5 Things We’re Watching – Alaska, August 2013

With cost pressures so high, and the work to implement exchanges so close to the finish line, it’s an anxious time in health care.  As one health care leader told me “It feels like we’re talking about the same things, but the stakes are so much higher now, and I think we’re all ready for get started on something, anything really.”

It feels like things are on the cusp of breaking through – either for the better or the worse.  With six weeks before our conference, we’ve got our eyes wide open.

DJ Wilson - Host, State of Reform

1. Governor Parnell talks insurance exchange

One of the most palpable things about health care in Alaska is this:  the deep, widely held yearning for leadership in Alaska to reform the health care system.  Alaska is the most expensive place to receive health care on the planet, and practically everyone I speak with wants to see Alaska pull together successfully to address the health care challenges.

So, Governor Parnell’s first major public comments on health reform since the Supreme Court decision last summer were noteworthy as entering into a dialog  that many hope will be sustained.

2. “We want to have the conversation”

Susan  Johnson, the Regional Director of the US Dept of Health and Human Services, spent two weeks in Alaska in August.  She’ll be back again for our conference on October 4th.  That’s a lot of time to spend on a state that has rejected (so far) all aspects of health reform.

“We want to have the conversation with the state about how we can work together to meet the state’s goals for its citizens,” Johnson told me while sitting in the lobby of the Hotel Captain Cook.  “If the Obama administration can work with Texas, and Arkansas, and Idaho, and all of the other Republican states, we can work with Alaska, too.”


3. 2013 State of Reform Conference: 21 panels, 65 speakers!

Our conference agenda is really shaping up nicely!  With the input from our Convening Panel and sponsors, we’re continuing to refine our already ambitious agenda.

We’d love to have you with us!  Registration is open and we’re open to all comers!  This may be the largest health care event of the year – and we’d love it if you were with us!

4. Navigators announced; plans coming Sept 4th

The $600,000 in grants to ‘navigators’ to help drive enrollment on the exchange were awarded recently, with ANTHC and the United Way winning the two grants.  Plans approved to be on the exchange will be announced on Sept. 4th, though their rates apparently will not be available until the exchanges go live on October 1st.

We’re hearing, though, about some very aggressive enrollment strategies by some brokers in the region, which may do more to enroll members on the exchange than even some navigators.

Moss Adams Public Accountants

5.  The hospital-physician tension seems to be increasing

We like Bruce Lamoureux, the CEO at Providence Alaska.  He “calls a spade a spade” – which we like.  So, it’s no surprise that his recent comments at the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce have caused some division.  It’s not news, per se.  The hospital-physician tension is a generation old now, in Alaska and elsewhere.

But, the increased frustration his comments – and other efforts – are generating among physicians is starting to get even more vocal.  Scan social media and you see words like “appalling.”  Or, listen to the radio and you’ll hear “Non-profit is starting to get quotes around it. They are tax exempt hospitals.”  It seems like a new level of vocal engagement.