This story out of Alaska caught my eye this morning, not just because it's about Medicaid expansion, but because it's just so weird.
Last Friday the Alaska House of Representatives filed an appeal to stop the expansion of Medicaid, which had been approved by the Governor and upheld by a state court as recently as March.
Medicaid was expanded by the governor, who is an Independent, last August. There are now 16,700 new Medicaid recipients in Alaska thanks to the expansion, which polls indicate is approved 5-1 by Alaska citizens.
Here's where it gets weird. The entire legislature, House and Senate, controlled by Republicans of course, had allocated $450,000 of taxpayer money to fight Medicaid expansion. When the lawsuit by the entire legislature failed, that should have been the end of it.
But Republicans in the House leadership filed an appeal on Friday with no vote, no Senate input, and no documentation that this was supposed to be done.
If the House wants to go on with the lawsuit without the State Senate, that is not illegal. "According to a legal opinion by legislative legal services director Doug Gardner, either the House or Senate could hold a vote to pursue the appeal. In that case, the body would substitute itself as the plaintiff and pay for the litigation from the presiding officer’s budget."
But "outside attorneys" for the lower chamber filed the suit, and it's not clear at all who is paying these attorneys. It's not clear who decided they should file the appeal. No one in the Alaska House of Representatives voted to do this. Alaska Dispatch News:
But the House has taken no such vote. House Majority Leader Charisse Millett said Friday she didn’t know the appeal had been filed, though she was aware the deadline for advancing it to the Supreme Court was fast approaching. Final judgment against the Legislature in the Superior Court case was entered April 5.
“We’ve legally filed an appeal and that lawsuit is proceeding,” said Jeremiah Campbell, deputy press secretary for the House Majority. Campbell said he also found out about the appeal “after the fact” and couldn’t say who within the House had furthered the appeal. The appeal notice was signed by two of the Legislature’s outside attorneys, Tim McKeever and Paul Clement.
Millet and Campbell directed questions to Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, another member of the House Republican leadership. But calls and emails to Johnson and House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, were not returned Friday afternoon.
Two possibilities present themselves. Either a leader in the Alaska House went nuts and decided on his own that his legislative body would go ahead and pay attorneys to file an appeal, so he called them on his own and demanded they do it, or the attorneys went rogue and filed this appeal on their own in order to clean out the $450,000 of taxpayer funded legal fees sitting in the Legislative account. Of course, it could be ALEC, the Kochs, or some other outside group paying the attorneys, but since they are filing suit on behalf of the Alaska House, the voters might want to know who it is paying their representatives' lawyers to cancel their Medicaid.
In the meantime, over sixteen thousand working class Alaskans have health insurance for now, if the Republicans and their lawyers don't succeed in taking it away.