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3/4/14 - Legislators hear from advocate who opposes Medicaid expansion

Mar 5, 2015

Legislators hear another perspective as they consider a proposal by Gov. Bill Walker to expand Medicaid to low-income Alaskans Legislators, aides and others heard an alternate viewpoint on Medicaid expansion from a senior fellow with an organization that has referred to the "dangers" expansion poses in states that opt for it.

 

Christie Herrera, with the Foundation for Government Accountability, spoke to problems that she said some states have experienced. Herrera spoke during an informal "lunch and learn," sponsored by Sen. Mike Dunleavy.

 

State health commissioner Valerie Davidson, who also attended, questioned Herrera's use of data in Arizona and Maine, which expanded Medicaid on their own and not under the federal health care law.

 

Herrera billed those states as cautionary tales, and said they provide a longer-term view of data.

 

Rep. Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat, also had a question for Herrera. 

 

He asked, “Why is it bad to provide health insurance to people who are low-income workers who work for a living?”

 

In her response, Herrera said she believes that Medicaid expansion will serve as a disincentive when it comes to people finding gainful employment. 

 

"In my opinion," said Herrera, "I don’t think more government spending and more people on a welfare program brings prosperity.”

 

Before the event, Gara had sent out an e-mail blast calling the Foundation for Government Accountability an “outside group” and pointing out their ties to the conservative industrialists David and Charles Koch.

 

Medicaid expansion has been a priority of Gov. Bill Walker. He is planning town-hall meetings to tout the benefits of expansion and rally support as lawmakers consider it.

 

A study commissioned by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium shows Medicaid expansion in Alaska would bring a billion dollars in federal funding into the state, and 41-thousand low income adults would receive health insurance.The cost to the state would be 23 million dollars.

 

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Researcher looking at causes of Alaska's high rates of sexual assault

 

 

By  Matt Martin, KDLG

 

A researcher from University of California Irvine is in Dillingham to collect the experiences of sexual assault victims. KDLG’s Matt Martin reports the project is trying to figure out the cause of the disproportionately high number of sexual crimes in rural Alaska.

 

A researcher from University of California Irvine is in Dillingham to collect the experiences of sexual assault victims. KDLG’s Matt Martin reports the project is trying to figure out the cause of the disproportionately high number of sexual crimes in rural Alaska.

 

There have already been a few studies that looked at the quantity of sexual assaults in rural Alaska. According to an FBI report, there were 80 reported rapes per 100,000 Alaskan residents in 2012 … That was the highest in the country.

 

Jeremy Braithwaite is a PhD candidate in criminal justice at the UC Irvine. Reading the reports on the high incidence of sexual assaults in Alaska, he noticed none offered conclusions as to why that is. The Californian backed his bags and moved to Alaska to see if he could help figure that out.

 

“I thought to myself why not go up there and peel back a few layers of the onion to really understand why this is happening a little bit more,” said Braithwaite.

 

Braithwaite’s research is unique because it goes beyond documenting the magnitude of the problem, as other studies have done before, but trying to explain why the problem exists in the first place.

He started interviewing women in Dillingham about two months ago. So far 9 women have participated in his study.

“And when you look at a very small community like Dillingham, Alaska to talk to nine women that have been effected by sexual violence that’s a very very high number.”

Victims tell Braithwaite that they have typically been discouraged from sharing their stories of abuse and assault.

“Everybody has said, when they came forward and talked to somebody about the abuse they were told don’t talk about it," said Braithwaite.." That’s ugly talk. We don’t talk about that. So not being able to communicate that violence just pretty much allows it to continue. If you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t go away.”

He is still in the early phase of his research, but already one clear theme has emerged in the interviews he has conducted.

“Obviously the alcohol problem and the heroin problem in Dillingham have been unanimously named by everyone,” Braithwaite said.

Braithwaite says that collecting these stories should help better identify some of the root causes of sexual violence here. He hopes that may lead to more effective ways to address the problem. When he finishes his work here, Braithwaite says he wants to repeat the study in other rural parts of the state.