Five months ago, Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R-AK) home town newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News, strongly criticized the governor for stalling comprehensive health care reform. The editorial argued that while Palin promised to “tackle tough health care problems head-on” during her election bid, she failed to “get behind the most significant piece of health legislation offered — a proposal to ensure that all residents have health insurance, without disrupting the coverage that many Alaskans already have”:
Rather than stand on the sidelines, if the governor doesn’t agree with the approaches offered by others to get more Alaskans covered by health insurance, she could come up with her own. But she can’t rely on platitudes such as fixing the system by having individuals take more responsibility for their own health care. Or solutions that don’t work for lower-income folks. [Anchorage Daily News, 4/17/2008]
Indeed, a review of Palin’s health care record suggests that Palin has done little to increase access to affordable coverage. During the national debate about expanding the State Children Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), for instance, Palin offered little leadership in comparison to her colleagues and failed to advocate for expanded child’s coverage. Her participation was limited to signing a National Governors Association letter calling for the Federal government to make up an expected one-year funding shortfall in SCHIP.
Palin also signed legislation updating Alaska’s SCHIP program, Denali KidCare. SB-27 maintained the eligibility level–which had dropped to an effective rate of almost 150 percent of the poverty line due to inflation. However, by limiting eligibility to families living below 175 percent of the poverty line, Alaska’s eligibility criteria are still among the lowest in the nation. Unfortunately, Palin did not support legislation to expand eligibility to higher levels.
The Anchorage editorial points out that Palin did establish “a high-profile Health Care Strategies Planning Council.” While promising, it ended up going nowhere:
It all sounded good. It sounded like the beginning of a health care policy by a leader far more enlightened than the last governor. Yet we saw little to no progress toward any of those goals.