The Mat-Su Health Foundation (MSHF) issued the following statement about Governor Dunleavy’s veto today of over $400 million to the Fiscal Year 2020 operating budget. MSHF is against cuts to Medicaid, early childhood, and housing/homelessness programs.
“Private and public funders, including the Mat-Su Health Foundation, want to ensure our dollars are used prudently, with maximum administrative efficiency, and that those dollars produce the desired return on investment for Alaskans,” said Elizabeth Ripley, MSHF CEO. “Many of the vetoes announced today will do the opposite. They will have a negative effect on the health of our people and on our economy. We urge the Mat-Su legislative delegation to carefully evaluate and push back on these most harmful vetoes.”
MSHF is particularly concerned about the $50 million in undesignated cuts to Medicaid. With no plan in place to achieve these cuts, which may also compromise millions more in federal dollars, the Governor and DHSS should continue to focus on implementing the Medicaid Reforms already initiated, such as Tribal child welfare compacting, which will deliver cost-savings and improved outcomes for Alaskans. The legislature passed SB74 several years ago to make that possible, but that work has stalled in DHSS and should be accelerated. State Medicaid dollars and the federal dollars they leverage help Alaska to improve the health of our citizens, build out critical healthcare infrastructure, and increase private sector jobs and investments. With 31,592 Mat-Su residents receiving health coverage through Medicaid, this program is vital to ensuring almost one third of our populace has an opportunity to live a healthy life.
Besides impacting health care and coverage, the Medicaid cuts will negatively impact our economy. Major private sector investments are happening in Mat-Su to build new behavioral health infrastructure and these cuts jeopardize the projects. Mat-Su Regional Medical Center and the Mat-Su Health Foundation responded to the opioid and behavioral health crisis by making plans to invest $18.5 million to increase access to treatment and create new jobs. The uncertainty created by the budget situation has investors reeling and questioning these and future investments.
The foundation is also concerned about cuts to early childhood grants, where prudent investments can help create a top- tier education system and productive workforce. Services like Head Start set children up for success in school and life and pull families out of intergenerational poverty.
Vetoes to housing and homelessness programs are also troubling. These services help people get back to work and stay employed, helping Alaskans maintain access to emergency shelter options, the opportunity to be rapidly rehoused, and homeless prevention supports such as rental and utility emergency assistance.
The Mat-Su Health Foundation stands ready to work with the Governor, his commissioners, and the legislative delegation to find ways to protect healthcare and critical social services without implementing draconian budget measures.