Sunday, January 30, 2011

Alaska's Healthcare Issues

The Alaska Health Care Commission released a preliminary draft report “Transforming Health Care in Alaska” describing 2010 findings and plans for 2011. The Commission was created to address the growing concerns over the state of Alaska’s healthcare system.

For example, the delivery of care is fragmented with costs rising and continuing to climb, they seem to be out of control. Many Alaskans lack healthcare coverage, or have coverage but can’t find a doctor who will accept them as a patient and levels and variations in the quality of care are not well understood. These facts leave consumers unhappy, providers are frustrated, and the system as currently designed is not sustainable.

The Commission prioritized the essential issues to study in 2011. In order to better understand the current cost of healthcare in Alaska in terms of total spending in the state for healthcare services, the Commission contracted with the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Alaska, Anchorage to analyze the situation.

The final report expected to be available in April 2011 will include:

• A review of historical spending trends, health insurance and health provider costs, and the distribution of public and private payers
• A ten year spending forecast
• An analysis of cost drivers, to include information on demographic trends, technology, the nature and extent of insurance coverage, and tax treatment of benefits
• An analysis of health spending in Alaska as compared to the rest of the U.S. including health spending trends as a percentage of GDP compared to other sectors

The Commission is going to contract with a healthcare actuarial consulting firm with expertise in the analysis of system-wide healthcare pricing and reimbursement. The consulting firm will conduct a study to compare healthcare provider third party and private-pay charges and reimbursement in Alaska to charges and reimbursement for the same services in Washington and Oregon. The consulting firm will also benchmark those charges against public coverage such as Medicare, Medicaid, Workers Compensation, TRICARE, and the Veterans Administration.

The Commission intends to award this contract soon and hopes to take delivery of the final report by July 2011.

In addition, the Alaska Health Care Commission is also interested in learning how health conditions variables included in the cost equation is driving the use and spending for healthcare services. The Commission has asked the Department of Health & Social Services to do another study to provide information on the health status of the Alaskan population including health trends, and health disparities, and then perform a comparison with national averages.

The Commission anticipates that the information will include data on chronic and infectious diseases, injuries, health risk behaviors, mental illnesses and disabling conditions. This report is scheduled to be available by May 2011.