

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