Alaskan Legislative Council seeks halt to Medicaid expansion

The Alaska Legislative Council voted recently to file an injunction against Gov. Bill Walker over his unilateral decision to expand Medicaid without legislative consent.

The suit will seek an injunction against the implementation of Medicaid expansion until the courts decide on the constitutionality of the governor’s action.

State and national legal experts agree that the governor’s unilateral action disregards both state law and the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius, where the Court made it clear that Medicaid expansion is “optional” and not mandatory. State law makes it equally clear that any new groups must be approved by the Alaska Legislature.

“This [injunction] is about protecting our role and the Alaska Constitution, not about the merits of whether or not to accept Medicaid expansion, it is about the process the governor chose to use,” House Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Kenai) said in a news release. “Many lawmakers, while open to expanding Medicaid with reforms, believe it’s important that any action comply with the legal process established in the state constitution.”

When questioned by the American Media Institute about the legality of the Medicaid expansion, Walker said in a written statement, “As governor, I have the legal authority and responsibility to accept health care benefits that are 100 percent federally funded. Medicaid expansion will save the state over $100 million in its first six years and provide more than 20,000 working Alaskans with access to health care. The state will also receive about $1 billion within the first six years of expansion. Medicaid expansion will not only save the state money, it will also save Alaskan lives. We will continue to work with the legislature and the public on Medicaid redesign and reform efforts.”

Senate President Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage) disagrees.

“We believe policy decisions should be decided by the legitimate branch of government outlined in Alaska’s constitution,” Meyer said in a written statement to the American Media Institute. “The governor’s unilateral decision to expand Medicaid, a key element of President Barack Obama’s health care law, is inconsistent with the Alaska Constitution, state statute, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in NFIB v. Sebelius, which made the new group of able-bodied adults without children 'optional' and not mandatory.”

Meyer went on to say that whether one agrees or disagrees with the policy of Medicaid expansion, under rule of law it is clearly a decision that should be deliberated by the legislative branch of government and not made by executive fiat.