Besides Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), Alaska’s Sean Parnell is the only governor who is using his opposition to the Affordable Care Act to prevent his state from applying for federal grants to fund employer retirement health plans, help regulators police unreasonable insurance health premiums and plan for the exchanges. Asked to defend his resistance to accepting federal funds for reform’s most popular programs during last night’s final gubernatorial debate, Parnell — who has joined the Florida-led lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of reform — claimed that he would refuse all federal funding until the lawsuit was settled:
MODERATOR: Governor Parnell, mentioning the health care lawsuit, Democrats have accused you of footdragging in implementing some of the more popular provisions for state employees. Senator Hollis French says you’re delaying as long as legally possible provisions like getting kids staying on their parents’ health care plans until age 26 and there are Democrats who are upset you are not offering the health care benefits to state employees. States aren’t required to do that, but some are, it’s an option. Do they have some validity in saying you’re holding back? [...]
PARNELL: When I’m accused of foot dragging what I’m doing is taking each deadline in the federal legislation on a case by case basis. For example, when the federal government says here is some money to set up a health insurance exchange, but you don’t have to do it until 2014, but you ought start doing it now and here is the money if you want to try a little bit. I said no because let’s finish this lawsuit and see if the individual mandate gets overturned. That will directly bare on the health insurance exchanges and we got three years more, four years more until we’ve got to buy into a system that right now, I don’t buy.
Interestingly, Parnell is the odd man out of the 21 other states that are part of Florida’s health care lawsuit and is offering an odd argument for why he’s refusing federal dollars for programs that have noting to do with the individual requirement. Every other state has accepted some of the early benefits of reform. In fact, even Pawlenty — who has gone out of his way to condemn the law — applied for funds to implement abstinence-only education programs and several other grants. Alaska, meanwhile, is suffering from a fairly severe health care crisis and would stand to benefit from the aforementioned grants to employers and regulators. Nineteen percent of Alaskans and 12 percent of children are without insurance coverage and the state’s health care costs tend to grow faster than the national average.
During a more lighthearted moment in the debate, Parnell was asked how old the earth was. He refused to answer, replying simply, “only God knows.” “I really don’t know. I mean, for either one of us to do it, would be quite speculative.” You can watch that exchange here.