By Carla Anderson
March 31, 2014
Fewer than 7,000 Alaskans enrolled in private health insurance through the federal marketplace between Oct. 1 and March 1 according to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Alaska is at just 42 percent of its enrollment target for the five-month mark of open enrollment. Just seven states and the District of Columbia have made less progress toward enrollment goals.
In general, the open enrollment period ends March 31. However, federal officials announced March 25 that anyone who has started an application on HealthCare.gov but not completed it as of March 31 can have until April 15 to finish enrolling. The extension is available in Alaska and all other states using HealthCare.gov for enrollment. Consumers can qualify for the extension just by clicking a box on HealthCare.gov; no documentation is needed.
The Affordable Care Act includes some provisions unique to Native Americans and Alaska Natives (NA/AN). NA/AN individuals may enroll through the marketplace throughout the year. In addition, an individual who is a member of recognized tribe or who is eligible to receive care through the federal Indian Health Service may be exempted from the individual mandate.
Some individuals who remain uninsured after March may face a tax penalty of $95 or one percent of income, whichever is greater. Enrollment for Medicaid or CHIP continues throughout the year
Parnell is also opposed to expanding the Medicaid program. He rejected an expansion in late 2013, saying the Alaska wouldn’t be able to afford the program if the federal government were ever to cut funding. (The federal government will pay 100 percent of Medicaid expansion through 2016 and 90 percent through 2020.) In January, Democrats proposed legislation to expand Medicaid, and they included a provision to return to the current eligibility standards if federal funding drops below 90 percent. Even with that safeguard, the bill is a long shot to pass the Republican-controlled legislature.
The Alaska Department of Insurance approved two health insurance companies to participate in the marketplace: Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska and Moda Health, which was formerly known as ODS Health Systems of Oregon. (Even states that are using the federal marketplace remain involved in approving the insurers that sell policies in the state.) The two insurers are offering 34 plans through the marketplace.
Alaska continues to see higher than average health insurance costs. According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the average cost for a bronze plan —the lowest-cost option — in Alaska is $385 a month. The national average for a bronze policy is $249 a month.
According to HHS, about 139,000 Alaskans are eligible to purchase health insurance through the marketplace.
Two organizations — United Way of Anchorage and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium — each received $300,000 federal navigator grants to help people understand and use the marketplace. United Way is working in urban areas, and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is working in rural areas.
State Exchange Profile: Alaska
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Alaska’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.