House health care bills we’re watching in Alaska

Over a month after Alaska’s 2019 legislative session began, the state House of Representatives officially elected leadership and announced its committee assignments earlier this week.

Similar to last year, the House Health and Social Services Committee will be led by Representatives Ivy Spohnholz and Tiffany Zulkosky (this year they will serve as co-chairs). Also joining the committee are Reps. Matt Claman, Harriet Drummond, Geran Tarr, Sharon Jackson, and Lance Pruitt.

With the organization of committees comes the referral of new legislation. Though the House Health and Social Services Committee does not yet have their first meeting scheduled, a series of bills were referred to the committee on Wednesday. Here are some of the bills we will be keeping an eye on as work in the House gets underway:

HB 13:

HB 13 would require the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) to apply for a new 1115 waiver to establish work requirements for Medicaid eligibility. If approved, the waiver would require Medicaid recipients between 18 and 65 years old to participate in a minimum of 20 hours of work activities per week. This could include hours spent actively seeking employment, volunteering, participating in training programs, and caregiving.

Exemptions to the work requirements include those unable to work for medical reasons, caretakers caring for a relative with a disability, or parents caring for a child up to 12 months of age.

The same bill sits in the Senate Health & Social Service Committee, where it has had two public hearings and is scheduled for a third on March 1.

HB 21:

This bill, sponsored by Rep. Claman, would require health care insurers in the group or individual market to add coverage for contraceptives, and would prohibit insurers from requiring copayments or deductibles for a year’s worth of contraception. However, insurers that offer coverage in the group market to a religious employer may be exempt from these requirements.

Last session, Rep. Claman introduced a similar bill that passed in the House, but ultimately died in the Senate health committee.

HB 22:

This bill looks to extend the sunset date of the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council (SSPC) by an additional 8 years. Rather than ending in June of this year, the Council would continue its work until June 2027.

A recent DHSS bulletin shows that between 2012 and 2017, Alaska’s suicide rate ranked either first or second in the nation, and that the rate is on the rise. SSPC is charged with advising the Governor and the legislature on ways to reduce suicide in the state. Last year the Council released their 2018-2022 suicide prevention plan.

HB 64:

HB 64, which comes by request of Governor Dunleavy, would appropriate money from Alaska’s alcoholic beverage tax for the community assistance fund, which provides Alaska’s cities, boroughs, and unincorporated areas with funds to use based on their community’s needs. The governor’s request specifically calls for half of the tax funds that are currently going into the general fund to be used for community assistance purposes.