By Carla Anderson
February 21, 2014
Through the end of January, 5,082 Alaskans selected a health private health plan according to an enrollment report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). About 2,500 others qualified for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Enrollment by young adults is higher in Alaska is higher than the national average: 28 percent of those signing up in Alaska are in the 18-to-34 year old bracket, compared to 25 percent nationally.
In general, enrollment for private insurance in 2014 continues through March 31. Policies purchased by the 15th of the month will be effective the first day of the following month. 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
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; the March 31 enrollment deadline does not apply. 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.
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.
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.