Despite Accepting $2.9M From Health Law, Gov Parnell Claims Alaska ‘Swims Freer Of Federal Entanglement’

TIME’s Kate Pickert has the audio of Alaska Governor Sean Parnell’s pronouncement that he would not accept federal funds to implement the exchanges in the Affordable Care Act, citing a district court ruling in Florida which found the individual mandate unconstitutional and invalidated the entire law. Here is the relevant portion:

Seven state legislators who support the federal mandated health insurance have urged me to apply for federal funds to establish a state health insurance exchange in conformance with the new federal health care law. Never mind according to these lawmakers the Florida judge held that health care law unconstitutional and stopped its implementation here. These lawmakers, three of whom are lawyers and know better, urged me to violate — I’m a lawyer to so I’m not going to laugh [crowd laughing]. Huh, I’m a recovering one [crowd laughing]. What these three lawmakers, plus the four others, urged me to violate the court ruling, which is effectively an injunction halting the implementation of the federal health care legislation. I of course will not do so. […]

The result, Alaska now swims freer of federal entanglement then these other states. These other states are now trying to find out what to do with the oppressive constraints of money taken under a constitutional regime. Next, the supporters of the federal health care law claim, in a letter to me, that the feds will take over implementation of the federal health insurance exchange if I don’t do it. Not true. So long as this court order is in place the federal government is barred from implementing the mandates and the provisions of that federal health care law. That claim is patently false in light of the court ruling. Can the decision be appealed by the federal government? Of course it can. However, at this time, the courts declaratory judgment that the federal health care law is unconstitutional is the law of the land as it applies to Alaska, and 26 other states, by the way. And we will not proceed down an unlawful course to implement it.

It’s difficult to know where to begin, so I’ll start with the most recent events first. Yesterday, the administration filed a motion asking Florida District Court Judge Roger Vinson to clarify the practical impact of his holding, effectively asking for a stay of his decision. “Defendants will appeal both the Court’s judgment and the rulings that underlie it,” the government wrote. “This motion respectfully asks the Court to clarify the scope of its order, in particular that its declaratory judgment does not relieve the parties to this case of any obligations or deny them any rights under the Affordable Care Act while the judgment is the subject of appellate review.” In his ruling, Vinson found that of the 26 states that took part in the lawsuit just two — Utah and Idaho — had standing to challenge the law. That means that the other 24, including Alaska, are on shaky ground if they decide to halt implementation.


From his comments, one would think that Parnell hasn’t applied for any federal dollars that were appropriated through the Affordable Care Act. But Alaska has asked for and received $2.9 million from the ACA. That includes: Medicare improvements for patients and providers, epidemiology labs, strengthening public health infrastructure to improve health outcomes, the maternal and child home visitation program, background checks for long-term care providers, workforce development, and HIV Prevention and Public Health Fund activities. Why those dollars don’t fit under the description of “oppressive constraints of money “ is unclear, as is the question of why Parnell thinks that it is worse to be broke than to receive an enormous pool of money that you are not allowed to spend in frivolous ways.

His claim that the federal government won’t be able to implement a federal exchange is also misguided. As the law states, if a state “will not have any required Exchange operational by January 1, 2014,” “the Secretary shall (directly or through agreement with a not- for-profit entity) establish and operate such Exchange within the State and the Secretary shall take such actions as are necessary to implement such other requirements.” Of course, if a formal stay is granted, then the government can proceed implementing this portion of the law.