As Alaskans know all too well, we face some of the highest health care costs in the country. While these costs are a direct impact on family budgets and bottom lines, they also have systemic effects in areas like small business growth, education, and unemployment. In fact, a survey of local businesses found that health insurance is currently one of the top barriers to business growth. With our projected population growth, particularly among seniors, these costs will continue to explode unless we tackle them head on.
The silver lining, however, is that the health care industry is currently the fastest growing sector in our state economy. This is a clear sign that with the right policies in place, health care doesn’t have to be a drag on our economy.
That is why I support:
- Better Utilizing the State’s Purchasing Power: There are opportunities to reduce costs and deliver higher quality services by working with employee groups and finding new, innovative approaches to delivering services. Reports have already shown potential for significant savings by utilizing new, creative and innovative approaches.
- Increasing Transparency: This year, the Legislature passed a bill that requires providers to post the costs of common procedures, allowing patients to shop around for the best deals; just like we do for everything else we buy. I would expand this by executive order with the services we pay for. With over 15,000 employees working for the State, and the State being self-insured, we can create more transparency on what the costs of certain types of medical services and drug costs will be. This would create more awareness for our employees to ensure they are getting a fair price for the services they are getting.
- Moving Away From a Fee-for-Service Model: Fundamentally, our health care system is designed to make money when we get sick, rather than valuing keeping us healthy. We have a small enough population to experiment with new models of healthcare coverage where health insurers are paid a fixed cost per patient, rather than getting paid based on which services we receive.
- Eliminate the 80th Percentile Rule: Adopted in 2004 to protect consumers who must go to a doctor outside their insurance network, the 80th percentile rule requires insurance companies to cover 80% of a reasonable rate for health care services. In reality, it allows providers to increase what they charge for services knowing they have to be reimbursed by insurers for at least 80% of the costs. The Department of Health and Social Services could get rid of the rule today and require more clinics to become part of an insurance network, lowering their profit, but making procedures more affordable.
- Provide Clinics for Employees: The Anchorage School District, Municipality of Anchorage, and even well-known Outside companies like Amazon are experimenting with providing health care services on site to employees as a way to reduce sick days, make it easier to get preventative care, and control costs. The State should incentivize the use of clinics outside of Anchorage for public employees as well as pooling access for private employees. Utilizing these innovative approaches for delivering services to our employees just makes sense, as State employees are the largest consumer group for medical services in Alaska.
- Explore a Unified Health Care Option for Alaskans With Little to No Coverage: With our small population and high costs, not to mention a large portion of the State’s population covered by Medicaid, Medicare, Tri-care, and Indian Health Service, we could save money by pooling these Alaskans into a single health care option. We should not be afraid to look beyond our current system of delivery to find innovative approaches that produce cost savings.