alaska guide to health insurance

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Alaska health insurance exchange

Fewer than 13,000 Alaskans enroll in federal exchange

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In general, the open enrollment period to purchase Obamacare in Alaska for 2014 has ended. However, 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.

People who get married or divorced, change jobs, have a child or experience another qualifying event may be eligible for a special enrollment period. Enrollment for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) continues throughout the year. Individuals who don’t have health insurance that provides “minimum essential coverage” may have to pay a penalty: $95 or one percent of income, whichever is greater.

Open enrollment for 2015 coverage through the marketplace begins Nov. 15.

Fewer than 13,000 Alaskans enrolled in private health insurance through the federal marketplace during the 2014 open enrollment period. Just Wyoming, the District of Columbia, North Dakota, and Hawaii had lower enrollment in private health plans. About 4,200 people qualified for Medicaid or the CHIP. Alaska’s uninsured rate remains high at nearly 19 percent.

Among Alaska residents selecting a QHP, 88 percent qualified for financial assistance, compared to 85 percent nationally. A report released in June by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed the average monthly premium, after tax credits, for Alaska consumers was $94. Among states using the federal marketplace, the average was $82. Forty-two percent of Alaska enrollees pay $50 or less per month after subsidies.

Twenty-seven percent of Alaska residents selected a bronze plan (20 percent nationally), 65 percent selected a silver plan (65 percent nationally), 8 percent selected a gold plan (9 percent nationally), 0 percent selected a platinum plan (5 percent nationally) and 1 percent selected a catastrophic plan (2 percent nationally). Twenty-nine percent of Alaska enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34.

Alaska is among the 26 states that opted to use the federal health insurance marketplace. 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 mandated the exchanges, well known.

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 did not make it out of committee before the legislature adjourned. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 30,000 Alaskans are uninsured due to the state’s decision against Medicaid expansion.

Alaska health insurance exchange links

State of Alaska Insurance Department: Affordable Care Act

State Exchange Profile: Alaska
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Alaska’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.

HHS: How the ACA Is Making a Difference