5 Things Alaska: Health care growth, Sen. Murkowski, Executive moves

Summer is winding down, for better or worse.  But, after spending 6 hours with three kids on an 18″ ledge, 50-feet above a surprise tide along the coast, I can tell you I’m ready to slow down a bit.  Thanks to the US Navy Search and Rescue for saving my kids and me. I have a new understanding of the word ‘terrifying.’  Here’s the story.

Now, on to 5 Things We’re Watching in Alaska health care for August.

DJ 5 Things Signature


1.  Vera Whole Health signs with Anchorage Muni

Last week, the Municipality of Anchorage approved a contract valued at $10.85m for three years with Vera Whole Health, a provider of onsite employee health services. The municipality expects the contract will save it $10.93m during that time. About 5,200 people are expected to use the clinic.

Vera now has contracts for on-site clinics with two of Alaska’s largest employers: the city and the Anchorage School District (ASD). From the ASD’s website about its partnership with Vera: “The clinic provides the district the ability to offer health care at cost to members, essentially cutting out the mark up of products and services.  The clinic also provides follow-up care for employees who choose to travel out of state for medical procedures.”

2.  The Topical Agenda for October 3rd

Last week, we released our latest iteration of our Topical Agenda ahead of our 2017 Alaska State of Reform Health Policy Conference.  If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at it here.  Our agendas come together via a tremendous amount of stakeholder feedback. That starts with our Convening Panel, a smart, savvy group of Alaska health care professionals.  But it also very much depends on our broader community of 6,500 readers of this email newsletter, and the input you send us throughout this process.

We try to take feedback, work it through our internal methodology, and generate a set of topics (and speakers) that will appeal to the broadest, most diverse audience of senior health care and health policy leaders in Alaska.

It’s something like a jigsaw puzzle.  And, candidly, I’m not sure we’ve got it quite right yet. So, if you’ve got some feedback for us about the agenda, or have ideas about the kinds of speakers you’d like to hear from, let me know.


3.  Murkowski reflects on her role in reform

Sen. Murkowski’s role in the Senate vote on health reform has been well covered at the national level, though it’s not yet clear how that will play out politically back home. Two snippets of media seem to encapsulate the interplay of Murkowski with Pres. Trump. This clip of Murkowski speaks to the difference between governing versus campaigning. Here is Trump’s brief reference of Murkowski following the failure of the reform bill in the Senate.

In a recent Q&A with her summer interns, Murkowski was asked “What do you believe is one issue as US Senator that you have made a visible difference on?”  She cited the recent health care votes in the Senate. It came off as an unscripted, authentic comment on the importance of process, on working together, and the need to trust the legislative process. Conclusion:  “I think that the role that I played in insuring that we do take the time to get this right is an important one.” Read and watch her full comments here.


4.  Alaska’s total health care spend growth leads nation

Since 2009, no state has seen a higher growth in health care spending than Alaska. The data, pulled from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, shows that Alaska spends 31.8% more through Q1 2017 than it did in 2009. California is second at 31.2%. This is important because the states are demographic opposites with different economic experiences: urban versus rural states, with economic recession and expansion happening at different times. You can see the complete state by state map here.

This does not appear to be a result of Medicaid expansion. Connecticut, an expansion state, had an increase of only 4.5% during this same time. Three of the four states with the lowest increase were expansion states. Note that this isn’t inflation – this is the total spend. The figures are the result of price multiplied by utilization.


5.  Executive moves in Alaska health care

We conclude with a few health care executives making moves in Alaska that are notable.  Rosalie Nadeau, the long time CEO at Akeela, has retired.  She’s been replaced by the former COO, Courtney Kitiona. In Juneau, Bartlett Regional Hospital has hired a new Chief Behavioral Health Officer. Bradley Grigg, formerly the Executive Director at Juneau Youth Services, now fills the role vacated by Sallie Anne Schneider.

Laura Young was named the Interim Executive Director of the Alaska eHealth Network effective July 31st. John Lee has stepped down as the CEO of Mat-Su Regional Medical Center.  He will now serve as the Executive Director of ResCare Alaska.

Finally, Amanda Makki, who spent 7 years in Sen. Murkowski’s office working on health care, including during the discussion on the ACA, has joined the law firm K&L Gates as a partner. After Murkowski’s office, Makki was the Director of External Affairs at Novo Nordisk.