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News Link • Alaska

Alaskans turn to government for food and health care amid recession, prompting worry about cost

• https://www.adn.com/politics

JUNEAU — Tens of thousands of people have turned to the government for health care and food amid Alaska's recession, prompting questions from state lawmakers about the sustainability of those safety-net programs.

Gov. Bill Walker's administration projects 240,000 people to be enrolled in the Medicaid health-care program next year, up from 163,000 in 2015. And 101,000 Alaskans were receiving food stamps in September, up from 72,000 a year earlier, according to preliminary federal data.

The federal government covers most of the cost of Alaska's food stamp program.

But Medicaid — supported by both the state and federal governments — is one of the biggest line-items in Alaska's budget, at about $700 million. And some conservative lawmakers say they're worried about the growth in enrollment.

In total, the program covers nearly one-third of the state's population.

"It's going to eat us alive if we don't manage it," said Soldotna Republican Sen. Peter Micciche, who oversees the state health department's budget for the Senate.

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