Alaska officials suppress report on Medicaid expansion

Alaska, the only Pacific Coast state that has yet to make a decision about expanding its Medicaid program as part of the Affordable Care Act, has suppressed a report about the effects of such an expansion, the Alaska Dispatch reported.

The report was performed on behalf of the state by the well-known consulting firm the Lewin Group and submitted to Alaska Health and Human Services Commissioner Bill Streur last March. But Streur has refused to release the report to the public or even the legislature, claiming a special exemption in the state's public records laws.

Instead, Streur said he will release it in December, after Gov. Sean Parnell reveals his proposed budget, which will include his decision whether to expand Medicaid. Streur insists the report has taken months to analyze. "It's about getting it right for you," he recently told members of Alaska's Senate Finance Committee, the Dispatch reported. Streur has said that releasing the report now would make it subject to partisan criticism.

Streur has hinted that the costs of expanding Medicaid in Alaska is far more expensive than in other states, according to the Dispatch.

Altogether, about 40,000 Alaskans--5.5 percent of the total population--would be eligible for Medicaid coverage if it were expanded under the ACA, according to the Anchorage Daily News. About 40 percent of those who might enroll in the expanded program are Native Americans. To date, half of the nation's 50 states have declined to expand Medicaid or have yet to arrive at a decision.

Alaska is one of the most politically conservative states in the western U.S., and its lawmakers have objected to expanding Medicaid eligibility, citing the cost involved. The federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost for the first three year, and 90 percent in subsequent years.

However, there are some surprise backers of expanding Medicaid in Alaska, including the state's Chamber of Commerce.

To learn more:
- read the Alaska Dispatch article
- here's the Anchorage Daily News article