Alaska health insurance exchange
Enrollment numbers very low in Alaska
By Carla Anderson
December 6, 2013
Just more than 2,200 Alaskans applied for health insurance using HealthCare.gov in October and only 53 selected a private health plan according to the October enrollment report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Another 368 qualified for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). However, brokers and navigators in Alaska say they are seeing improvements in website performance and helping some people get insurance for the first time.
Alaska is among the 26 states that opted to use the federal health insurance marketplace, HealthCare.gov. Alaska refused all federal funding to evaluate and implement a health insurance marketplace, and it was one of the first states to announce it would leave responsibility for its marketplace in the hands of the federal government. While Gov. Sean Parnell officially announced his decision in July 2012, he had previously made his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which mandates the exchanges, well known.
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 will continue 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. Given the technical problems in the early weeks of the marketplace rollout, consumers are being urged to wait a few weeks to try to enroll in coverage.
Open enrollment for 2014 coverage runs through March 31, 2014. Policies must be purchased by Dec. 23 for coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2014.
Alaska health insurance exchange links
State Exchange Profile: Alaska
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Alaska’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.