According to 2017 data from the Council for Community and Economic Research, health services in Alaska are 70 – 200 percent more expensive than the national average. Many pressures influence Alaska’s health-care costs. They include expenses related to recruiting providers from out of state, lack of competition, and the state’s small population.
In the 2019 legislative session, Alaska introduced bills that would increase price transparency, reduce the costs of pharmaceuticals. Most notably, the legislature introduced SB 27, which proposes a shared savings incentive programthat encourages patients to become active consumers and to actively shop for the most competitive prices for care. However, this bill was withdrawn at the end of the 2019 session. Additionally, SB 1/HB 17 would repeal the certificate of need program for health care facilities, while SB 44/HB 17 seek to expand the scope of practice for physician assistants by allowing them to prescribe drugs via telehealth. These bills are pending for action in the 2020 session.
In the 2017-2018 term, Alaska sought legislative solutions to skyrocketing healthcare costs in terms of price transparency and cost containment. The state introduced and passed HB 240, which promotes regulation and price transparency of pharmacy benefit managers. Other measures failed to pass, however, including SB 129, which limits how much an insurance company must reimburse an out-of-network provider for covered services, and HB 123, which requires providers and medical facilities to disclose the undiscounted costs of their most common procedures.
In the 2016 legislative term, Alaska passed a law which sets up a $55 million fund, financed through an existing tax on all insurance companies, to subsidize enrollees’ costs as the state struggles with Obamacare price spikes. The number of insurers offering plans to individuals in Alaska markets is set to drop to one for 2017, and state officials warned that the remaining companies couldn’t realistically raise rates high enough to cover customers’ medical bills. Alaska Governor Bill Walker said the bill would ensure that the 23,000 Alaskans enrolled in exchange plans would not suddenly lose their insurance.
2020 Legislative Session: 1/21/2020 - 5/26/2020 (2019-2020 term). *Current session bill updates are ongoing. Check back weekly for updates.
FY 2020 BUDGETAlaska budgets on an annual budget cycle with the fiscal year beginning July 1stand ending June 30th. The governor will submit his or her proposed budget to the state legislature by December 15 and the legislature will adopt a budget by simple majority in April. To view Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services 2020 Fiscal Year budget, click here.
REGULATION & ENFORCEMENT
- In April 2017, Department of Justice and the FTC issued a joint statement regarding proposed legislation repealing the state’s Certificate of Need (CON) laws. The agencies recommended that Alaska repeal its CON laws, which require healthcare providers to obtain state approval before expanding, establishing new facilities or services, or making certain large capital expenditures.