Alaska state and flag

Legislative Majority Racking Up Hundreds of Thousands in Attorney’s Fees Fighting Against Health Care for Thousands of Alaskans

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2016

Juneau – Today, Representatives Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) and Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks) called on the Alaska Legislative Council to get approval from the full Alaska Legislature before continuing to fund the failed lawsuit challenging the expansion of healthcare options for thousands of Alaskans.   

“Medicaid expansion is good for Alaska because it has already saved the state millions, and savings will continue to expand in the coming years, further reducing our budget.  Why would the legislature not take advantage of a program that will pump billions into an economy that is on the verge of a major recession?” said Rep. Tuck.  “It makes no sense for the Legislative Council to spend more money to try and stop the state from saving money.  I hope they realize we are facing a fiscal crisis and reconsider their decision.”

Last week, Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner dismissed the Legislative Council’s lawsuit challenging the legality of Medicaid expansion in Alaska after finding that the Social Security Act required Medicaid expansion, and that existing state law required Governor Walker to provide Medicaid to the group of Alaskans eligible for expansion.  The Alaska Legislative Council entered into legal contracts last year for the lawsuit that could cost the state up to $450,000.  As part of those contracts, the State of Alaska must pay another $150,000 in attorneys’ fees if the lawsuit is appealed.  Reps. Tuck and Wool contend the ill-advised lawsuit is wasting much needed state money at a time when those funds are needed to offset dangerous cuts to services for seniors, students, and low-income Alaskans. 

“The Legislative Council is acting without the approval of the full legislature and appears determined to spend this money despite clear evidence they will never win the lawsuit,” said Rep. Wool.  “If this lawsuit is to continue, they should get approval from a majority of the lawmakers elected to represent the people of Alaska.  If not, they should drop this frivolous lawsuit and move on.  This could have been avoided if Medicaid expansion had been allowed to hit the floor last year.”

The Alaska Legislative Council is made up of 10 members of the Alaska Legislature, but only one of those lawmakers is a member of the minority.  That member, Rep. Sam Kito (D-Juneau), has repeatedly voted to stop the lawsuit.  The Legislative Council has not met since Judge Pfiffner’s decision, yet members of the council have publicly stated they will appeal last week’s decision dismissing the lawsuit.  

During last year’s First Session of the 29th Alaska Legislature, the Republican-led leadership in the House and Senate repeatedly thwarted consideration of Medicaid expansion, and even resorted to placing clearly unconstitutional restrictive language in the FY 2016 budgets.  They claim there was no legislative approval for Medicaid expansion despite the widespread support for expansion among the 60 members of the Alaska Legislature.  Governor Walker went forward with Medicaid expansion in July of last year.

Currently, the federal government is paying 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion in Alaska.  The federal government’s share of the cost of expansion will slowly scale back to 90 percent by 2020.  However, the savings from Medicaid expansion would more than make up for the increased cost to the state. 

For more information, please contact Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.

###