Tag Archives: Affordable Care Act

Alaskan politicians playing games with our money and our health

19392277_mAs of October 1, the federal government is shut down. Driving the shutdown are some Republicans intent on repealing or delaying the Affordable Care Act. Come January roughly 66,000 Alaskans, some even with preexisting conditions, will be able to buy affordable health insurance on the private market for the first time ever.

That includes me. According to a broker, I’ll probably be paying about $500 a month for a plan with a $1200 deductible.

For me that’s a great deal. If not for the new health care law, I would be paying about $1500 a month for such insurance.

That’s a $1000 a month difference. That’s real money. That’s a mortgage. That’s money that can be used to support private Alaska businesses.

U.S. Rep. Don Young voted on Monday yet again to delay the program for a year. Senate hopeful Joe Miller would go further. He would repeal the whole thing. The other Republican hopeful, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell has indicated that he would do the same.

For decades, Young has been the beneficiary of the best health insurance available, which has been highly subsidized by the tax payers. He’s now on Medicare. However, in 2009, the plan most favored by members of Congress was Blue Cross Blue Shield, which covered a family for about $1,030 a month. Taxpayers paid $700 of that.

Young, and all the members of Congress, also have government-funded private doctors on the Hill available to them.

As a veteran of our armed services, Miller is eligible for tax funded healthcare.

As a state of Alaska official, Treadwell doesn’t have to pay anything for his insurance. The state health insurance plan is better than almost any plan available on the private market. And, it’s all funded by the citizens of Alaska.

Let me repeat that: As a state worker, Treadwell doesn’t have to pay any monthly premiums for a plan that’s better than nearly any plan normal Alaskans get or can buy themselves.

Funny how politicians always seem to know how to get theirs.

If the health care act is delayed and I can’t sign up for it, I’ll be spending roughly more than $12,000 than I would otherwise. And if only 10,000 Alaskans of comparable health, age and income sign up under ObamaCare, it will save us a collective $120 million.

That’s more than Alaska makes off of taxes from mining, cigarettes and alcohol combined.

The federal government shut down at midnight while the House continues to leverage the budget continuing resolution as a means of delaying ObamaCare. Federal workers all across the state will be affected. So will the elderly and the disabled. The stock market has already fallen as the result of instability. Most of Alaskans who have retirement accounts have at least some of it in the stock market. We’ve all lost money that we’ll probably never get back.

The health care law will not be delayed. Obama will not allow it.

So what’s happening is this: Some Republican politicians are playing partisan games with our money and our health.

I’m going to go to a broker tomorrow and sign up for health insurance through the exchanges, which will be available on January 1. For the first time, I’ll be able to buy affordable, private health insurance. I won’t be getting as good of a deal as Young, Treadwell or Miller.

But I won’t complain. I’m going to have better and more affordable health insurance. And I’ll pass on some of what I’m going to save to Alaska businesses.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


The Affordable Care Act and women

Below is from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, from which I get nearly daily press releases. I get nothing, however, from Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services, which appears to have abdicated their role in educating Alaskans who need to sign up for the exchanges.

Perhaps this silence from HSS is a directive from Gov. Sean Parnell, who apparently would rather see the law fail than to have his constituents be able to receive insurance that they can actually afford. He and his advisors, after all, have theirs, paid for by the oil companies and the citizens of Alaska.

4 things for women to know:

• You won’t be charged more for health insurance just because you’re a woman.

• You can’t be denied coverage or charged more due to pre-existing conditions, like cancer or being pregnant.

• You can choose from any primary care provider, OB-GYN, or pediatrician in your health plan’s network without a referral.

• You’ll get free preventive care like mammograms, well-woman visits, contraception, and more.

Open enrollment begins on October 1, 2013. Coverage starts as soon as January 1, 2014. I’ll have more as I get it on how and where to sign up for the exchanges.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Northrim Bank finds business in ObamaCare

Obamacare At least one Alaskan private enterprise believes that there’s money to be made in the new health care law. Northrim Benefits Group, an affiliate of Northrim Bank, has started a service called Enroll Alaska that will help guide individuals through the new insurance marketplaces. Those marketplaces, or exchanges, are a key part of the Affordable Care Act, and will be up and running on October 1.

Depending on whom you ask and how it’s defined, anywhere from 66,000 to 139,000 Alaskans are uninsured or underinsured. Enroll Alaska hopes to be the broker of choice to as many of these as possible.

In the process, the business will also be educating Alaskans on the exchange, a role that our state government has appeared to have opted out of.

Agencies and nonprofits are also doing their part. In July, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services handed out more than $1,800,000 in grants to 25 Alaska health centers operating 168 sites to enroll the uninsured. And on August 15, HSS awarded another grant of $600,000 to be split between United Way and Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium for outreach.

In truth, however, you don’t need any of these services. You can sign up yourself here, and it doesn’t appear to be overly complicated.

Here’s Northrim’s announcement in full:

ANCHORAGE, AK- August 19, 2013- Northrim Benefits Group (NBG) is proud to announce the formation of Enroll Alaska. This new division of NBG is focused on individual health coverage for the nearly 66,000 uninsured or underinsured Alaskans. Enroll Alaska will help guide individuals through the new insurance marketplaces that have been created with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and help those who may qualify for immediate tax subsidies.

Starting in 2014, there is a federal mandate that all individuals have health insurance, whether through an employer policy or purchased through a Federally Facilitated Marketplace. Individuals with household incomes between 100-400% of Federal Poverty Level may be eligible for premium assistance via a federal tax subsidy. Enroll Alaska will help individuals determine if they qualify for a federal tax subsidy and select a health insurance plan that is right for them and their family.

Enroll Alaska will have locations throughout the state to help individuals and families during open enrollment, which runs from October 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. Enroll Alaska will be the go-to resource for questions regarding the ACA. Information can be found at www.enrollingalaska.com or by calling, 1-855-385-5550.

Correction: Northrim Benefits group is an affiliate of Northrim Bank, not a fully owned subsidiary.
Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Healthcare hearing leaves things unsaid

Alaska state Rep. Lora Reinbold, who chairs the Administrative Regulation Review Committee, held an interesting if unbalanced hearing on the effect the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, is going to have on Alaska.

“Is Obamacare the best or worst thing to happen to the U.S.? That’s what our hearing is about; we want to learn the facts and clarify what is currently known about the program’s effects in Alaska,” she wrote in a press release announcing the hearing, two days before it was held.

Reinbold, a Republican from Eagle River, is not a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, and is a cosponsor of a joint legislative resolution to call on Congress to delay the implementation of the act.

Those testifying, all invited by the committee chair, included Deborah Erickson, the executive director of Alaska’s Health Care Commission, Jeff Davis who is president of Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, Division of Insurance Director Bret Kolb.

Dr. Ilona Farr, who is a primary care physician and who has been one of the state’s most vocal opponents of the ACA, also testified. She was the only health care provider who did so.

Alaska has the third highest cost of health care in the world and its citizens pay among the highest premiums rates for insurance in the country. At about 120,000 uninsured Alaskans, the state has among the highest rates of uninsured per capita in the country.

The committee didn’t invite patient advocates or anybody from the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, or any of their members including Providence Hospital or Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

Nobody from the public testified.

With the absence of those voices, it was difficult to get a balanced perspective on the Act and how it will affect such people and institutions, say nothing of what it would do to such people and institutions if Gov. Sean Parnell declines to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

It was a topic that those presenting only touched on, which was also surprising given that it is one of the few things about the Act in which the state has a voice.

In the other major area that the state could have had say—health exchanges—Parnell  ceded the state’s voice and has allowed the feds to build Alaska’s exchange, which is supposed to be up and running by September. (Read more about exchanges here.)

The major take-away from the hearing, based on those testifying, was that health care costs are going to rise under the Act.

Farr, as she has done in the past, also spent much of her time talking about the negative impact that onerous regulations were going to have on doctors.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com