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Citing ISER Study, Murkowski Says Democrats’ Health Care Bill Would Be Poor Fit for Alaska

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Citing a University of Alaska  at Anchorage analysis of the Democrats' health care bill in the Senate, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska said today that nearly 28,000 Alaskans would see their health care premiums rise under the Democrats' health care proposal now under debate on the Senate floor.

Murkowski asked UAA's Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) to review a recent non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the Democrats' bill that said premiums for individuals without employer-sponsored coverage would rise between 10 percent and 13 percent. That would affect 27,900 Alaskans, according to Kaiser Family Foundation health insurance coverage statistics.

Murkowski said the ISER review showed that premiums would rise roughly 12 percent, or a net increase of $1,160 for some individuals and $2,950 for some families in Alaska under the Democrats' bill.

Alaska's senior senator said that ISER was still analyzing the extent of the subsidies that may be available for Alaskans to help reduce those premium increases. But she cited the premium increase estimate to counter Democrat claims that premiums would decrease under their bill.

While the Democrats point to CBO findings that say premiums would decrease by 14 percent to 20 percent under their bill, they fail to mention the premium increase for individuals without employer-sponsored coverage.

"You've got to look behind the curtain," Murkowski said. "Two factors - administrative efficiencies and new enrollment - make premiums go down but these reductions are overwhelmed by a 27 percent to 30 percent increase in premiums because of the coverage requirements that are mandated within the bill. The Democratic analysis omits this 27 to 30 percent increase fundamentally flawing their analysis."

Murkowski cited other ISER findings.

"Because Alaska is a high cost state, many more people in Alaska will become subject to the bill's excise tax on health benefits sooner rather than later," she said. "The preliminary (ISER) estimate is that roughly 50 percent of health plans in Alaska will be subject to the tax by the year 2016 compared to only 19 percent average in the rest of the Lower 48."

The bill calls for a 40 percent excise tax on high value insurance plans that would be paid for by employers, who could, according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, pass those costs on to employees.

ISER also said the proposed expansion of Medicaid and creation of a federally run government health plan, key elements of the Democrats' bill, would not be a good fit for Alaska. ISER said circumstances are different in Alaska than in many other states because Medicare seniors and the disabled already face severe restrictions in gaining access to primary care doctors and nurses in Alaska.

The Medicaid expansion would create a surge of demand in Alaska that could "send the Medicare beneficiaries to the back of the line due to Medicare's low reimbursement rate," Murkowski said, referencing the ISER analysis.

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