Obamacare: Alaska’s ironic past, Murkowski’s ironic decision


Photo of Senator Lisa Murkowski

In 2010, Alaska Sen. Mark Begich was the vote that pushed Obamacare into the win column for Democrats.

It passed without a single Republican vote and is arguably the piece of legislation most responsible for Democrats losing control of the U.S. House, Senate, White House, as well as most governorships and legislatures around the country. Republicans had a mandate on Obamacare.

It’s also a big reason why Begich is now former Senator Begich.

So it’s no small matter of irony that Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who voted against Obamacare seven years ago, and who has voted to repeal it for years, was one of the three deciding senators who would keep the failing system in place. She was the last of the three to defect from the Republican plan to repeal.

When the chips were down and the vote really mattered, Murkowski said yes to Obamacare, since in her mind there was no adequate replacement in place.

No state has been more hurt by Obamacare than Alaska, where premiums have crippled the finances of many families that are forced to purchase an overpriced insurance product on the Obamacare marketplace at prices of $900-$1,200 a month — exceeding what many pay for their monthly rent.


“As I’ve been saying, the Senate should take a step back and engage in a bipartisan process to address the failures of the ACA and stabilize the individual markets,” Murkowski said. “That will require members on both sides of the aisle to roll up their sleeves and take this to the open committee process where it belongs.

“The individual market in states like Alaska and in rural communities across America has continued to deteriorate since we last voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Alaskans have seen their premiums increase over 200 percent, only one insurer remains on our individual market, and the state was forced to enact a costly reinsurance program to keep our sole remaining provider from leaving.”

“At the same time, the coverage offered on the exchange has become coverage in name only for too many Alaskans with premiums close to $1,000 a month on average and many facing deductibles approaching $10,000. Repealing the ACA without a clear path forward just creates confusion and greater uncertainty.”

“As I stated earlier this year, I cannot vote to proceed to repeal the ACA without reform that allows people the choice they want, the affordability they need and the quality of care they deserve.”


Premera has yet to release the prices it will charge these Alaskans in 2018. It is the only company that has remained in the state as the Affordable Care Act collapses.

But since Gov. Bill Walker adopted the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion in Alaska, rates for Alaskans who actually pay for health insurance — mainly private sector working people with jobs and benefits — have more than doubled.

Premiums in the individual insurance market are projected to decrease in the coming year because of a federal bailout, but health care insurance buyers won’t see any savings. Instead, the money will go to the state’s reinsurance program to pay for care for the most chronically ill people in Alaska.


Tuckerman Babcock, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, was disappointed.

 “I have no specific complaint about Sen. Murkowski’s position. The details of when and how much the replacement covers is up to legislators. What is nonnegotiable is that a promise Republicans made is a promise Republicans need to keep. That’s an essential, must-happen for the Republicans to maintain their credibility with the people who elected them,” Babcock said.

“I hope that the six times everyone voted to repeal Obamacare were not just for show,” Babcock said. “Promises (were) made to people when it’s very clear and specific: Repealing Obamacare is the Republican Party’s position. If you just repeal it, then the Democrats and Republicans have to come to the table. But right now, they have no incentive.”

In 2009, Murkowski said she thought “government doesn’t need to be in the business of health care. Government doesn’t need to be in the insurance business….It is not in the Constitution.”

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  1. Health care in America is a travesty manifested in Alaska where excessive costs are rationalized by the assumption that we’re a small population geographically challenged justifying excessive costs. Health care is as essential as clean water and electricity both of which are regulated and non-profit. We have 535 representatives who are bought and paid for by special interests and they stay in office far too long. The health care system (if you can call it that) we suffer with is not equal. Our representation enjoys excellent coverage as well as retirement after only serving one term. We taxpayers cover the costs. Yet the same taxpayers face a daunting task of affordability if not covered by that which is provided by corporations or the public sector i.e. municipal, state or federal. If you’re in business for yourself you’re likely on your own and a victim not a benefactor. Worse, we don’t have the best medical care in the western world while paying the most per capita. If we did the same thing with food there’d be a revolution. My country embarrasses me.

  2. Lisa just doesn’t get it… Oliarcare bronze plan for my wife and I is $2,200/month with a $6,000 deductible EACH. The cost of medical sharing ministries has doubled in 3 years. I can’t afford the Oliarcare, and now I can’t afford Medishare, and the cost of my annual Drs has nearly doubled. And Lisa wants SINGLE PAYER, according to her Fairbanks staffer. Lisa once told me, “Congress doesn’t care about money…” – WE DO.

  3. The scary thing is that our senior senator Murkowski just maybe does not get it. That she simply does not have the grey matter to figure it out. It also might be that underneath her veneer of GOP label that she really is a Dem. Many of her votes suggest one or the other. Her stand on Obama care may end up costing her reelection.

  4. Makes my heart break that Alaska is literally been “held up” . There has to be a solution. I wonder if the Donald is aware of this. Can someone get this info to him?

    • A better question to ask is does Donald Trump care?? He did acknowledge that the Republican Healthcare bill is “mean”. However he is urging Republican Senators to pass this “mean” bill. Basically the bill is a huge tax cut for Trump’s and Republican wealthy donors. Why are they proposing slashing $774 billion from Medicaid?? Taking medical care away from disabled children, disabled adults and poor elderly people in nursing homes allows Republicans to give tax cuts to their rich donors, and to give tax cuts to Big Pharma and health insurance companies. The purpose of this bill is wealth are NOT healthcare!

  5. Having spoke to Lisa personally about this she definitely gets it. There is no simple answer, and the proposed bill has so many holes in it it’s pathetic. Until medical costs are reigned in there is no solution that will work for the working class.

    It’s cheaper to just pay as you go, and hope for the best, which is just as costly as the insurance.

  6. But there is a simple solution in all of this. Get the federal goverment out of health care. Lisa, you are a fraud…

  7. Suzanne Downing (editor/writer of article) does not mention the subsidies Alaskans receive for getting their health insurance on the individual market. Why?? The subsidies depends on the persons income. I read that the average subsidy for an Alaskan is between $900 and $1,000 per month. This reduces their cost for health insurance considerably. 88% Alaskans purchasing health coverage on the individual market get their monthly premiums reduced by subsidies. According to Kaiser Family Foundation the average monthly tax credit for Alaskans was $976 in February, 2017. According to Melanie Coon of Premera insurance, “Almost 90% of people in Alaska are eligible for some kind of subsidy for their health care coverage…” (Alaska Dispatch News “Here’s What happens in Alaska with a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act”. July 20, 2017).

  8. Considering what has happened to health care costs since the government got involved (Medicaid, Medicare, etc), the ACA proves the old adage “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”.

  9. How about we get the same coverage as the senators? That’ll solve a lot of health insurance issues.
    Lisa is a democrat in republican’s clothing. She has been for years. I can’t understand how she has won her seat as many times as she has. Even the year that she didn’t win the parties nomination. She swore that is she didn’t, she would not run. She then went on to run a write-in campaign. She’s ridiculous!!!

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