Budget Cuts Would Eliminate Health Care Commission

The Alaska Health Care Commission would be eliminated in proposed funding cuts from the House Finance Committee. The commission makes policy recommendations to the legislature and the governor to improve the health of Alaskans and control health care costs.

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Representative Dan Saddler, a Republican from Eagle River chairs the subcommittee that is recommending the cut. He says the commission has done good work, but health department staff can provide the same expertise:

“I think every department would love to have it’s own policy think tank, but in our fiscal challenge these days we simply can’t afford it in this department and probably couldn’t afford it in other departments either.”

The Health Care Commission costs the state $350,000 a year. The committee decided to keep funding for the Commission on Aging, which is also under the Health Department and costs $400,000.

The legislature established the Health Care Commission in 2010 and voted unanimously to fund it for another three years during the last legislative session.

Representative Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat, thinks cutting the Health Care Commission is short sighted:

“We have the highest medical costs in the country in this state. We have the highest annual increase in medical costs in the country in this state. Their job is to help come up with policies to stem that increase. That will save money for the budget. It will save money for individuals in their insurance premiums. Cutting them is just not a smart thing to do.”

The state is responsible for over $2.5 billion in health care spending each year. That includes employee and retiree health plans, health care for prisoners, Medicaid and workers compensation. Overall, health care spending in Alaska amounts to an estimated $10 billion annually.

This story is part of a reporting partnership between APRN, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

 

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Annie Feidt is the Editor and Producer of Alaska News Nightly, and is also a frequent contributor to the show. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49thstate just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie