5 Things Alaska: Budget proposal, Health policy in the Biden era, APCD

We only have five more days until it starts getting lighter each day. We only have five more days before it starts getting lighter each day. We only have five more days before it starts getting lighter each day…

The vaccines are almost here. Stay safe and healthy this holiday season. We are rounding the bend, in more ways than one.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Dunleavy releases budget proposal

Gov. Mike Dunleavy released his Fiscal Year 2022 budget package on Friday, trimming down government spending while also looking to pay out almost $5,000 in Permanent Fund dividends. The majority of UGF funding cuts in the operating budget proposal come from cuts to DHSS.

The governor proposed a nearly $140 million cut, though much of that is reportedly associated with money spent in the current year related to the pandemic, which the state doesn’t expect to need next year. Dunleavy has also proposed a $35 million cut to the state Medicaid program. The legislature will consider the budget proposal when it convenes on January 19.

Of the $4.3 billion in unrestricted general fund (UGF) dollars, less than 9% will come from tax-paying Alaskans. Petroleum taxes contribute only 19%, or $809m. 72% of Alaska’s UGF budget comes from the permanent fund earnings reserve account.


2. An APCD roadmap for Alaska

The AK Healthcare Transformation Project released a roadmap for Alaska to develop, fund, and operate an All Payer Claims Database (APCD). The 75-page report leads with “Healthcare in Alaska is the most expensive in the United States.” It draws on the experiences of 20 states to create a series of recommendations which the group hopes will help Alaska access comprehensive data to track health care costs, quality, and access.

The report recommends convening an advisory group to discuss the types of data Alaska needs, issuing an APCD state mandate and working to gain access to data submitted voluntarily, contracting with a lead organization, and seeking federal and philanthropic funding to support APCD operations. The full report is available here.


3. AK elected officials in support of rejected lawsuit

While the US Supreme Court unanimously rejected on Friday a lawsuit that would have prevented four states from casting their Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden as scheduled on Monday, Gov. DunleavyAG Sniffen, and several state lawmakers were among those in support of the lawsuit. US Rep. Don Young was not one of the 126 Representatives who signed on to an amicus brief in support.

“As Alaskans, we should all be careful about involving ourselves in the inner workings of other states. However, the issue of election integrity impacts all of us, and the question of free and fair elections must be answered,” said Dunleavy. The news from the governor came after four state representatives and one rep-elect sent letters asking the state to support the lawsuit, and other elected officials requested to file an amicus brief in support.

4. healtheconnect announces new partnership

healtheConnect Alaska and Collective Medical announced a new partnership on Monday that looks to increase information flow, enable more transparency, and better coordinate care for patients as they move through Alaska’s health care system. Specifically, the HIE hopes the partnership will help support the state’s public health initiatives such as reducing opioid prescribing in emergency departments and improving patient transitions from acute care to other settings.

Reporter Sydney Kurle spoke with healtheConnect Executive Director Laura Young about what this partnership could mean for care coordination and whole person care in Alaska. “With multiple health care crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic and an alarming trend of increased overdoses and substance use disorder, coordination in health care is more crucial than ever,” said Young.


5. A view from inside the beltway

With a new administration and a closely divided Congress, DC-based State of Reform columnist Jim Capretta reasons it will be difficult to pass controversial measures on a partisan basis. In his latest column for State of Reform, Capretta outlines what the current political landscape might mean for health care policy in the Biden era.

He says drug pricing and surprise billing may be areas for bipartisan progress. Indeed, Congress just announced a tentative agreement on surprise billing regulations. But he doesn’t expect to see legislation lowering Medicare’s age of eligibility to 60, despite what was outlined in the Biden-Sanders unity agenda. Capretta also anticipates Biden will make a push for a public option starting in January, but that he may need to rely on state initiated plans, like Washington’s, to develop a “quasi-public option” that would have a better chance of surviving political scrutiny.