5 Things Alaska: United hiring CEO, Facebook seeks hospital data, #thosewecarry

The clock is running with five days left in the regular legislative session. A number of key questions remain in the budget, but few things sharpen a legislator’s mind than a looming election.  The session, and a few other items, are what we’re watching in Alaska health care this month.


1.  United hiring senior leadership

UnitedHealth Group has posted job openings for several senior leadership positions in Alaska, including Health Plan CEOChief Medical Officer, and Director of Operations. The CMO position specifies this position is for UnitedHealthcare’s Community Plan of Alaska, which doesn’t yet exist. UHC offers its Community & State plans in 28 states and DC.

All three postings reference working with the State on the Coordinated Care Demonstration Project and require experience with the Medicaid/Medicare business. To us, this looks like United has been awarded the Coordinated Care RFP. We asked DHSS for an update and were told the negotiations are still ongoing.


2.  “Kind of terrifying stuff, bordering on creepy”

According to a CNBC report, Facebook worked for over a year to develop a partnership with hospitals to match up health data with Facebook user profiles.  The work reportedly continued into last month until the Cambridge Analytica story broke.  Apparently, the intent “was to combine what a health system knows about its patients (such as: person has heart disease, is age 50, takes 2 medications and made 3 trips to the hospital this year) with what Facebook knows” about you.

Notably, Facebook has already secured the personal endorsement of the Interim CEO of the American College of Cardiology, who provided a statement in support of Facebook. That means a lot of stakeholder work has already been done on this project.


3.  Legislature considering health policy bills

The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on April 15th, but there’s always a possibility of a special session until the budget is passed. We have a run down on some of the bills we’ve kept an eye on throughout the session.

Sen. Giessel’s bill to replace the 80th percentile rule with a new reimbursement standard is unlikely to pass, but her bill to change supervising rules at behavioral health clinics has passed out of the Senate and is in the House Rules Committee.

Alaska is close to passing a right to try bill, which stalled last year and would give terminally ill patients access to experimental drugs. But the medical aid in dying bill hasn’t received similar support and is unlikely to pass.


4.  #Thosewecarry a stirring narrative of provider trauma

The Twitter account The Haunted One and the hashtag #thosewecarry provide a glimpse into the realities health care providers face. It also reveals the system’s shortcomings in addressing provider burnout and emotional and mental health as providers seek comfort online, often anonymously.

We’ve curated some of the tweets at State of Reform, but you might find time to read the other stories of providers – both clinical and administrative (like 911 dispatchers) – dealing with the trauma of lives they couldn’t save.  They’re hard to read, but serve as a reminder of the emotional cost of providing care.


5.  Alaska’s health disparities by region

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released the County Health Rankings Report: Alaska, revealing stark differences in health outcomes and factors. Juneau is ranked as first in health outcomes and factors, while Kusilvak is last.

While adults in Aluetians West and Skagway report an average of 3 physically unhealthy days a month, that jumps to 7.2 days in Kusilvak. Kusilvak also has 45% of children living in poverty and an unemployment rate of 21.3%. Five regions lack dentists; 14 regions have fewer than 10 mental health providers. You can explore all the data here.