5 Things We’re Watching – Alaska, May 2013

We are now about 5 months out from our next conference – right around the corner and yet a lifetime away.  Our Convening Panel has met and started to craft an agenda.  We’ll have our first draft agenda out in the next few weeks.

Until then, here are 5 things we’re watching for May.

1. “I felt the ground shake when I saw that.”

Last week, one of our Convening Panel members, to which I listen especially closely, compared the release of the Medicare cost data to an earthquake.  The ADN might have agreed, as it put the story on the front page of its Thursday edition.

We dug into the data for Alaska, taking a number of different cuts at it.  Here’s our take on what the data holds.

2. Speaking of our Convening Panel…

With our fall conference now less than five months away, we got together with our Convening Panel last week.  It is an impressive group of folks from all across Alaska health care.

Their insights drive and create our fall conference agenda.  Here are some of the things we heard during the meeting.  “Focus on value in health care.” “Wellness is one of the few tools left.” “What do we really want the delivery system to look like?” “What can we learn from Idaho?”  “We need best practices on messaging.”

Stay tuned.

Event_Sponsor GSB Law 1

3. A smart approach to enrolling on the exchange

The Mat-Su Health Foundation released a Request for Proposals recently to facilitate community forums and discussions relating to the federal exchange.  The feedback will be “shared with any Navigators working in Mat-Su.”

It’s a very interesting notion: foundations doing the leg work to support future Navigators’ enrollment of citizens onto the exchange.  With the limited funding for Navigators and other ACA implementation – with Secretary Sebelius literally now fundraising to support implementation – this seems like a smart, pro-active move.

4. Transparency drives exchange prices lower in Oregon

Everywhere you turn – from Congress to brokers, from actuaries to consultants – everyone has been saying that prices on the exchange are going up.  And, in states like Maryland, they are.

But not quite so much in Oregon – and it looks like the transparency in pricing is giving insurers that are hungry for business an opportunity to respond to the market with lower prices.  In other words, the exchange market might actually be working – at least a little bit, and maybe only in Oregon – and that’s a start.


5. Labor issues starting to take center stage

I’ve had a number of smart policy folks make reference to me to about “a brewing storm around labor unions and health care.”  I’m not saying this is the most important thing in health care today, but it’s certainly being talked about by folks looking ahead to 2014.

We connect some of the dots here, but it’s not entirely clear how this issue will either set up or play out.  Given the role labor issues played in the recent Anchorage elections, I think it’s more clear that if the cost of health care for public employees becomes a central issue in the 2014 state elections, it could shift the playing field in some key races – though which way is anyone’s guess.