State Report: Alaska

February 1, 2009

Commonwealth Fund State Performance Ranking: 26

AMERICAN INDIAN LEADERS are looking to the Obama administration for support in passing the Health Care Improvement Act reauthorization bill. The bill, approved by the Senate, would allocate $35 billion over the next 10 years for American Indian healthcare programs, including screening services and mental health programs, and would improve access to healthcare.

ALCOHOL AS A CAUSE OF DEATH

CANCER RATE HIGH

The report called for implementing prevention and education programs and basing treatment on cultural differences within the tribal subgroups.

In a separate study published last spring in Ethnicity & Disease, researchers surveyed 112 elders to assess their willingness to participate in a hypothetical cancer clinical trial. Factors most influencing participation included having a lead researcher of native descent, a study physician with experience in treating the groups, family support for participation and hope that the study would result in new treatments. Results indicate a "need to establish partnerships with native communities and include American Indian/Alaska Native and culturally competent professionals in research efforts."

NONPROFIT SECTOR

The Foraker Group and the Rasmuson Foundation are offering a health insurance program designed to promote a healthier nonprofit sector in Alaska. The program offers two options that will help expand coverage to underinsured individuals and families or those who currently have no insurance. Alaska's 18% uninsured rate exceeds the national average.

Under the Foraker insurance initiative, a high-deductible ($1,500) plan with a health savings account or a catastrophic indemnity plan with a $2,500 deductible are available. Both plans offer options for preventive care and prescription benefits.

The high deductible/HSA plan requires the employer to contribute at least half the annual deductible level into an individual's HSA. Both options also incorporate an individual and family wellness program that is intended to reduce the need for medical care and keep down the cost of claims. The program is available through Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska.

NURSING HOME VIOLATIONS

Every nursing home in Alaska, Idaho, Wyoming and Washington, D.C., was cited for federal health and safety violations in 2007, according to a report by the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General last fall. Nationwide, 90% of U.S. nursing homes were cited for violations. Nursing homes in Alaska had an average of 6.5 deficiencies in 2007, down from 9.5 in 2006.

According to the report, the most common deficiencies nationwide centered on quality-of-care measures, including treatment and prevention of bedsores and urinary tract infections.

MHE Sources: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; Urban Institute; Kaiser Family Foundation; U.S. Census Bureau; The Commonwealth Fund.