Alaska takes drastic step to shore up ACA marketplace

Alaska mountain scene

In a case that highlights the political realities of health reform’s growing pains, Alaska is poised to take extreme measures to stabilize its struggling Affordable Care Act marketplace, according to Politico.

The state’s largely Republican legislature has passed a bill--proposed by conservative Gov. Bill Walker--that sets up a $55 million fund to subsidize enrollees’ rising premiums. The fund will be financed through an existing tax on all insurance companies, the article says. If signed by Walker, the legislation would go into effect June 30.

The move is surprising given Alaskan lawmakers’ vehement opposition to the ACA, Politico notes, as they have previously sued Walker for expanding Medicaid. But those who support the bill say that despite their continued opposition to the healthcare reform law, the legislation is necessary to protect consumers from massive rate hikes and potential loss of coverage.

“Are we trying to maintain ACA? I think what we’re trying to do is live within the new reality that’s out there,” Republican state Rep. Lance Pruitt, who supported the bill, tells Politico.

Insurers across the country have requested steep rate hikes, reaching as high as 60 percent in Texas and 40 percent for the health plan of Pennsylvania provider Geisinger.

But Alaska’s remedy--and the circumstances that led it there--stands out. For one, the state’s small population has some of the highest healthcare costs in the nation. In addition, providers are paid more compared with nearby states, and healthcare facilities are difficult for patients to access.

Three insurers have left Alaska since 2015, Walker’s office tells the publication, and state officials have warned that Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield, the exchange’s lone remaining participant, couldn’t raise rates high enough to cover its customers’ medical bills.

To learn more:
- read the article