Alaska is OK funding Medicaid through grants, governor says

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy told President Donald Trump that the state is open to the idea of receiving Medicaid funding through fixed amounts annually.

The block grant approach could allow the state more flexibility in how it spends Medicaid funding, Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow told Alaska Public Media.

The Republican governor wrote to the president last month that Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, had urged the state to become the first receive the federal funding this way. He noted that Alaska is eager to do it.

“The overall message here that we sent to the president is that we’re open and willing to take flexible measures that can help improve savings and efficiencies within the government,” Shuckerow said.

The federal government currently pays an agreed-upon percentage of each state’s Medicaid costs.

The government program provides health care to people with lower incomes. More than a quarter of the state’s population is covered by it.

The funding change idea concerned Becky Hultberg, president and CEO of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association. The concept could conflict with legal requirements and lead to reduced funding, she said.

“We need to transform care, and block grants just put less money into the existing system,” Hultberg said. “That’s not something we want to be first in.”