April 23, 2007
The cornerstones of the bill are the creation of the Alaska health care board, which will oversee the program, and the Alaska health care fund, which will issue vouchers to qualified individuals. The bill also creates the health care clearinghouse, which will connect individuals holding vouchers with quality insurance products, facilitating a relationship between Alaskans and private insurers.
This legislation requires that every Alaskan retain an affordable insurance plan that covers essential health care services. This not only protects the health and wellbeing of insurance holders, but it also protects the businesses and individuals who have chosen to invest in health coverage.
"I am most excited that this bill would make affordable insurance a reality for all Alaskans," said French. "Insurance premiums are much higher for Alaskans than for residents of other states; states that are leading the way on reform efforts. There is no reason for us not to join this important debate."
"The rising cost of health care is a crisis in our state, not just for individuals, but for businesses who are struggling to provide coverage for their employees," said Ellis. "This bill creates an opportunity for Alaska to be a real leader in health care reform."
It is easy to argue that hospitals in Alaska already provide universal health care, because a hospital cannot turn down anyone in need of emergency care. When someone cannot pay, those who have insurance subsidize the care for the uninsured through higher insurance premiums. A recent study estimated that Alaska premiums are 13.6% higher than they would be if everyone had health coverage (Families USA report). This bill ensures equitable financing of health coverage.
The current health care crisis has led to some unlikely allies working towards reform; businesses, unions, insurers and health care providers have all joined together in other states to consider reform options. SB 160 will begin the same debate in Alaska.
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