5 Things Alaska: Adam Crum, health policy in 2019, election recap

It is less than a week until the new administration takes office. So, this edition of 5 Things spends some time looking ahead to see where opportunity may lie for Alaska health policy in 2019.  As always, thanks for reading our stuff.


DJ 5 Things SignatureWith help
from Emily Boerger
and Marjie High.


1. Election wins and losses for Alaska health care leadership

The Alaska 2018 midterms saw big changes in health care leadership, with some long-time health leaders losing re-election, and others being elevated to new and prominent positions. One notable health policy figure who won’t be returning to the legislature in the coming year is Rep. Paul Seaton, who lost his re-election race to Republican Sarah Vance. Senate President Pete Kelly also fell short in his re-election bid.  Kelly was the author of the most important Medicaid reform bill since the program was first launched in Alaska in 1972.

Health care policy leaders taking on new leadership roles include newly elected Senate President Cathy Giessel, Sen. Natasha von Imhof who was elected Co-Chair of the Finance Committee, and Sen. John Coghill who will serve as the Chair of Rules.


2. Four things Dunleavy can do on health policy

Health care is a treacherous policy area for a new governor. Few get re-elected based on their work in health care. Many lose their seats as a result of it. So, I’ve outlined four things that the Dunleavy administration might do on health policy in 2019.

The first is “don’t move the goal posts.”  How one defines success is as important as whether one achieves that mark.  Here, Dunleavy has a unique opportunity.  If his administration can simply implement SB 74 – a bill then-Senator Dunleavy supported, many facets of which the Walker administration left unfinished – it will result in the most sweeping health reform in Alaska’s history.  Moreover, it gives the Governor-Elect his best shot at saving real dollars in the health care budget during his term.


3.  Adam Crum appointed to lead DHSS

Governor-Elect Mike Dunleavy appointed Adam Crum to lead DHSS.  Crum has a graduate degree in public health, but has spent his professional career outside of the field, serving as executive vice president at his family’s business in Palmer. He is not a known figure in Alaska health care circles, but he did run for the state senate in 2016, losing to Sen. Shelley Hughes in a primary.

I think there are probably three takeaways from Crum’s appointment, within the context of Dunleavy’s statement, his interview with us from August, and what we heard throughout the campaign.  One is this: health policy won’t be driven by health, per se. It’ll be driven by strategies that drive efficiency and cost savings within the system.

4.  Video: Mark Stadler, BridgeHealth

Mark Stadler is the President and CEO of BridgeHealth. He joins us in this edition of What They’re Watching to discuss the correlation of cost and quality.

“What we find is that the correlation between cost and quality gets lost. Providers that are able to deliver some of the highest quality are actually doing it at the lowest cost because they have perfected the surgery, they’ve perfected the procedure, and they’ve built whole hospitals and organizations around those…if a person is having a surgery in the wrong center, it’s done improperly, the ramifications in terms of infection or having to revise the surgery are extremely expensive and that cost is borne by the health plan and in this case by self-insured employers who are paying the bill.”

5. Report: Anchorage health care prices 65 percent above national average

The Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) processed 1.78 billion commercial claims filed between 2012 and 2016 across 112 U.S. metro areas to produce Volume 1 of its Healthy Marketplace Index. Of all metro areas evaluated, Anchorage led the nation with the highest health care prices – 65 percent above the national average.

The interactive report broke down health care prices based on types of services. In Anchorage, outpatient services were 22 percent above the national average, inpatient services were 61 percent above, and professional services (such as office and preventative visits) were 96 percent above the national average. Our summary of the report can be found here.