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Alaska Governor Unilaterally Moves To Expand Medicaid Under Obamacare

AP Photo / Mark Thiessen

Walker campaigned aggressively on the Obamacare program during his 2014 gubernatorial run and polling shows Alaskans overwhelming support expanding Medicaid. Nevertheless, the Republican-controlled statehouse -- which is currently out of session -- thwarted the Medicaid expansion bills the governor pushed in the state's regular and special sessions; the legislation never made it out of committee. Lawmakers also put language in this year's budget package prohibiting the governor from acting unilaterally on Medicaid expansion. However, both Walker's and the legislature's attorneys say that language is likely unconstitutional.

The objections raised by Alaskan legislators are similar to those brought in other red states, mainly in the South, where lawmakers have opted out the Obamacare program. The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that participation was voluntary for states.

Republicans often criticize Medicaid expansion as a big government program that states cannot afford. Under Obamacare, the federal government pays for the entire program until 2016 and then gradually decreases its share to 90 percent by 2020.

Thursday Walker sent a letter to the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, giving the committee, which operates even when the state legislature is out of session, 45 days to approve, disapprove or do nothing of his plans, according to the Huffington Post. Walker suggested he could move forward without the committee's approval, but also said the entire legislature could reconvene in that window to also act on his plans.

Walker said he planned to meet with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to discuss his plan with the hopes of rolling out it by September.