Heads and Tails: Health care bailout for Alaska



U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski commended the Trump Administration for granting the State of Alaska an “Innovation Waiver” under the Affordable Care Act.

The “innovation” part of the waiver is actually a transfer of the high cost of health insurance in Alaska to federal taxpayers.

Insurance should go down by 20 percent for consumers, said Seema Verma, administrator for the Affordable Care Act program at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

It’s unclear if the only insurer in the state, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, will actually lower the cost of insurance and there is no way to force it to. Premera of Alaska made $20 million in profits from “Obamacare” insurance plans in 2016.

The total grant is about $332 million of taxpayer money, according to Gov. Bill Walker. That equates to $15,000 for each of the 23,000 Alaskans who have had to enroll in the mandatory health insurance program.

The State applied for the grant following legislation signed by Walker last year, which gave $55 million to the Alaska Reinsurance Program to help reduce spiraling health insurance costs.

The federal government will reimburse the state $48 million next year. For the following four years, that number may increase with enrollment.

Premera has not yet announced what it will charge Alaskans  for the coming year. Enrollment begins Nov. 1.

NEW HEAD OF OIL AND GAS COMMISSION IS FRENCH: Gov. Bill Walker has named former Sen. Hollis French as the new chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

French was Walker’s former opponent as the Democrat candidate for lieutenant governor. The Alaska Democrat Party forced him to withdraw in September of 2014 so the party could back a ticket with Bill Walker and Byron Mallott. They called it a “Unity ticket.”

Hollis French

Earlier this year, French tried to get the commission to acquire jurisdiction over a gas leak in Cook Inlet. Eagle River Republican Sen. Anna MacKinnon voted against his appointment, which was the subject of controversy, since its widely seen as a political patronage appointment to a highly technical commission that should remain out of politics.

[Read: French gets confirmed, but with drama]

GRENN GETS OFFICE UPGRADES : Rep. Jason Grenn’s three-room suite on the fourth floor of the Capitol in Juneau is getting a renovation. The two outside offices have been stripped of furnishings, bookcases, desks and tables, and the carpet will be replaced. Presumably the same or better furniture will be reinstalled.

For a freshman to have not only a seat on the House Finance Committee, but also a three-room completely renovated office suite is evidence of the price he obtained for his membership in the Democrat-ruled majority caucus in the House.

Grenn won’t be inconvenienced, as he is in Washington, D.C. this week with Gov. Bill Walker, extolling the benefits of running as a nonpartisan candidate. We wonder if Grenn will mention plum committee assignments and plush digs as being among those benefits. They will appear at the National Press Club.

[Read: Look for the union label: It’s off to the races for Walker, Grenn]

[Read the National Press Club’s description of Grenn and Walker’s flip]