Last week, Alaska Governor Bill Walker announced that he will bypass the legislative process and implement Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion by executive fiat.
Walker’s announcement should be no surprise to Obamacare proponents – after all, President Obama has maltreated his executive authority dozens of times to amend his signature law. But expansion may come as a shock to Alaska’s legislative leadership, who last month brokered an informal arrangement with the governor to put Medicaid expansion on hold until 2016.
The press conference Walker held last week was heavy on promises, but light on specifics. To hear the Walker administration tell it, Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion would be an economic elixir for a state budget hit hard by declining oil prices. It would help failing hospitals become whole again, a sentiment echoed by the long line of high-paid Alaska hospital CEOs brought in to praise the decision.
Before figuring out his best way to win an election was as an independent, Walker was a Republican, which simply makes him another in a long line of state executives who should know better (John Kasich, anyone?). It is always sad to see a governor elected by citizens who are hoping for some fiscally responsible leadership become addicted to federal goodies that he hopes will keep him in office for a while.
Even sadder is seeing politicians who fancy themselves independent or Republican using Democrat talking points to convince the public that fleecing taxpayers is somehow better if the money comes from Washington.
As the authors of this piece point out, those talking points also happen to be rather empty and wrong.
Gov. Walker’s Obamacare Medicaid expansion will create a massive new tax cliff, where earning a single extra dollar means that Medicaid expansion enrollees could face hundreds or even thousands of dollars of extra costs if they try and move off the program.
That new welfare cliff is sure to depress employment. Peer-reviewed research of previous Medicaid expansions to able-bodied adults shows that expanding Medicaid will diminish work, dampen earnings, reduce labor-force participation and hurt the economy. Those conclusions are supported by the independent Congressional Budget Office, which confirms that Obamacare will cause millions of working-age adults to drop out of the labor force or reduce their hours, ultimately reducing economic output.
In Alaska, nearly 4,000 able-bodied adults could drop out of the labor force entirely, with many more reducing hours to avoid the welfare cliff.
This entire article is worth the read, but I’ll finish with a thought on executive overreach: it only works when legislators abdicate power and responsibility. As the authors point out, it is imperative that the Alaska legislature block this power-hungry unilateral move.