5 Things Alaska: Policy moving, DHSS executive order, Federal Detailed Agenda

My Gonzaga Bulldogs are getting set to tear through the NCAA “March Madness” basketball tournament, both the men and women’s team. Games start tomorrow.

But, as any Zag, Seahawk or Blazer fan knows, experience tells me we will find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

I will cry myself to sleep at some point reading health policy briefs and legislative proposals. Some of my proposed therapy you’ll find below in the five things we are watching relevant to Alaska health care for March, 2021.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Health policy movement in the Legislature

The Senate Health & Social Services Committee has so far reported 4 bills out of committee including SB 21, which would consolidate oversight of the EMS system under a single agency, and SB 65, a bill providing liability protections for consulting physicians and other health care providers. The Committee also passed Sen. David Wilson’s bill to remove the expiration date on DHSS’s standing order for naloxone, which then later became the first bill to pass out of the full Senate.

The House Health & Social Services Committee has 12 bills in committee and has reported two out. At the beginning of March, the committee held a hearing on SB 78, a bill that aims to expand telehealth access in the state. The bill takes a section out of SB 56, which would have extended the COVID emergency disaster declaration. State of Reform Reporter Sydney Kurle covered the full bill hearing here.


2. Dunleavy drops DHSS Executive Order

Gov. Dunleavy announced on Thursday he was withdrawing his executive order to split DHSS into two separate agencies following a House Health and Social Services meeting where lawmakers passed a resolution disapproving of the order. During the meeting, Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky said its clear there needs to be improvements at DHSS, but splitting the department isn’t necessarily the solution.

“Instead, it has become clear through committee consideration of the executive order that EO 119 is wrought with program, legal, and fiscal ambiguities that carry real consequences for Alaskans,” she added. Others expressed concern about the lack of details in the order, the lack of consultation with Tribal organizations, and additional complexities that the bifurcation could introduce.


3. ICYMI: Federal Detailed Agenda now posted

In case you missed it, last week we released the Detailed Agenda for the 2021 State of Reform Federal Health Policy Conference. That is a list of over 100 speakers lined up to help sort through the future of federal health policy — and state-based innovations — during the Biden administration. This will be perhaps the single best way to interact directly with the actors shaping federal health policy, like Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Sen. Ron Wyden, who will be one of our keynote speakers this year.

We scheduled this later in the day east coast time specifically to be able to include as many folks from Alaska, Hawaii and the west coast as possible. Be sure to also check out the Topical Agenda to get a feel for the two-day event and take a look at our Convening Panel to see some of the folks who helped put the agenda together. If you haven’t registered to be with us yet, we’d be honored to have you join us!

4. An insider’s perspective on session

With the legislative session well underway, we reached out to capitol insider Kris Knauss, Managing Partner at Confluence Strategies. We wanted his take on how the session is progressing and the top health-related issues at play this year. Usually, we have these conversations on background and without attribution. But Kris was kind enough to stay on the record with us.

Knauss says the closure of the capitol building to the public has made his job more difficult: “[It] has made it more of a challenge to push amendments, push changes to legislation, and to get an audience in a timely manner. You have to do a lot more preparation and legwork before you engage on an issue.”

Knauss says the state’s COVID response is a top priority, but notes that addressing Medicaid funding is the next big piece of the puzzle. He says he doesn’t anticipate the legislature “actually adjourning” this session, but instead going into a “more recess type of mode” so that they have more of a say in where federal emergency funds are distributed.


5. Worth a read: Kitzhaber on the national health policy agenda

Hon. John Kitzhaber is the former governor of Oregon and continues to be one of the most important thinkers on state health reform in the country. He recently wrote a three-part series for State of Reform offering his take on universal coverage, equity, value, and moving the national health policy agenda forward.

In Part 1, Kitzhaber reflects on the recently passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. In Part 2 and Part 3, he dives into the details of moving health policy forward administratively through 1115 and 1332 waivers. His ideas focus on moving the ACA individual market from fee-for-service to capitation and using the restructured individual market as a public option.