JUNEAU -- Lawmakers scrutinized Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell's approach to establishing a health care exchange Monday, with a leader of the Senate Finance Committee questioning whether Parnell intended to consult with the Legislature on the "major public policy question."
Jon Sherwood, medical assistance administrator for the state health department, told the committee that Parnell planned to establish an exchange using his executive powers. Parnell did not support a bill by Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, to establish an exchange through the Legislature, Sherwood said.
Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel and the committee's co-chairman, asked whether Parnell planned to consult with the Legislature on the issue. Sherwood replied that Parnell would seek legislative input at a later stage in the exchange's establishment.
"We'd like to be further along in our analysis before we feel comfortable talking about specifics of the legislation," Sherwood said.
Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, took issue with Parnell's rejection of a $1 million federal grant to fund the planning stages of the exchange. "I wish that decision hadn't been made," McGuire said. "We don't have to throw out the baby with the bathwater."
Alaska was the only state not to accept federal funds for the program, and in doing so, may have denied itself access to future federal grants for the operations of the health exchanges.
That was done to allow the exchange to be implemented without federal entanglement, Sherwood said.
Alaska is one of 26 states named as plaintiffs in a Florida court case challenging the legality of the federal health care overhaul. The judge in that case deemed the overhaul unconstitutional but allowed the law to stay in effect while his ruling is being appealed.
Parnell has been implementing aspects of the overhaul.