ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — Alaska could be the first state in the nation to implement a block grant system for Medicaid funding if Gov. Dunleavy gets his way, a move that several healthcare and Medicaid advocates are warning could leave Alaskans without a safety net in a state prone to high medical expenses and unexpected natural events.
Most of Alaska's healthcare providers — rural hospitals, community health centers and children's hospitals — rely on medicaid funds to provide quality services, and some healthcare advocates fear that a block grant might threaten those resources.
But despite the warnings, Gov. Dunleavy has expressed an interest in moving Alaska in that direction in a letter to President Trump.
A Medicaid block grant model would essentially mean the state would receive a fixed amount of money from the federal government for Medicaid, rather than the current model of reimbursement for services.
Representatives for several organizations, including Alaskans Together for Medicaid, the Disability Law Center, and the Alaska Children's Trust are speaking out against the proposal. They say that it's a risky financial gamble that could bring about costly legal challenges, or even put residents in a bind in the case of another disaster.
"It's a set amount of money to apply to a complex problem, so with healthcare your costs are somewhat flexible," said Andrew Cutting, Senior Program Fellow for Alaska Children's Trust. "If we have a pandemic, or if we have another earthquake, we would have higher healthcare costs, and with a block grant, that wouldn't pay for those costs."
KTUU reached out to Gov. Dunleavy's office, and we were provided a statement from Adam Crum, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
In a written statement, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said the program would put Alaska "on the leading edge of innovation" in healthcare.
"Alaska made the ask so the President and our federals partners knew we wanted to be on the leading edge of innovation for the Medicaid program," Crum's statement said in part, "and that we would invest talent and resources into putting together an Alaska specific solution that provides the flexibility we need for better health outcomes and a more effective spend of our dollars."