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NEWS: One Common Goal: A Healthy Alaska

For Immediate Release: October 8th, 2014

One Common Goal: A Healthy Alaska

Senator Ellis agrees with former Commissioner Hultberg’s commentary, shares her vision for a healthier Alaska

ANCHORAGE – Following two days of legislative hearings surrounding health care in Alaska, Senator Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage), a longtime advocate for accessible and affordable health care for all Alaskans, offered his comments and some background on the current state of healthcare in Alaska.

“Access to quality, affordable health care is a basic human right and should not be denied to individuals based on their gender or income. Just two years ago, being a woman or a survivor of domestic violence, could be deemed a ‘pre-existing condition’ and cause for insurance denial. If an individual became sick, an insurance company could terminate their coverage. As former Commissioner Becky Hultberg pointed out yesterday, access to healthcare is a moral issue, which is why so many legislators, the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association and the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce fought so hard to expand Medicaid. Let’s talk about the parts of the ACA that are working to deliver health care to Alaskans and come together to fix the parts that aren’t,” stated Senator Ellis.

What’s working? More than 107,000 Alaskan women, and 44,000 Alaskans with Medicare obtained free preventative health care in 2013. The ACA permanently authorizes the Indian Health Service, a longstanding goal of Alaska’s Congressional Delegation. Prior to the ACA, 34% of Alaskans were denied health coverage because of pre-existing conditions, which is 50% higher than the national average. The ACA also forbids insurance companies from kicking Alaskans off plans if they get sick. Under the law, insurers must now pay for many things that used be to optional, like prescription drugs, having a baby, pregnancy and mental health care. The law also blocks any extra charges for routine checkups, cancer screening, and limits your yearly out-of-pocket fees for going to the hospital. Alaska seniors have saved $7.7 million on prescription drugs through the ACA, and are saving an average of $831 per person annually as the ACA closes Medicare’s prescription drug loophole.

“To portray the ACA as simply federal overreach that increases Alaskan’s rates isn’t a helpful exercise. I applaud former Commissioner Hultberg for her wise testimony that Alaskans need to come together to find solutions, not point fingers. It’s important to have accurate information and to keep politics out of it. It’s time to look at Alaska-specific approaches to Medicaid expansion, which would cover more Alaskans and reap huge economic benefits,” Sen Ellis said. “Expanding Medicaid in Alaska will not add to the national debt. The money will be spent either way, and Alaskans should see the benefits of their tax dollars spent, and the benefits are undeniable. I look forward to an informed and fact-based conversation moving forward so more Alaskans have the access they deserve.”

In the late 1980’s, then Rep. Ellis created and co-chaired with then Senator Jim Duncan, the legislature’s Universal Access and Health Care Cost Containment Task Force, predating efforts at the national level by First Lady Hillary Clinton.

For more information, please contact Senator Johnny Ellis at 907.269.0169.