5 Things Alaska: Q&A with Rep. Matt Claman, Challenges of cutting Medicaid, Rep. Sharon Jackson

If you’ve been reading our newsletter for some time, then you know we try to offer five things we think are worth keeping an eye on each month for the senior health care executives and health policy leaders that read our stuff.  Our ‘things’ may not all be perfect for you or your organization. But, hopefully you’ll reliably find one or two items that are of interest.

So, if there are topics we ought to be keeping our eye on, please let us know! We’d love to get your take on this question, too.



With help from Emily Boerger and Michael Goldberg



1. Medicaid financing and a policy vision

In spite of the impeachment, there is buzz this week in DC that CMS will soon release details on regulations to support block grants for Medicaid. In a report by the WSJ, Alaska was specifically highlighted as a state that was interested in pursuing block grants.

The rules are expected to be in line with established statute and case law: block grants can add flexibility where they maintain or extend additional coverage while lowering costs. Some focus on the latter portion of that equation. But these two pieces – extending coverage while lowering costs – go hand in hand. Perhaps this is the session, like the 2015 session which culminated in the 2016 passage of SB 74, to start building a policy vision for what increased flexibility, greater coverage, and lower costs could look like.

2. Q&A with Rep. Matt Claman 

Rep. Matt Claman of West Anchorage was elected to the Alaska State House in 2014. As Chair of the Judiciary Committee and a member of the Health & Social Services Committee, Rep. Claman has a unique perspective to offer on the budget cuts introduced by the Dunleavy Administration last year and the legal fights that have ensued since. 

Reporter Michael Goldberg spoke with Rep. Claman on the first day of Alaska’s 2020 legislative session for an update on how legislators will approach the budget process following a tumultuous year. Claman also discusses a bill he’s pre-filed that accomplishes something he believes long overdue: expanding existing health education requirements to include a mental health curriculum in all K-12 health classrooms. 

3. Noel Rea selected to manage API as interim CEO

Noel Rea has been chosen by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to serve as the new interim CEO for the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API). John Lee, who had been serving as acting CEO, will return to his role as director of the Senior and Disabilities Services Division.

Rea comes to API with 30 years of experience in Alaska working for public, private, and tribal health care delivery systems, with stints at Virginia Mason Medical Center’s consulting division and multiple other hospitals. “I’m pleased to be given the opportunity to provide leadership at API during this transition. There is a strong team in place and I will focus on ensuring the staff and governing board have the information and resources they need to succeed,” Rea said.


4. Video: Rep. Sharon Jackson

Rep. Sharon Jackson represents Alaska’s House District 13, and was sworn in on January 17, 2019. Jackson is a member of the House Health & Social Services Committee, the Health & Social Services Finance Subcommittee, as well as the Military & Veterans’ Affairs Committee. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss direct health care services and payment plans.

“The biggest thing I am watching in health care is the opportunity to have health care providers have direct services available for those with health care needs. There’s Senate Bill 92 that is allowing that direct doctor/patient care — where the patient pays so much a month to the doctor so that when they have medical needs, they can go in and not feel stressed financially about being seen. It’s happening around the country. Some call it a health care concierge, there’s different names for it, but it’s a great opportunity for our state.”


5. Gearing up for session with the Mat-Su Health Foundation

In case you missed it, the Mat-Su Health Foundation hosted two policy-centric events this month ahead of session, which began on Tuesday. On Jan. 7, the Foundation hosted a convening of nonprofit leaders with Gov. Mike Dunleavy and key DHSS staff. More than 50 executives and board members attended to hear the governor give an overview of thinking behind his FY20 and FY21 budget proposals and steps that DHSS is taking to improve internal systems, reduce costs, and reform health care.

Then, one week later, more than 40 MSHF grantees convened for a meeting organized by Sen. David Wilson. Also in attendance was Sen. Shelley Hughes and Rep. David Eastman. The legislators shared their plans for the upcoming session and discussed ongoing efforts to reduce the number of children who, as adults, end up on Medicaid and public assistance.