Alaska in Brief

Alaska Legislature passes bills boosting mothers’ health care and renewable energy fund

By: - May 3, 2023 6:13 pm

Gov. Mike Dunleavy stands with legislative leaders during a news conference Thursday, April 27, 2023, at the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

Thousands of new mothers will receive extended Medicaid coverage under legislation proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy and passed by the Alaska Legislature on Wednesday.

The Alaska House of Representatives voted 35-3 to approve Senate Bill 58, which now returns to the Senate for a procedural vote before being sent to Dunleavy’s desk for final approval.

In a separate action, the House also approved a permanent extension to the state’s renewable energy grant fund. House lawmakers had previously approved a 10-year extension, and the Senate changed that to an indefinite extension, requiring House concurrence. No one objected to the change.

With two weeks remaining in the legislative session, state lawmakers have now passed eight bills through both the House and Senate.

Senate Bill 58, the postpartum Medicaid extension, is a governor-driven priority, highlighted in this year’s State of the State address.

When signed into law, it will extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers to 12 months after the end of a pregnancy. The current end is 60 days postpartum. 

The change will prevent new mothers from losing health care, even if they lapse from the Medicaid program.

The extension covers all new mothers within 225% of the federal poverty line; the Senate-passed version of the bill covered women within 175% of the poverty line, but Rep. Will Stapp, R-Fairbanks, proposed an amendment that increased the figure.

“I believe that this bill is one of the most valuable and impactful things we can do for pregnant moms in this state,” he said before the final House vote on Wednesday.

The change isn’t expected to be an obstacle in the Senate, which must approve the modification. No date has been set for the Senate vote.

Legislators repeatedly noted during committee debate that maternal mortality rates in Alaska are rising, and legislation like Senate Bill 58 could help matters. 

The federal government made the extension an option for states under the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have already implemented the extension, according to KFF.

The bill will increase state Medicaid costs by $14.4 million per year and has a startup cost of $1.4 million, the Department of Health estimates.


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James Brooks
James Brooks

James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. A graduate of Virginia Tech, he is married to Caitlyn Ellis, owns a house in Juneau and has a small sled dog named Barley. He can be contacted at [email protected].