With the Thanksgiving holiday next week, I wanted to take a moment to say thank you on behalf of the entire State of Reform team for your continued support. Whether it’s through attending our conferences, reading our coverage of health care and health policy in Alaska, or sponsoring our events, we appreciate you!
Thanks again and happy Thanksgiving!
State of Reform
1. Q&A: Youth mental health in Alaska
Joshua Arvidson is the chief clinical officer of children’s services at Alaska Behavioral Health where he established the Alaska Child Trauma Center. He is considered an expert in trauma-informed care for children.
In this Q&A, Arvidson offers an update on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth mental health in Alaska. In addition to stressors like virtual school, loss of routine, and social isolation, Arvidson says adult mental health can influence the health of Alaska’s youth. “Kids really filter their experience through their caregivers. All the stress that adults are going through throughout the pandemic directly impacts kids because when adults are distressed, kids feed into those emotions.”
2. State leaders prepare for Medicaid redetermination
State leaders are preparing for the impending end of the federal public health emergency, which will instigate a lengthy eligibility redetermination process for Alaskans who currently benefit from Medicaid. Between Feb. 2020 and May 2021, 24,640 new individuals enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP. Shawnda O’Brien, director of the Public Assistance Division at DHSS, tells State of Reform that it’s unclear how many will face disenrollment.
O’Brien says it will be important to support smooth transitions to other health coverage options for those found to be ineligible for Medicaid. “We will be working with some of our partners and community stakeholders to make sure that there are opportunities for people to become familiar with other coverage options in the event that they are determined to be ineligible — so that there’s a referral either to the marketplace or to other sources of coverage.”
3. New HUD grants bring in millions for Tribal communities
HUD last week announced $73.9 million in grants to 68 Tribal communities across 12 states. Thirty-four of those prioritized communities are in Alaska. The over $32 million in grant money headed into the state will be used to expand access to safe housing and safe living environments.
For example, the Algaaciq Native Village and the Allakaket Village, which are both slated to receive $1,035,000 in funding, will each use their grants to construct five housing units to provide temporary shelter for families impacted by COVID-19. The Kenaitze Indian Tribe, which is also set to receive $1,035,000, will use the funding to provide emergency rental, mortgage, utility, and other emergency assistance to families impacted by the pandemic.
4. COVID deaths & cases continue to drop
Despite its relatively high COVID case rate of 375 cases per 100K over the last week, Alaska continues to show improvement and recovery from the Delta surge. The state’s dashboard reports a 27% decrease in cases between Nov. 2 and Nov. 8, and a drop in COVID deaths from 32 in the last week of October to 12 last week.
ASHNHA President & CEO Jared Kosin said in a recent interview that the statewide case declines have also corresponded to steep drops in COVID patients at Anchorage’s three main hospitals. “We’ve been operating at such an extreme level that now that we’re close to our prior peak we’re able to kind of let out a sigh of relief for the moment,” Kosin told Alaska Public Media.
5. Health provisions in the revised BBB plan
With the release of President Biden’s scaled back “Build Back Better” plan, State of Reform columnist Jim Capretta broke down some of the health policy items that made their way into the president’s updated domestic agenda. The revised BBB plan includes Medicare coverage for hearing services and a permanent 6 percentage point increase in the federal matching rate for states offering HCBS services that meet new national standards.
Capretta’s latest column also dives into the details of the House’s version of the plan and its provisions that attempt to close the coverage gap. He writes: “The individuals who now are ineligible both for Medicaid and ACA subsidies would be enrolled into private plans offered on the exchanges, with the federal government paying the full cost of their premiums and most of their cost-sharing too.”