JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — After Gov. Mike Dunleavy told President Donald Trump that Alaska was interested in receiving Medicaid dollars as a block grant, Dunleavy’s health commissioner downplayed the prospect to lawmakers.
During a confirmation hearing earlier this month, Adam Crum said there is no current mechanism for the federal government to provide block grants for Medicaid. Crum said that option would be considered if available but is not the main plan now.
He called Dunleavy’s comments a “foot in the door,” and a way to let the government know Alaska is interested in pursuing options that provide more flexibility.
In response to questioning, Crum said he was not actively involved in suggesting to Dunleavy that Alaska signal to Trump an interest in block grants.
Crum was confirmed to lead the Department of Health and Social Services last week.
In a March 1 letter, Dunleavy followed up on a meeting with Trump by laying out issues where he saw opportunities for the administrations to work together. That included Medicaid.
Dunleavy wrote that Seema Verma, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “has urged us to be the first state to receive Medicaid dollars as a block grant. We are eager to do this, but your support of her on this ‘first’ will keep the proper focus and speed on the application.”
In a statement, Crum said “early overtures from our federal partners” included ideas like block grants.
Crum said Dunleavy’s point was to let the federal government know “we wanted to be on the leading edge of innovation for the Medicaid program” and work toward an “Alaska specific solution that provides the flexibility we need for better health outcomes and a more effective spend of our dollars.”
He said this has allowed for ongoing discussion of ideas.
Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow said the Dunleavy administration is being open-minded on Medicaid. Block grants have been one part of the discussion but at this point, “nothing is moving forward in that manner,” Shuckerow said.
This story has been corrected to change “had” to “has” in Dunleavy quote.