Associated Press 

Health care law benefits for Alaska detailed as changes to system loom

 

December 15, 2016



(AP) — An estimated 36,000 uninsured Alaskans got health care coverage under President Barack Obama’s signature health care law between 2010 and 2015, according to figures released by the federal government Tuesday.

The data was released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services just weeks before Obama leaves office, amid calls by many Republicans in Congress for replacing the law after Donald Trump’s administration takes power.

The state-level data touting the law’s benefits provides a lens through which to judge new proposals and whether they move the system forward, Aviva Aron-Dine, a senior counselor to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, told reporters.

An estimated 6,000 younger Alaskans have benefited from a provision allowing parents to keep kids on their insurance until they’re 26 years old, the department said. And at the start of 2016, nearly 18,000 Alaskans had individual health plans on the federally facilitated marketplace, with most receiving federal subsidies to help pay for coverage.

The law also let states expand Medicaid to cover more lower-income people. Over the last 14 months, more than 25,600 people have been covered by expanded Medicaid in Alaska, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, though costs exceeded first-year estimates.

The federal government is expected to fully cover the health care expenses for expansion enrollees through December. After that, states are to start chipping in for part of the cost.

In a statement following last month’s elections, state health commissioner Valerie Davidson cited benefits of expansion and said state officials would “evaluate possible policy adjustments if current federal funding levels change.”

High claim costs and a relatively small health insurance market have been ongoing concerns in Alaska, which will be down to one company providing individual health plans in 2017 following a decision by Moda Health to leave the market.

The state Legislature earlier this year passed a law aimed at stabilizing the market, by ceding claims for high-cost conditions to a high-risk pool. The state is seeking federal assistance in keeping that program going.

Mike Anderson, a spokesman for Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, said the federal health care law is “wiping out Alaska’s small businesses and our middle class.”

Anderson wrote that Congress next year “intends to live up to its promise to the American people, by beginning to repair the damage through repealing Obamacare.”

Sullivan is committed to working with colleagues on provisions focused on allowing people to buy the level of coverage they want and ensuring that people with pre-existing conditions get covered, among other things, Anderson wrote.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Republican Rep. Don Young said he would like to repeal the health care law but thinks the political possibility of doing so is slim so lawmakers should focus on parts of they believe are not working and fix them.

 

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