Alaska's senators still on the fence on Senate health care plan vote

Published: Jun. 26, 2017 at 8:21 PM AKDT
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Despite an expected narrow margin needed to pass the Senate’s recently unveiled health care repeal plan, both Alaska senators are expressing hesitation to vote yes.

According to a report released Monday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 will save the federal government an estimated $321 billion by 2026 but also could increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million people.

In Alaska, federal money subsidizes millions of dollars in health care costs. Medicaid insures one out of every four people, and expansion of the federally funded program has covered an additional 33,945 people in recent years.


to view an Alaska Department of Heath and Social Services May 2017 chart on Alaskan Medicaid enrollees and state demographics.

According to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Senate’s bill could “effectively end the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.” Their researchers said the state’s already high cost of health care could mean “Alaska may be the single most harmed state under the Senate bill’s policies.”

Governor Bill Walker announced on Thursday that he's "deeply concerned" about the Senate's health care plan and has since dispatched his commissioner of Health and Social Services to Washington D.C.

In a statement on Monday, the commissioner said, "Medicaid provides peace of mind to our most vulnerable Alaskans during their greatest times of health need. Governor Walker and I are working with our congressional delegation to ensure that Alaska’s voice is heard in this national health care debate.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski told CNN on Monday, she wants to protect Medicaid expansion and federal funding for Planned Parenthood, both of which are in danger in the bill's current form. She said she’s still researching the bill’s implications in Alaska, and overall she's not ready to vote yes.

“Today I don't have enough information,” Murkowski said. “I don't have enough data in terms of the impact of my state to be able to vote in the affirmative.”

Senator Dan Sullivan hasn't expressed a decision on his vote yet. A post on his Facebook page on Monday read, "I've been relentlessly focused on educating leadership about how big of an outlier Alaska is as it relates to health care and insurance costs.”

According to Politico, four Republican senators from Maine, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Nevada have signaled possible opposition to a key procedural vote on the bill expected to happen in the coming days.