Calling the ongoing rollout of the Affordable Care Act "a failed experiment," Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) announced The Last Frontier State will not expand Medicaid eligibility in line with the law. "I believe a costly Medicaid expansion especially on top of the broken Obamacare system is a hot mess," Parnell told reporters at an Anchorage news conference called to announce his decision. Several studies show the expansion would have provided coverage to as many as 40,000 residents currently without insurance. But Parnell said he opted against it after reviewing an $80,000 state-commissioned study by a Virginia-based health care consultant, The Lewin Group. That report said expanding the joint state-federal health insurance program for the poor would cost the state just over $200 million over a seven-year period. The federal government has agreed to pay for 100 percent of new state enrollee costs through the first few years, gradually dropping to 90 percent by 2020. That figure would have stayed higher in Alaska because the federal government covers the full cost of coverage for Alaska Natives. Parnell's decision drew intense criticism from expansion advocates — including the state and Anchorage Chambers of Commerce as well as many church organizations and Native Alaskan advocacy groups — who noted the Lewin report also said the state would have received an additional $2.9 billion in funds from Washington during that time to cover the cost of those new enrollees. The state Chamber of Commerce had said the expansion would "reduce the cost of doing business" in Alaska while still allowing the state to drop out if the federal government failed to keep its promise to pay for at least 90 percent of the program. But that was not enough for Parnell. "The decision comes down to this: can states trust the federal government to not cut and run on its share of the costs?" he asked. He added that the state will form a commission to study the state's health safety net and report back within a year with suggestions for ensuring more people have access to health coverage. (ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS, ALASKA DISPATCH)
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