Senate votes to lower health insurance premium increases for individuals and families

The Senate voted 15 to 2 Friday to pass a bill to lower health insurance premium increases for individuals and families.

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Insurance Division Director Lori Wing-Heier, in Juneau Jan. 29th, 2016 (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)
Insurance Division Director Lori Wing-Heier, in Juneau Jan. 29th, 2016 (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

State Insurance Division director Lori Wing-Heier told lawmakers last week that the individual insurance market could collapse if the Legislature doesn’t pass the bill.
Anchorage Republican Senator Mia Costello supports the bill and notes that insurance costs now exceed many families’ mortgage payments.

“Through this legislation we’re addressing a crisis. Mr. President, essentially, we’re up against a wall.”

The bill provides $55 million to fund a reinsurance program. This will offset the costs for Alaskans with the highest healthcare payments. Premera Alaska will be the only insurer on the individual market. Moda Health said it would stop offering individual plans by the end of the year.  Wing-Heier said there are many reasons why Alaska has high healthcare costs.

“There’s a lot of duplication in equipment in Alaska. And there’s also no mechanism to control fees in the private industry and physicians. And those are things that we need to work on.”

The House could vote on the bill as soon as Saturday.