Consumers Being Left Behind In Alaska Exchange Discussion


Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) has awarded Public Consulting Group (PCG) a contract to assist DHSS in designing and developing Alaska’s Exchange.  About eight months from today, the federal government will determine whether Alaska is ready to implement its own Exchange.

Exchanges are designed to provide consumers with new and more efficient means to access healthcare. They are empowered to make eligibility determinations not only for enrollment in private insurance, but also for Medicaid and CHIP. These critically important determinations must be made according to a new, “streamlined process” that ensures prompt enrollment in the appropriate coverage.

On March 27, 2012 the federal government issued final regulations regarding who Exchanges must consult with regarding these new streamlined processes, and how often. In addition to insurance companies and healthcare providers, Exchanges must “regularly consult on an ongoing basis” with advocates for enrolling hard-to-reach populations (including individuals with mental health or substance abuse disorders) and other entities that have experience in facilitating enrollment in healthcare coverage.

This requirement of regular, ongoing stakeholder consultation exists to ensure that all Americans — regardless of income or disability — are able to effectively apply for and access healthcare coverage. Unfortunately, when PCG and DHSS conducted stakeholder meetings last month, only insurance brokers and providers were invited.

Consumer advocates across the state are waiting eagerly for an opportunity to work with PCG and DHSS to help create streamlined enrollment procedures that work for all Alaskans. We have thus far been kept in the dark and time is running out. When will DHSS consult with advocates for underserved Alaskans?