Health Mandates: Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping in Alaska during COVID-19

Hunting, fishing, and trapping activities are important to many Alaskans and non-residents. Hunters, anglers, and trappers are reminded that all seasons remain open as scheduled during the COVID-19 pandemic unless changed by emergency order. All emergency orders and announcements can be found here http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=newsreleases.main .

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reminds everyone that the Health Mandates issued by the State are continually being updated to provide guidance for traveling both to and within Alaska. These plans are critical to ensure the health of participants and Alaska communities.

Details regarding specific requirements can be found at https://covid19.alaska.gov/health-mandates/ . As we learn more about the COVID pandemic, mandates and associated requirements will change.

We are all in this together. Hunters, anglers, and trappers are asked to lead by example, follow the current health mandates, and be respectful of the communities in which we live and through which we travel. It is possible, even with the current restrictions, to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

Be safe, be respectful, and may your hunting, fishing, and trapping adventures be successful in every way possible.

Contact:

Rick Green, ADF&G

Anchorage, AK

Tackling Alaska’s High Health Care Costs

Unfortunately, many Alaskans have personally borne the brunt of our state’s extremely high health care costs in recent years. But having some of the most expensive health care in the nation wasn’t always the case for Alaska. In fact, per-capita expenditures on health care used to be about the same as the national average.

A new report, authored by a nationally-respected health care economist, shows that Alaskan per-capita expenditures on health care have been growing significantly faster than the national average over the last 30-some years. Nationally, spending on health care has been fairly stable over the past two decades, but Alaska’s has continued unabated. The report found that Alaska’s annual per-capita health care expenditures were more than $11,000—higher than any other state.

Thirty years ago, Alaska’s per-capita spending on health care was about the same as the national average. In the early 2000s, however, expenditures in Alaska began to grow . . . and kept growing. In particular, Alaska’s per-capita expenditures on hospital care are now 50 percent higher than the national average, and 80 percent higher for physician and clinical services. Let me repeat that – per-capita spending for physician and clinical services in our state is up to 80 percent more than the national average.

Why is health care spending in Alaska so much higher? Well, the short answer is unhelpful state regulations. The long answer, as explained in the new report, is that various state regulations, along with other unique Alaskan factors such as population density, have influenced the high spending on health care. According to Dr. Benedic Ippolito, the author of the report, these factors include:

1. Labor costs – Yes, the cost of attracting qualified health care workers to Alaska is likely higher than in the lower 48, but it’s also important to note that historically, physician and clinical spending was in line with that of other states, meaning there’s more going on. The report finds that certain regulations seem to incentivize some providers to charge higher rates.

2. Lack of competition – The report identifies state regulations which disincentivize competition between businesses.

3. High Medicaid costs – In most states, per enrollee Medicare expenses are higher than Medicaid, but that’s not the case in Alaska. Instead, Medicaid payments to doctors here are much higher than Medicare reimbursements. In Alaska, Medicaid expenditures are up to 56 percent higher than the national average.

High health care expenditures in Alaska are a major problem for several reasons, the first being the most obvious—more money coming out of Alaskans’ pockets for healthcare services.

Second, higher costs for healthcare services leads to higher insurance premiums—a double whammy for Alaskans. But this also effects our economy and labor market: Alaska is less attractive for new companies because they have to pay higher insurance costs to attract quality employees, and existing businesses are hesitant to add employees to payroll.

Third, because companies must pay higher insurance premiums, employees’ wage growth is slow – there is a clear tradeoff for business between boosting paychecks and higher premium contributions.

Lastly, an immense amount of state spending is dedicated to providing state employees with health benefits, so high insurance premiums mean higher bills for state government.

Needless to say, Alaska desperately needs health care cost reform. Paying for high and rising health care costs is unsustainable for Alaskans, and unsustainable for our state budget. Reforms should increase market forces, allow for competition, and improve the overall efficiency and accessibility of the healthcare market in Alaska. Some of the reforms that policymakers should consider include: reassess the 80th percentile rule, eliminate surprise medical billing, and repeal Alaska’s certificate of need law. Changes such as these would better balance supply with demand, resulting in reduced costs for hardworking Alaskans and a stronger economy.

Bethany Marcum, Executive Director

Alaska Policy Forum

Bethel Family Clinic New “Provider”

On Wednesday 07-08-20 I had an appointment at the Bethel Family Clinic. I arrived at 3:30 p.m. to fill out a 30-second questionnaire then spent the next 29 minutes 30 seconds of my life, which I’ll never get back, waiting to be seen for my 4:00 p.m. appointment. The place was as quiet as a tomb, not even the phone rang once; either Bethelites are disgustingly healthy (to use a movie phrase), or there was another, more ominous reason.

After the enforced 30-minute waiting period I was informed that I would be seeing a “new provider”. This is one of the blessings of living in the Bush: the good providers leave just as you’ve built a rapport and can really work together, then a new one arrives that may or may not be a decent medical provider; a sad refrain.

Another round of waiting, in walks the “new provider”, and I decide to break the ice with an innocuous question: as she is washing her hands, I ask, “how do you keep your hands from becoming chapped and raw after washing a hundred times a day”? Her reply was instant, clipped and carried the force of capital letters, “after 20 years in the military, you do what you are ordered to do; you just adapt.”

Dr. Freudenthal, Ndege, and Brent were all very excellent medical providers. The board of Bethel Family Clinic needs to identify WHY the good ones are leaving, and rectify that to retain them. When hiring new personnel, don’t just look at a curriculum vitae, look at the human being.

I wasted an hour of my life but you don’t have too: get a copy of your medical records, go into Anchorage for your medical care until this one leaves; then we play the game all over again.

Roger Rothschild

Bethel, AK

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