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Impact of the Affordable Care Act in Alaska

Thousands of Alaskans have gained coverage, and hundreds of thousands more have had their coverage substantially improved

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an extensive compilation of state-level data illustrating the substantial improvements in health care for all Americans over the last six years. The data show that the uninsured rate in Alaska has fallen by 25 percent since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted in 2010, translating into 36,000 Alaskans gaining coverage. And, in addition to residents who would otherwise be uninsured, hundreds of thousands more Alaskans with employer, Medicaid, individual market, or Medicare coverage have also benefited from new protections as a result of the law.

“As our nation debates changes to the health care system, it’s important to take stock of where we are today compared to where we were before the Affordable Care Act,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Whether Alaskans get coverage through an employer, Medicaid, the individual market, or Medicare, they have better health coverage and care today as a result of the ACA. Millions of Americans with all types of coverage have a stake in the future of health reform. We need to build on our progress and continue to improve health care access, quality, and affordability, not move our system backward.”

Highlights of today’s data release include:

Employer Coverage: 390,000 people in Alaska are covered through employer-sponsored health plans. Since the ACA was enacted in 2010, this group has seen:

  • An end to annual and lifetime limits: Before the ACA, 237,000 Alaskans with employer or individual market coverage had a lifetime limit on their insurance policy. That meant their coverage could end exactly when they needed it most. The ACA prohibits annual and lifetime limits on policies, so all Alaskans with employer plans now have coverage that’s there when they need it.
  • Young adults covered until age 26: An estimated 6,000 young adults in Alaska have benefited from the ACA provision that allows kids to stay on their parents’ health insurance up to age 26.
  • Free preventive care: Under the ACA, health plans must cover preventive services — like flu shots, cancer screenings, contraception, and mammograms – at no extra cost to consumers. This provision benefits 316,518 people in Alaska, most of whom have employer coverage.
  • Slower premium growth: Nationally, average family premiums for employer coverage grew 5 percent per year 2010-2016, compared with 8 percent over the previous decade. Family premiums are $3,600 lower today than if growth had matched the pre-ACA decade.
  • Better value through the 80/20 rule: Because of the ACA, health insurance companies must spend at least 80 cents of each premium dollar on health care or care improvements, rather than administrative costs like salaries or marketing, or else give consumers a refund. Alaskans with employer coverage have received $708,637 in insurance refunds since 2012.

Medicaid: 166,625 people in Alaska are covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, including 81,161 children and 15,634 seniors and people with disabilities covered by both Medicaid and Medicare. The ACA expanded Medicaid eligibility and strengthened the program for those already eligible.

  • 17,000 Alaskans have gained coverage through Medicaid: An estimated 17,000 Alaskans have health insurance today because Alaska expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Coverage improves access to care, financial security, and health, resulting in an estimated 2,000 more Alaskans getting all needed care, 2,400 fewer Alaskans struggling to pay medical bills, and 20 avoided deaths each year.
  • Thousands of Alaskans with a mental illness or substance use disorder are getting care: Thanks to expansion and improved access to treatment, an estimated 2,000 fewer Alaskans are experiencing symptoms of depression.
  • Alaska is saving millions in uncompensated care costs: Instead of spending $20 million on uncompensated care, which increases costs for everyone, Alaska is getting $90 million in federal support to provide low-income adults with much needed coverage.
  • Children, people with disabilities, and seniors can more easily access Medicaid coverage: The ACA streamlined Medicaid eligibility processes, eliminating hurdles so that vulnerable Alaskans could more easily access and maintain coverage.
  • Alaska is building on expansion to improve access to care for its American Indian and Alaska Native population: Under the new Medicaid Tribal policy, Alaska is able to leverage enhanced federal funding to better serve these populations.

Individual market: 17,995 people in Alaska have coverage through the Marketplace. Individual market coverage is dramatically better compared to before the ACA:

  • No discrimination based on pre-existing conditions: Up to 318,926 people in Alaska have a pre-existing health condition. Before the ACA, these Alaskans could have been denied coverage or charged an exorbitant price if they needed individual market coverage. Now, health insurance companies cannot refuse coverage or charge people more because of pre-existing conditions.
  • Tax credits available to help pay for coverage: Before the ACA, only those with employer coverage generally got tax benefits to help pay for health insurance. Now, 16,205 moderate- and middle-income Alaskans receive tax credits averaging $750 per month to help them get covered through HealthCare.gov.
  • Women pay the same as men: Before the ACA, women were often charged more than men just because of their gender. That is now illegal thanks to the ACA, protecting roughly half the people of Alaska.
  • Greater transparency and choice: Before the ACA, it was virtually impossible for consumers to effectively compare insurance plan prices and shop for the best value. Thanks to the ACA, consumers can now shop for coverage on a transparent market.

Medicare: 88,966 people in Alaska are covered by Medicare. The ACA strengthened the Medicare Trust Fund, extending its life by over a decade. In addition, Medicare enrollees have benefited from:

  • Lower costs for prescription drugs: Because the ACA is closing the prescription drug donut hole, 3,094 Alaska seniors are saving $3 million on drugs in 2015, an average of $1,029 per beneficiary.
  • Free preventive services: The ACA added coverage of an annual wellness visit and eliminated cost-sharing for recommended preventive services such as cancer screenings. In 2015, 46,876 Alaska seniors, or 59 percent of all Alaska seniors enrolled in Medicare Part B, took advantage of at least one free preventive service.
  • Fewer hospital mistakes: The ACA introduced new incentives for hospitals to avoid preventable patient harms and avoidable readmissions. Hospital readmissions for Alaska Medicare beneficiaries dropped 6 percent between 2010 and 2015, which translates into 78 times Alaska Medicare beneficiaries avoided an unnecessary return to the hospital in 2015. 
  • More coordinated care: The ACA encouraged groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers to come together to provide coordinated high-quality care to the Medicare patients they serve.  Accountable Care Organizations now offer 8.9 million Medicare beneficiaries nationwide higher quality, more coordinated care.

 

Content created by Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA)
Content last reviewed on December 13, 2016
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