What They’re Watching: Senator Cathy Giessel

Senator Cathy Giessel is a member of the Senate Health and Social Services Committee in the Alaska State Legislature. Giessel was also recently elected Senate President. She joins us in this edition of What They’re Watching to discuss controlling healthcare costs.

“The big thing that I am watching is the cost of our healthcare. Alaska lost population for the first time in 27 years last year; we’ve been named the worst place to do business in the U.S. in 2018, and we have the highest unemployment rate in the U.S. A lot of this is related to the cost of our healthcare as families can no longer afford the healthcare costs here and businesses cannot afford to offer healthcare coverage for their employees. We need to bring the costs of healthcare down because we have the highest healthcare costs in the U.S., and the U.S. has the highest health care costs in the world — so that puts us in a pretty bad spot.

So, I’m working on a rule – it’s not something that the legislature passed, it’s a rule that was put in place by the bureaucracy in Alaska early in the 2000s. It’s called the 80th percentile rule. It sets the reimbursement for health care, that’s outside of an insurance network, very high. And it actually incentivizes prices to incrementally go up. Our prices for healthcare have increased more than inflation over the last 10 or 15 years. We need to ramp this back so that families can afford to live here and businesses can afford to work and do business here.

So, it’s just part of our economy, but it’s a major part of our economy. So that’s what I’m working on. I’m working with the Director of the Division of Insurance; she has access to a lot of really great data. We’re updating that data so that we have true facts in front of us, and I’m working with both healthcare providers and consumer groups who are interested in findings a resolution to this.

Interestingly, school districts are seriously impacted by this. In fact, one of the high priorities, legislatively, for school associations is to address and reduce the price of healthcare. So, that’s one of the big things I’m working on as a lifelong Alaskan. I want to see Alaska prosper, and that means controlling some costs.”