Medicaid expansion and Obamacare provisions move a step closer to 2018 ballot

A pair of health-care initiatives have passed the Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s legal review and can begin gathering signatures to appear on the 2018 ballot.

The two initiatives aim to maintain generally popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act in the event they’re repealed by Congress. The initiatives were brought forward by a group of doctors with the backing of the D.C.-based The Fairness Project.

[PDF: Read the legal review for 17QHIA and 17HCAK]

The initiatives were reviewed by the Department of Law. An initiative related to fish and salmon habitat was rejected on constitutional grounds earlier this year.

One initiative would enshrine Medicaid expansion and Denali Kid Care eligibility. The second would add certain Obamacare insurance provisions to state law, including coverage for preexisting conditions, essential health benefits and ban limits on lifetime spending caps. The second initiative would also allow children up to 26 stay on their parent’s insurance plans.

The Department of Law said the initiatives easily passed most of the constitutional rules for petitions, but noted that both initiatives could run afoul of the constitutional ban on initiatives spending or appropriating money, which was where the fish habitat initiative failed.

The legal review said the health care initiatives passed the hurdle because of one thing: they don’t require the Legislature to pay for them.

“On the other hand, these initiative bills do not mandate or restrict spending, which is the ultimate danger the ban on appropriations by initiative targets. For example, 17HCAK establishes eligibility for Medicaid. It contains no language requiring the Legislature to appropriate a specific amount of money to fund Medicaid coverage generally or to fund coverage for the specific categories of people whose eligibility the initiative would guarantee,” it explains. “And the mere existence of an entitlement in statute does not directly authorize payment, nor does it require the legislature to appropriate money for payment.”

The group has until early next year to gather some 32,000 signatures—10 percent of the last general election turnout—to get each petition on next year’s ballot. The group has already spent nearly than $382,000 on the process, according to filings with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

Much of the debt has been incurred with Scott Kohlhaas for signature gathering and another $30,000 with Lottsfeldt Strategies, a consulting group owned by Midnight Sun owner Jim Lottsfeldt. The groups in total report more than $200,000 in income from the Washington, D.C.-based The Fairness Project, which has focused on raising minimum wage through state-based initiatives.

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