5 Things We’re Watching – Alaska, June 2013

We are now one step closer to our fall event October 4th, with the release of our Topical Agenda this week.

We’re also a step closer to the exchanges going live with the news that two plans have filed to participate on the exchange.  And, with two candidates now in the Republican primary for US Senate, things are starting to take shape for both the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and the next round of public discussion on how it’s working.

Those are a few of the things we have our eyes on this month.

DJ Wilson - Host, State of Reform

1. Republican Senate primary taking shape

US Senator Mark Begich is up for re-election in 2014, and the Affordable Care Act is likely to be a central issue in that election.

Joe Miller, a Tea Party favorite in Alaska, has made the repeal of Obamacare a central tenet of his campaign, featuring the issue in his initial interviews.  Last week, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell announced for the race drawing some attention from national Senate observers.  Stay tuned to see if Dan Sullivan, Commissioner of Natural Resources, gets in the race, too.

Gov. Parnell announced his re-election bid last month in what appears to be a relatively secure path to a second full term.

2. AlaskaCare contract awarded to Aetna, Moda

Aetna won the TPA contract for medical benefits for state employees and retirees.  Moda won the dental benefits work.

This is a big deal among plans in Alaska, with obviously mixed emotions based on the outcome.  Providers we’ve talked to have been generally pleased, mostly because (I think) they believe they will face limited contracting pressures from Aetna.

We’ll see.  The state is hoping to bend the cost curve on employee health considerably.  At some point, that’s going to require a change in what providers can expect from AlaskaCare.

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3. Topical agenda out for fall conference

Our Convening Panel has done a great job of helping us frame and develop this year’s agenda.

Deb Erickson, Executive Director of the Alaska Health Care Commission, kept our frame focused on solutions.  Roald Helgeson, CEO of ANTHC, made sure the discussion around costs included the notion of value.  Both Susan Johnson, Regional Director of US Dept of HHS, and Josh Applebee, Deputy Director at Alaska Dept of HSS, helped keep the content focused on areas of constructive agreement.

You can see the full Topical Agenda here.  This is step two now in about a five step process.  We’d welcome your feedback on the content and potential speakers.

4. Premera, Moda only carriers to file for exchange

Premera and Moda are the only two carriers to have filed letters of interest with HHS to participate on the exchange.  The applications are expected to be sent to the Alaska Division of Insurance by the end of June to be reviewed and approved by the state.

We hope to be able to see the full applications once they are received by the state, including the initial rates from both plans.  We’ll also know then whether they are on both the SHOP and individual exchanges or just one of the two.

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5.  What’s Annie Feidt doing these days?

Annie Feidt probably does more impactful public reporting on Alaska health care than anyone else in the state.  She’s covered stories which have made a number of health care leaders a little uncomfortable, particularly around cost and quality of care.

Her most recent stories are great examples of health care reporting, in my view.  They tell stories of people trying to make a difference in our health system, using their personal narrative as a foil for addressing some of the thorniest issues in health care today (in this case cost of care and palliative care).

What Annie Feidt is watching – that’s something we’re always keeping an eye on.