- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The White House praised Alaska Gov. Bill Walker for opting to expand Medicaid Tuesday under President Obama’s health care law, balancing out their praise with thinly veiled criticism for about 20 states that have refused to expand their own programs, leaving millions “needlessly uninsured.”

Mr. Walker, a Republican turned independent, made the “right decision” to unilaterally extend the health program despite opposition from the state’s GOP-controlled legislature, according to Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

“Hospitals and businesses throughout Alaska will save on uncompensated care costs, and hardworking families will gain the peace of mind that comes with health security,” he said.

The state Supreme Court refused late Monday to stop the Walker administration from signing up newly eligible residents and Alaska Natives for government-sponsored health insurance under its Healthy Alaska Plan.

State lawmakers had asked the courts to put the expansion on ice while the courts mull their lawsuit against Mr. Walker’s decision in July to expand Medicaid without their permission.

The Affordable Care Act called on states to expand Medicaid 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.

Lawmakers in Alaska have resisted expansion, much like GOP-controlled legislatures elsewhere in the country.

The White House hasn’t been shy about calling out those states, saying Tuesday they’ve left more than 4 million Americans without coverage despite the generous terms of the federal-state funding split.

Many state Republicans say the federal government cannot be trusted to hold up its end of the funding, and that expansion will bust their state budgets down the road, when the federal match isn’t so generous.

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