By Amber Lee
Across the nation there is a great deal of talk about the role of health care in switching many red states to blue, and some members of Congress are focused on providing what the nation has requested—common sense solutions to our health care problems.
But what does that mean in Alaska? We never seem to follow the national trend and where strong advocates for quality, affordable health care (Sen. Begich and Alyse Galvin) lost races to opponents who actively worked to repeal existing health care protections without a plan to replace it (Gov. Dunleavy and Don Young)?
Recently, a nationwide group with deep roots in Alaska, Protect Our Care, released a comprehensive paper titled “The Health Care Congress: Cost, Coverage, Consumer Protections.” The paper outlines several steps advocates argue would shore up health care options and lower treatment costs for residents of the Alaska while keeping important protections in place.
The group’s report comes a day after Gallup found that the percentage of U.S. adults without health insurance increased 1.3 percentage points in the fourth quarter of 2017 compared to a year before, representing the largest single-year increase measured by the polling firm and Sharecare since they began tracking the rate in 2008.
These solutions include:
- Work to overturn the U.S. Northern District of Texas decision that struck down the Affordable Care Act.
- Strengthen oversight of the Trump Administration’s efforts to undermine the ACA and cease legislative efforts to undermine the law such as slashing outreach funding.
- Protect coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
- Lower health care costs and expand financial assistance to those purchasing coverage in the individual market via legislation.
- Support Medicaid and Medicare by refraining from cost cuts and abandon efforts to create work requirements.
In contrast to these common-sense solutions, Alaska already has two bills in the legislature to implement work requirements for Medicaid, and political insiders are hinting that the governor’s administration is looking at rolling back Medicaid expansion even though it would be economically devastating to our state and our state’s medical community.
At the same time, Alaska’s only sitting member of the House, Rep. Young, voted against a resolution that would have supported overturning the harmful Texas vs Azar case which would have overturned the ACA.
Alaska occupies a unique space in American health care. We have some of the highest cost medical services, no real competition in the insurance marketplace, and a significant swath of Federally covered individuals (Federal employees and Veterans) as well as State and Local government employees.
So why don’t more of our elected leadership work towards a solution?