Alaska House to continue legal challenge to Medicaid expansion

Download Audio

The Alaska House plans to continue pursuing a legal challenge to Gov. Bill Walker’s authority to expand Medicaid on his own.

Gov. Bill Walker at a press availability, January 28, 2016. Walker has remained hopeful about the passing of an oil and gas tax bill. (File photo by Skip Gray, 360 North)
Gov. Bill Walker at a press availability, January 28, 2016. (Photo By Skip Gray, 360 North)

Lawmakers faced a deadline on whether to appeal a judge’s decision tossing the challenge brought last summer by the Legislative Council. An appeal was filed on behalf of the House.

A state court judge in March dismissed the case brought by the Legislative Council, upholding Walker’s action and finding that the federal Social Security Act requires Medicaid expansion.

Senate Majority Leader Republican John Coghill of North Pole this week said he’d recommended lawmakers drop the case. While he said he supported the lawsuit, he felt support had dissipated.

The council, in its suit, argued that the expansion population is an optional group that cannot be covered unless approved by the Legislature.

Democratic lawmakers say the House leadership doesn’t have the authority to act on their own in pursuing the appeal.

Democrats point to an opinion by the Legislature’s nonpartisan Director of Legal Services, Doug Gardner. Gardner informed Senator Gary Stevens in March that both houses of the Legislature would have to vote to pursue an appeal. Those votes never occurred.

Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at

Previous articleEra Helicopters identifies pilot injured in Norris Glacier crash
Next articleState fines Hilcorp $20K, cites pattern of violations