Alaska’s Enrollment Jumps To Nearly 21K

HHS region 10 director Susan Johnson. (Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN - Anchorage)
HHS region 10 director Susan Johnson. (Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage)

Almost 21,000 Alaskans signed up for health insurance on during the open enrollment period that closed Feb. 15.

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Susan Johnson announced the numbers at a press conference in Anchorage Wednesday. She’s the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services director for region 10, which also includes Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Johnson says Alaska’s increase of 62 percent over last year leads the region.

“The Alaska numbers are incredibly strong they’re over about 162% of last years numbers in half the time,” Johnson said. “We just had three months this year, we had six months last year, so that’s huge.”

Nationally, enrollment increased 41%. Nearly 90% of Alaskans who enrolled qualified for a subsidy to help pay for it. The average subsidy was more than $500 per month.

Johnson says she is hopeful state lawmakers will decide to expand Medicaid- which would offer health coverage to thousands more Alaskans. The federal government funds the program at 100 percent until the end of next year, then the state’s share gradually increases to 10 percent in 2020. Republican lawmakers in Alaska have said the state shouldn’t expand Medicaid because the federal government will abandon that generous funding commitment. Johnson calls that argument a “false asteroid.”

“You know I’m used to politicians thinking federal dollars have 3rd grade cooties attached to them and I got over that in 6th grade,” Johnson said. “And I think we can get over that to see that it’s really about those people who are suffering and could die and could need our help now. It’s a trust in that need, not a trust in in the federal government.”

It would take an act of Congress to amend the Affordable Care Act to reduce the federal match rate for Medicaid expansion.