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Alaska awards contract to study Medicaid block grant system

June 6, 2019

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska has awarded a contract to study whether the state can become the first in the nation to change its Medicaid program into a block grant system, officials said.

The state Department of Health and Social Services issued a notice May 29 of its intent to award the contract to analyze the prospect of implementing block grants for federal Medicaid payments, work requirements for enrollees, and shifting some Alaska Medicaid recipients to private insurance, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported Wednesday.

The $100,000 contract calls for Boston-based Public Consulting Group to draft a paper by June 30 studying whether the initiatives will save Alaska money.

Public Consulting will analyze whether enrolling Medicaid recipients in private insurance is feasible and could lead to overall savings for the state, said DHSS spokesman Clinton Bennett.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy sent a letter to President Donald Trump March 1 that discussed Medicaid block grants.

Alaska House Democrats denounced the idea in a letter to state DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum last month.

A report done for the state in early 2016 “found that costs of private coverage would be prohibitively high compared to Medicaid coverage,” the lawmakers wrote.

Alaska is probably the least likely state for the concepts to work because of the state’s struggling private health insurance market, said Democratic state Rep. Zack Fields.

“The idea that we’d make half-baked decisions with our largest federal stream of investment, which, by the way, is life or death for 215,000 Alaskans that rely on Medicaid health insurance — it’s just crazy,” Fields said.

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Information from: (Anchorage) Alaska Journal of Commerce, http://www.alaskajournal.com

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