Alaska Health Insurance
The Affordable Care Act, or ACA, is a group of laws meant to make health care more accessible and affordable for individuals. To this end, it requires all residents to purchase health insurance or be subjected to tax penalties. This widens the risk pool and allows insurance companies to offer lower rates. Additionally, the law prohibits insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
In Alaska, insurance enrollment has been slow. Part of the reason is, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Alaska is one of 27 states that didn’t establish its own health insurance exchange. Instead, residents must go through the federal insurance marketplace to purchase insurance.
Technical difficulties with the federal exchange meant many Alaskans were unable to purchase insurance in 2013. These problems have since been fixed, and purchasing coverage should be simpler going forward.
What is a health insurance marketplace?
The federal health insurance exchange is located at HealthCare.gov, and this site acts as a comparison service for insurance companies in many states. For states that did not set up their own insurance exchanges, including Alaska, HealthCare.gov acts as the primary marketplace for individuals to view and purchase plans.
The health insurance exchange does not directly sell policies. Instead, it facilitates the purchase of insurance by providing an easy way to compare plans. Once you sign up with the site during open enrollment, you’ll provide information about where you live, the size of your family and your income. This information will help match you to affordable Alaska health insurance plans. It will also determine whether you qualify for a tax subsidy. Subsidies will typically be based on 2013 poverty level limits, and Medicare and CHIP qualification will typically be based on 2014 limits.
Do I qualify for a health insurance subsidy?
In order to make insurance more affordable and accessible, the government offers tax subsidies to help cover the cost of insurance. These subsidies are applied directly to your insurance premiums and reduce the cost of your monthly insurance bill.
Insurance subsidies are only available to people who purchase exchange policies, not those who obtain insurance through their employers. This is because employers share the costs of group health plans. People with incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the poverty level may qualify for a subsidy to offset the cost of health insurance premiums. In Alaska for 2014, that falls between $14,350 and $57,400 for an individual and between $29,440 and $117,760 for a family of four.
Health insurance companies in Alaska
At this time, only two insurance companies are participating in the exchange for Alaska:
- Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska.
- Moda Health.
Aetna may begin offering policies through the exchange, but is so far not participating.
Health insurance for low-income families
As part of the Affordable Care Act, many states have expanded their Medicaid coverage to provide health care to low-income families. At this time, Alaska will not extend its Medicaid coverage. Enrollment is open only to young children and parents with low income.
Children in Alaska whose families earn less than $2,428 per month qualify for Medicaid coverage. Parents with incomes of $1,333 per month or less can also obtain Medicaid coverage for themselves. Other adults do not qualify for Medicaid, and there is no separate Children’s Health Insurance Program for Alaskan children as there is in some states.
Alaska health and coverage statistics
Alaska population (2013): 735,132
Population 65 and older (2012): 8.5 percent
Life expectancy (2010): 78.3 years
Number of Medicaid beneficiaries (2012): 103,200
Number of Medicare beneficiaries (2012): 56,900
Estimated number of uninsured residents (2012): 131,300
Overall state health ranking:
Sources: Kaiser Family Foundation, U.S. Census Bureau, America’s Health Rankings 2014 report.
Alaska health insurance resources
Department of Health Care Services: http://dhss.alaska.gov/dhcs/Pages/default.aspx
Alaska Commission on Aging: http://dhss.alaska.gov/acoa/Pages/default.aspx
Kaiser Family Foundation: http://kff.org/health-reform/state-profile/state-exchange-profiles-alaska/