Alaska rejects state-run health insurance exchange

 

The Anchorage Daily News

Gov. Sean Parnell announced in July that Alaska would not create a state-run health insurance exchange, and he is sticking by that, Parnell spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said Tuesday.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, each state is supposed to have an exchange, a marketplace where residents can shop for private health insurance and apply for federal subsidies to help pay for it, if they are eligible.

States can create the exchanges on their own, or do it in partnership with the federal government, or leave the whole project to the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services.

The deadline for states to declare that they'll run their own health exchange is Friday.

Alaska will neither do that, nor partner with the federal government on a joint exchange, Leighow said.

In rejecting a state-run plan last July, Parnell said, "Federally mandated programs should be paid for by federal dollars."

Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said if the state took control, it could have joined with some other states and created a bigger pool for Alaskans wanting to buy insurance.

An estimated 118,000 Alaskans are uninsured, he said.

The exchanges will work similarly to what happens when you buy a plane ticket on Expedia, Begich said. "It's a one-stop shop for individuals. ... Because you're part of a larger group, therefore there are shared risks. It would be cheaper than if you were out looking individually."

The health exchanges grew out of an earlier bill that had bi-partisan support, and was targeted at helping small businesses get better insurance by creating a larger pool, Begich said.

"It's one of the easiest things to help small businesses," he said.

Democratic state Sen. Hollis French, who sponsored a bill to set up a state-run exchange, said, "You always want to have your voice influencing events. ... Who knows best? Who's close to the problem? There are many instances where your local knowledge is superior to a bureaucrat in Washington."

French's bill never got to a vote in the Legislature.

A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said since Alaska has a small population and an "enclosed health care system with few health care providers to create a great degree of competition," it may not make much difference whether the federal government or the state runs a health exchange.

Murkowski spokesman Matthew Felling said, "... it is unlikely that in a state like Alaska with few insurers, and without the ability to buy insurance across state lines, that health care costs will be reduced in any meaningful way."

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at rshinohara@adn.com

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • SEC poised to end $1 a share for some money funds

    Regulators are expected to vote Wednesday to end a longtime staple of the investment industry — the fixed $1 share price for money-market mutual funds — at least for some money funds used by big investors.

  • Runoff primary decide nominations for Congress

    The retirement of Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss set off a political game of musical chairs that was partially settled with Tuesday's primary runoff election.

  • Government drafting birth control accommodation

    The Obama administration is developing a new way for religious nonprofits that object to paying for contraceptives in their health plans to opt out, without submitting a form they say violates their religious beliefs.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category