About 7,700 Alaskans have enrolled in expanded Medicaid

JUNEAU — About 7,700 people have enrolled in an expanded Medicaid program launched by the state on Sept. 1 to cover more lower-income Alaskans, a state health department official said.

The agency appears on track with projections that a total of about 20,100 newly eligible people would enroll in Medicaid during the first year of expansion, Chris Ashenbrenner, Medicaid program coordinator for the health department, said Tuesday.

A study commissioned by the department estimated that about 42,000 people would be newly eligible for Medicaid under expansion but only about 20,100 would enroll the first year.

Ashenbrenner said enrollment in the first half of the year is expected to be more robust due to pent-up demand for health care. She said open enrollment periods through the federally facilitated health insurance marketplace also bring in new Medicaid applications since the system can make a Medicaid-eligibility determination or refer cases to the state for a determination.

In November alone, when the latest open enrollment period opened, there were nearly 7,000 applications for Medicaid, though it wasn’t immediately clear how many of those might fall into the expansion population or would qualify for Medicaid for other reasons, Ashenbrenner said.

The department is working through a backlog of applications that might take until spring, she said.

Medicaid provides health and long-term care services for low-income Alaskans, including children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities.

Expansion extended coverage to adults between 19 and 64 who are not pregnant, disabled or caring for children and who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. For single Alaskans, that’s an income of as much as $20,314 a year, and for married couples, it’s $27,490 a year.

Last summer, Gov. Bill Walker decided to expand Medicaid on his own after legislators delayed the issue for further review. Questions had been raised about whether the system could handle thousands of new recipients and there were concerns with the costs of the program overall.

Administration officials have acknowledged the current Medicaid program is not sustainable but see expansion as a way to leverage federal dollars to help contain and curb program costs.

A lawsuit filed the Legislative Council challenging Walker’s actions is pending in state court. Walker has cited expansion as a success of his first year in office.

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Jan. 22

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Juneau man indicted on child pornography charges

A Juneau man was indicted Thursday on charges of possessing or accessing… Continue reading

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Juneau’s municipal and state legislative members, their staff, and city lobbyists gather in the Assembly chambers Thursday meeting for an overview of how the Alaska State Legislature and politicians in Washington, D.C., are affecting local issues.
Local leaders, lawmakers and lobbyists discuss political plans for coming year

Morning meeting looks at local impact of state, national political climates.

This photo shows pills police say were seized after a suspicious package was searched. (Juneau Police Department)
Police: 1,000 fentanyl pills, 86 grams of meth seized

Juneau man arrested on felony charges.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Friday, Jan. 27, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A resident and his dog walk past the taped off portion of the Basin Road Trestle after it suffered damaged from a rockslide earlier this week. The trestle is open to pedestrians, but will remain closed to vehicular traffic until structural repairs are made, according to city officials. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Rocky road: Basin Road Trestle open to pedestrians, remains closed to vehicles

City officials say repairs are currently being assessed after damaging rockfall

Library Director Dave Berry and Advisory Board Chair Kate Finn participate in Library Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday Jan. 17, 2023, at Homer City Hall, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Emilie Springer/Homer News)
Homer Library Advisory Board upholds decision to retain LGBTQ+ books

A citizen’s group last year submitted a petition asking that the books be removed from the children’s section

Courtesy Photo / Juneau Police Department 
This photo shows Woodrow Farrell Eagleman who police say after going missing on Jan. 11 was seen leaving town on Jan. 12 via airport surveillance.
Police: Man reported missing took plane out of town

A Juneau man recently reported as missing was found leaving town on… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Thursday, Jan. 26

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read