Report: Repealing Medicaid Expansion Would Hurt Y-K Delta Residents

Credit Dean Swope / KYUK

House District 38 Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky was one of two lawmakers who released a report analyzing the potential effects on healthcare providers in Alaska should Gov. Mike Dunleavy push to repeal Medicaid expansion. The governor wants to reduce Medicaid spending by $225 million, an action which would potentially reduce what the federal government pays into it as well. 

The report looks at what a potential repeal would do to Alaskans on Medicaid as well as those covered by other health insurance providers. Released earlier this week, the report says if the Medicaid expansion is restricted or repealed, health insurance premiums could rise as a result. Any decision to restrict or eliminate Medicaid expanison must come from the Legislature. 

The report notes that health care providers, such as hospitals, have to absorb the cost of any unpaid medical bills. To compensate for those costs, the providers must charge their insured patients more. This, in turn, leads to increased premiums.

Zulkosky vowed to protect Medicaid from budget cuts during her campaign last year. In a press release about this latest report, Zulkosky said that losing Medicaid coverage leaves people without health care options.

“Many delay receiving care because they cannot afford it, causing health conditions to worsen over time. Delaying care may result in an individual finding themselves in an emergency room with no way to pay,” said Zulkosky.

In addition to her legislative duties, Zulkosky is Vice President for Communications at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, the region’s biggest health care provider.

In a statement to KYUK, President and CEO Dan Winkelman said that "YKHC supports Medicaid expansion, and we are still analyzing the governor’s cuts.”

YKHC isn’t the only organization in the region that would feel those impacts. The report says that state and municipal governments could also face higher premiums for their employees. That's already an estimated billion-dollar cost for state and local governments this year.

Zulkosky received her committee assignments this week. She is co-chair of the Health and Social Services Committee, while also serving on the Education and Energy Committees.