5 Things Alaska: Medicaid enrollment, Early Bird registration, Bill Pearch

The whole of our operation at State of Reform is built on our conferences. Revenue from that single annual event allows us to do everything that we do, from covering Alaska health care to elevating the voices of Alaska’s health policy leaders.

Registration for the event is now open for our September 30th event. And, you’ll see we’ve lowered prices pretty considerably – over 50% from last year at present. I think we may have actually lowered them even too much! So, we’ll be raising them on July 24th for regular registration. How much is an open question, to be honest! Currently, we have pricing only going up $20 but I expect we’ll change that before the end of the week. We, like everyone else, are trying to find our ‘new normal,’ so we may need to adjust those prices upwards even further than we originally thought.

So, if you know you want to join us for our fall event, getting signed up sooner rather than later will definitely save you a few bucks… and probably more than usual!





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Jumps in Medicaid and CHIP enrollment

Alaska Medicaid/CHIP enrollment increased 83% (+101,486 individuals) between the “Pre-Open Enrollment” period (July 2013 – Sept. 2013) and March 2020, according to a recent update from Health Management Associates. This represents the third largest percent increase in the country. The national percent increase for Medicaid expansion states is 32.3%.

Alaska also has the third largest percent growth in Medicaid/CHIP enrollment since March 2019 at 3.5%, trailing only behind Idaho and Utah which both expanded Medicaid in January 2020. From 2019 to 2020, Alaska saw a 0.6% decrease in Qualified Health Plan selections.


2. Early Bird registration closes Friday

Our Early Bird rates end this week on Friday ahead of our 2020 Alaska State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference. The cost of hosting the event is likely to be more expensive in the virtual space, if you can believe that. But, as I mentioned above, we’ve lowered the registration price significantly, particularly for the Early Bird rate.

Our Convening Panel is reviewing and commenting on our Draft Topical Agenda now, which we will release in the coming days. But if you already know that you want to join us on September 30th, be sure to take advantage of the discounted price and register today!

3. COVID continues to surge

DHSS announced on Monday a total of 141 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, breaking the previous day’s high of 119 cases. As of this morning, at least one source I’ve pointed you towards in recent months shows Alaska with the highest effective reproduction rate (Rt) in the country at 1.30 – meaning the virus is growing the fastest in Alaska.

The latest COVID hospital data from DHSS show nearly 60% of the state inpatient beds and 42% of ICU beds are currently occupied. In Anchorage, where many of the new cases are clustered, 83% of inpatients beds and 55% of ICU beds are occupied. Total cases have risen by more than 25% in the past week alone, and with the current rates of social distancing and face covering use, cases are expected to continue to rise rapidly.


4. Video: Bill Pearch, healtheconnect Alaska

Bill Pearch is the Chief Information Officer at healtheconnect Alaska, the statewide health information exchange. He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss making information actionable.

“How do we get that information in front of a provider in such a way that doesn’t overwhelm them with too much useless stuff, but instead gives them stuff they can actually make use of? And how do we get it to the right provider because the right provider isn’t always a physician or even a PA or a nurse practitioner. Sometimes the right provider is going to be somebody like the food bank or a social services agency.”


5. Maternal health committee releases report

The Alaska Maternal Child Death Review Committee released a new publication on Tuesday, outlining causes of maternal deaths in Alaska and identifying recommendations for prevention. The report evaluates the 16 maternal deaths that took place from 2017 to 2018 – in all cases, the committee indicates that a change in prevention, policy and/or education could have led to a different outcome.

“Between 2014 and 2018, alcohol or substance use contributed to 63% of maternal deaths in Alaska while mental health conditions contributed to 31%,” reads the report. For this reason, the committee’s prevention recommendations include promoting provider training in integrated behavioral health and Trauma Informed Care, distributing Narcan kits with all opioid prescriptions, and providing a warm hand off to appropriate therapy or bridge clinic for some patients.