JUNEAU — Two of Alaska’s highest profile politicians traded barbs Wednesday over the federal health care law.
Republican Gov. Sean Parnell told U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, in a letter that he should “do what is right for Alaskans” and vote to repeal or “substantially change” the law as it relates to private health insurance choices. Insurance companies have been sending cancellation notices to individuals with policies that do not meet requirements under the law.
“We are witnessing the destruction of private insurance as an option for Alaskans and all Americans,” Parnell said. “You must not stand by and watch it happen, particularly where you helped create this unfolding catastrophe upon us.”
Begich, in a statement, said he appreciates Parnell’s concern and hopes he will direct it “to the 40,000 Alaskans currently being denied affordable health care as a direct result of his refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion.”
“The refusal to expand Medicaid coupled with the refusal to manage a State of Alaska healthcare exchange has severely limited the ability of Alaskans to successfully sign up for health care insurance,” he said.
Begich has been pressing Parnell to expand Medicaid under the law. Parnell is expected to announce a decision on whether to do so soon.
Both men face re-election next year. Parnell’s lieutenant governor and a former commissioner are among the Republicans challenging Begich.
Parnell’s letter was sent the same day the federal government released initial enrollment figures for insurance through online marketplaces. Those figures showed 53 Alaskans signed up for private insurance through the site during the first month.
Alaska was one of 36 states that relied on the federally run site — which has suffered glitches since its rollout on Oct. 1 — rather than taking the lead itself or implementing its own exchange.
In deciding to let the federal government set up the exchange for Alaska, Parnell in 2012 said “federally mandated programs should be paid for by federal dollars.”