- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lawmakers in Alaska want a judge to block Gov. Bill Walker’s unilateral plans to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

Republicans in charge of the legislature have retained a pair of law firms and will ask the state Superior Court to issue an injunction against Mr. Walker’s plan before Sept. 1.

Mr. Walker, an independent, announced in mid-July that he would make an end run around the legislature and accept federal funds to extend government-sponsored insurance to 20,000 more low-income Alaskans.

He said he was tired of the GOP-controlled blocking his plans to become the 30th state, plus D.C., to embrace Medicaid expansion under President Obama’s law, and would act within 45 days.

“Thousands of Alaskans and more than 150 organizations, including chambers of commerce, local hospitals, and local governments, have been waiting long enough for Medicaid expansion,” Mr. Walker said at the time.

The Affordable Care Act called on states to expand their programs to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, with the federal government paying the full tab for expansion through 2016 before scaling down its contribution to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.

However, the Supreme Court in 2012 said states could choose not to expand their programs without forfeiting existing program funds.

Many Republican governors refused expansion, citing future state costs, although some, including 2016 presidential hopeful John Kasich of Ohio, accepted the influx of federal cash and expanded their programs.

On Tuesday, the state’s Legislative Council escalated the Alaskan fight by voting 10-1 to sue the governor, with one Democrat joining nine Republicans in favor of the motion and one Democrat dissenting.

Senate President Kevin Meyer and House Speaker Mike Chenault, both Republicans, said they decided to sue because the governor had usurped their power.

“The Alaska Constitution is crystal clear: No public funds may be spent outside of the legislative appropriations process,” they wrote in the Alaska Dispatch News. “The governor has begun the task of expanding Medicaid by seeking to hire 23 new staff. Administrative costs — just keeping track of the new paperwork burden — will cost millions of state dollars.”

To pursue their claims, the lawmakers are ready to pay up to $400,000 to the Bancroft law firm of D.C. and $50,000 to Holmes, Weddle and Barcott in Anchorage.

A Legislative Council aide said lawmakers were prepared to appeal an adverse decision to the state Supreme Court.

Mr. Walker said he was “disappointed” with the legislature’s decision to sue, noting the state can withdraw from the expansion if the federal government does not hold up its end.

“Our state is currently facing a 3.5 billion dollar deficit, and this is the time to be making responsible fiscal decisions,” he said. “Medicaid expansion will save Alaskan lives and will save our state money. I will never lose sight of who I represent because Alaskans deserve nothing less. Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do and I stand firm by my decision.”

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