Revised Senate health care bill effectively earmarks $1.82 billion for Alaska. Could it win Murkowski’s vote?

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

The newest version of the Senate GOP’s replacement of Obamacare is out and there’s some good news for Alaska. About $182 billion of good news, or as those on social media are calling it a “polar payoff.”

The money is targeted at easing the individual insurance marketplace in states where the average premium is 75 percent higher than the national average, or in other words Alaska.

Its link to Alaska is critical because U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been wary about the bill and even the more conservative Sen. Dan Sullivan has had his concerns about the original bill. Both votes are must-haves for the GOP to reach the 50 votes needed to get the bill passed.

The change was first reported by Bloomberg this morning, noticing that an eligibility change to the multi-billion dollar funds for short-term market stability and long-term state innovation programs meant only Alaska would be eligible.

Alaska won’t bring home all $182 billion of the funds, but the law would allow Alaska to qualify for up to 1 percent of the funds annually.

Murkowski and Sullivan have not yet said publicly if the new money changes their vote on the bill, but it’s likely that both advocated for the change.

The bill still has plenty to be concerned about. Many of the cuts to Medicaid are still in place. A new provision would allow providers to offer plans that deny coverage to preexisting conditions and don’t cover essential benefits as long as they still offer plans that cover both.

The change explained

The latest version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act adds new requirements for the long-term innovation and short-term stability funds that could limit eligibility to just Alaska.

The bill limits eligibility to states where the average premiums are 75 percent higher than the national average. It’s unclear exactly how that would be determined, but if you look at Kaiser Family Foundation’s average benchmark premiums only Alaska would be eligible for the money.

According to that report, the average premium in the country is $361 and 75 percent more than that would be $631.75. Alaska’s average benchmark premium is a scorching $927. The next highest is North Carolina at $543.

How the funds would be parceled out

The short-term stability fund is targeted for insurers that operate in Alaska and would amount to $150 million in 2018 and 2019, $100 million in 2020 and 2021 in cash subsidies. The long-term innovation fund is open to the state—similar to the waiver announced earlier this week—and provides $80 million in 2019, $140 million in 2020 and 2021 and $192 million every year from 2022 through 2026.

This would all come on top of the 1332 waiver funds announced earlier this week that bring in about $322 million over the next five years. That money would go to a state reinsurance program to help cover high-cost individuals on Alaska’s marketplace and rates for everyone are expected to drop by as much as 20 percent

Alaska would have to similarly design a new program to take advantage of the long-term innovation funds.

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