5 Things Alaska: Health care budget, ACEs bill, 2019 Health Scorecard

These are the big, beautiful days of summer – where I hope you’re getting outdoors rather than thinking about health policy!  And, if so, don’t fret…  We’ve got you covered with a few things worth tracking in Alaska health care for June, 2019.


With help from Emily Boerger


1. Health care highlights in approved budget

The conversation surrounding Alaska’s operating budget has largely revolved around the PFD. What might be lost in the conversation is a look at the health care-related funding included in the newly-passed budget.

When combined with the mental health program budget and the language section of the operating budget bill, the state’s budget includes $3.21 billion for DHSS — a $35.7 million cut compared to the 2019 budget. The Legislature also approved an $82.7 million cut ($2.18 billion total allocation) to Medicaid Services. Check out our rundown of the health care highlights in the budget here.


2. An update on the waiver

A recent DHSS update on Alaska’s 1115 Behavioral Health Medicaid waiver points to a July 1 implementation date for the waiver’s substance use disorder component. Several newly-approved treatment services will now be covered by Medicaid to assist Alaskan’s experiencing SUD including: partial hospitalization program, intensive outpatient program, residential treatment options, and community recovery support services.

In November, the substance use component portion of the waiver was approved, but the rest is still under review by CMS. Emily Boerger on our team reach out to Gennifer Moreau, Director of DHSS’s Division of Behavioral Health. Moreau said the remainder of the waiver is still being negotiated, but it is nearing approval.

3. AK health scorecard data released

The Commonwealth Fund recently released their 2019 health system scorecard. The report ranks states based on access to care, cost of care, and overall health outcomes. Alaska ranks30th overall, an improvement of 5 spots from the last ranking.

Broken down, Alaska’s rankings are: 8th in avoidable hospital use and cost, 39th in access and affordability, 38th in prevention and treatment, 36th in healthy lives measurements, and 14th in health care disparities. You can read more about Alaska, and the entire report here.

4. RISE from Trauma Act introduced

This week, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski and a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the “RISE from Trauma Act.” The legislation aims to increase support and services for children who have been exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as abuse, neglect, or parental incarceration. This is especially a problem in Alaska where over two thirds of Alaskans report experiencing one or more ACEs, and nearly a quarter have experienced four or more.

The legislation expands upon findings in a recent GAO Report, which found that challenges related to workforce recruitment and funding make it difficult to support children affected by trauma. The RISE from Trauma Act would create new programs to support trauma interventions, add funding to recruit mental health clinicians, and add support for a trauma-informed workforce.


5. Meeker: health care and impact of digital innovation

Mary Meeker provides a slide deck on “Internet Trends” every year at the Code Conference, which is going on this week. In the 333-slide deck, she spends some time on health care. It’s among the most in-depth reviews of the connection between health care and the digital world, and worth noting.

In it, she highlights that EMR adoption is at almost 100%, setting the stage for significant shifts in how the data will be used. Consumers are beginning to drive health care changes, she notes. This is primarily from outside the system, but which is being felt in the system, too. Among all of the things consumers are worried about, job security may be falling but health care concerns still tops the list.