Annie Feidt, APRN - Anchorage
afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8443 | About Annie
The Senate Finance Committee approved hiring former-health commissioner Bill Streur today as a consultant on the Medicaid budget and Medicaid expansion. Expanding the program as part of the Affordable Care Act is a priority of Governor Bill Walker, but many Republican lawmakers say the state can’t afford any new spending.
Nearly 17,000 Alaskans have signed up for health insurance on healthcare.gov during this open enrollment period. That’s already a substantial increase from last year. And Affordable Care Act navigators expect the next three weeks will be even busier as the February 15th enrollment deadline approaches.
Starting this month, businesses in Alaska with more than 100 full time workers have to provide health insurance. And under the Affordable Care Act “full time” is any employee who works more than 30 hours a week. Senator Lisa Murkowski is sponsoring legislation that would change that threshold to 40 hours. Many restaurants owners in Anchorage are watching the legislation closely.
Physicians spend a lot of time thinking about how to fix the human body. A group of young doctors in Anchorage recently had the chance to draw it instead. They are all overworked, over tired interns-midway through their first year of residency. But they spent a morning in an intro to drawing class in an effort to get them to think more creatively about their careers.
A group of doctors in Anchorage hopes to do a better job caring for some of the sickest patients in the city. It may cost more money initially, but in the long run, the goal is also to save health care dollars. The new group is called Alaska Innovative Medicine and the idea is based on a kidney dialysis clinic.
The Department of Health and Social Services has created a new position to help the state work toward the goal of expanding Medicaid. The job is “Medicaid expansion project director” and it’s being filled by Chris Ashenbrenner, who spent two decades working for the department and came out of retirement to take on this challenge.
Gov. Sean Parnell says he doesn’t know what’s next for him, but he expects to keep working on the issues his administration prioritized.
On the campaign trail, Bill Walker made expanding the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act one of his top priorities. And he’s confident he could make the decision without input from the state legislature.
“It’s up to the Governor to accept that.”
But when Walker takes office next month, will it really be so easy to expand a program that has been a tough sell in other conservative states?
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Healthcare.gov was working smoothly in Alaska this weekend for the start of open enrollment. Enroll Alaska reported Friday that the site was miscalculating the subsidy amounts for Alaskans looking for health insurance in “window shopping” mode. But the company said it had signed up 40 people on Saturday- the first day the site was live- with no apparent problems.
November 15th marks the start of the second open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act, when individuals can sign up for coverage on healthcare.gov. But even before it opens for business, there are signs the website isn’t working correctly for Alaskans.
The three month open enrollment period for the federal health care exchange begins this Saturday, November 15th. The two insurers offering plans on healthcare.gov in Alaska have very different projections on how many more Alaskans will sign up for coverage for 2015.
Surgeons these days have a lot of futuristic tools at their disposal in the operating room. They use robots, high definition cameras and special dyes to help them complete complicated procedures. And you don’t have to travel to big cities in the Lower 48 to find the most up to date operating room technology.
The State’s Medicaid Reform Advisory Group has met for the last six months in relative obscurity. That changed today (Wednesday) when more than 200 parents, doctors and physical therapists showed up to testify about a list of proposed “innovations” the group hopes will help curtail the growing cost of program. The message the group heard was that the reforms would have huge impacts on the people who rely on Medicaid for health services.
When Alaskans vote for governor on Nov. 4, they’ll also be deciding the fate of Medicaid expansion in the state. Incumbent Governor Sean Parnell has said he won’t expand the federal health insurance program under the Affordable Care Act. But his opponent, Independent candidate Bill Walker says if elected, he will immediately accept the federal money.
Federal health officials announced today that the first case of Ebola has been diagnosed in the U.S. in Texas. The patient, who traveled from Liberia, is being treated in isolation at a hospital in Dallas. Public health officials in Alaska are prepared to respond if Ebola arrives in the state.
The open enrollment period for signing up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act begins November 15th. Customers in Alaska who don’t receive subsidies will have to pay dramatically higher rates for next year’s coverage. And one insurer on the exchange- Premera Alaska, says the state needs to implement a new program to ensure future rate increases aren’t as steep.