5 Things Alaska: Operating budget, Medicare Trustees Report, Commissioner Adam Crum

Our Convening Panel meeting is coming up in May for our 2019 Alaska State of Reform Health Policy Conference. That event is set for October 2, 2019, and will be back at the Dena’ina. So, if you have topics that you’d like to suggest for consideration on this fall’s agenda, let me know. Now’s a good time to share them!


With help from Emily Boerger.




1. Medicare report points to program erosion

The Medicare Trustees released their report for 2018. There is some good news in the report, but it’s mostly not great. For example, if you’re 57 now, the Hospital Insurance trust fund will go into deficit just in time for you to arrive onto the program. The current law says reimbursements will be cut 9%, automatically, to make up the difference and up to 22% by 2040.

Here’s a painful reality: if you’re a Medicare beneficiary, you could receive almost three times more benefits than you have paid in over the course of your life. Maintaining benefits would likely mean a significant increase in the payroll tax, further exasperating income inequality and an inter-generational equity transfer that has reversed, sending more money to older Americans from younger generations than ever before.


2. How the budget is shaping up

Earlier this month, the House passed its operating budget (HB 39) off the floor. The $10.29 billion budget features $200 million in cuts, stopping far short of the cuts proposed by Gov. Dunleavy earlier this year. In this piece, reporter Emily Boerger breaks down the health care highlights included in the budget.

They include a $72.9 million cut in general funds to the Department of Health and Social Services—the majority comes from Medicaid Services, where the House approved a $58 million reduction. Other general funding cuts within DHSS include: $7.3 million from Alaska Pioneer Homes, $932,000 from the Behavioral Health Division, and $2.2 million from the Public Assistance Division.


3.  Adam Crum confirmed as DHSS Commissioner

Adam Crum was officially confirmed as DHSS Commissioner last week. The vote was 34-25, with an especially close vote among House members, where it was 21-18 in favor. Crum had an over two-hour confirmation hearing with the House Health and Social Services Committee. One topic that repeatedly came up was Crum’s involvement in shaping DHSS’s budget. We cover Crum’s testimony related to the department’s budget here.

While confirmations can sometimes be contentious for political reasons, I haven’t heard a single stakeholder speak poorly of Crum. In fact, it’s the opposite. Everyone tells me they find him engaged, smart, and open to dialog. Those are impressive attributes, regardless of one’s politics or worldview. To that end, I thought I’d share Elizabeth Ripley’s testimony in support of Crum’s appointment. Ripley is the Executive Director of the Mat-Su Health Foundation, and a strong voice for improving Alaska’s safety net. She’s no pushover. If she’s supporting Crum, that’s worth the health care community knowing.

4.  Video: Laura Young, healtheConnect Alaska

Laura Young is the Executive Director of healtheConnect Alaska. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss utilizing data to counteract social determinants of health.

“Some innovation I’ve seen around social determinants of health include collecting some non-traditional data sets—things that you don’t think about being health care data. It might be air quality data or pollution data for a body of water that then gives you some understanding of some of the health outcomes for the populations that live in those areas.”


5.  Convening Panel meets next month

Our Convening Panel is getting together next month to start to think about the agenda for the 2019 Alaska State of Reform Health Policy Conference. While the October 2nd date seems like a ways away, and it is, the reality of summer in Alaska means that we have to get started a little early.

So, if you have ideas or topics for suggestion, or if you’d like to join our Convening Panel process, let me know. I’ll make sure your feedback is in the mix as we sort through the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that is a State of Reform agenda!