By Jonathan Easley - 11/15/13 04:25 PM EST
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) criticized Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) for announcing on Friday that he would decline federal funds to expand the Medicaid program in his home state.
“Governor Parnell’s announcement today means he is denying health insurance to as many as 40,000 Alaskans, which at the start is free to the state and eventually would cost no more than 10 cents on the dollar,” Begich said in a statement.
Begich is one of a handful of vulnerable Democrats facing reelection in 2014. He and the others are in the sticky position of having to stand by their support for the law while separating themselves from the nightmarish rollout.
“Aside from the obvious health benefits to Alaska families, the state Chamber of Commerce urged the governor to expand the program because it is also the right thing to do for Alaska businesses and the economy,” he added.
Parnell said he wouldn’t opt into the expansion because Medicaid was a “broken” and “unsustainable” system.
He also said he couldn’t “trust the government not to cut and run” on its obligations. Under the Affordable Care Act, the feds pay 100 percent of a state’s Medicaid expansion during the first year, and 90 percent every year after.
Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have so far opted into the expanded Medicaid program, while 25 states, mostly run by Republican governors or legislatures, have said they would not move forward on the expansion at this time.
“Without the expansion, people who cannot afford insurance will continue to get their health care needs met in hospital emergency rooms across the state—the most expensive way to get health care,” Begich added. “Those costs will continue to be passed on to all other Alaskans.”
The Medicaid expansion has been one of the few bright spots for ObamaCare so far, with nearly a half million people signing up in the first six weeks.