Is Alaska Gov. Bill Walker’s Medicaid Expansion An Illegal Power Grab?

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In July, Alaska Governor Bill Walker (I) announced his intention to unilaterally implement Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Walker’s expansion would shrink Alaska’s economy, discourage work, crowd out resources for truly needy patients and ultimately put funding for education, pensions and other critical services at risk.

But Gov. Walker’s unilateral Obamacare expansion isn’t just bad policy, it’s also likely illegal.

Alaska Legislators Beginning To Challenge Gov. Walker

Earlier this year, Gov. Walker lobbied unsuccessfully to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Seeing that his efforts had failed, Gov. Walker waited until after the legislature had adjourned and announced that he would expand Medicaid without legislative approval.

Now that Gov. Walker has announced his intentions, state lawmakers are beginning to stand up and demand answers. Alaska Senate Majority Leader John Coghill, for example, recently questioned the legality of Gov. Walker’s actions in the Alaska Dispatch. Representative Liz Vazquez circulated a memo to her colleagues covering similar ground.

Their arguments are pretty straightforward: Alaska law prohibits the governor from expanding Medicaid to any “additional groups … unless approved by the legislature.” This means that Gov. Walker could only expand Medicaid to a new class of able-bodied childless adults if this coverage group was already authorized by state law.