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Governor Signs Bill to Provide Better Medical Care for Alaska Natives

Senate Bill 88 could also save the State approximately $8.8 million in Medicaid funds

ANCHORAGE-Today, Governor Sean Parnell signed legislation which will provide better care for thousands of Alaska Natives while saving the state millions of dollars.  Senate Bill 88, sponsored by the Senate Finance Committee, authorizes the Department of Administration to enter into a lease purchase agreement with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) to build a residential housing facility on the Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) in Anchorage. 

Senate Bill 88 addresses the critical need for patient housing by authorizing $35 million in State Revenue bonds to build a 170-bed residential housing facility with sky bridge access to ANMC.    The project grew out of an effort started two years ago when ANTHC and the Department of Health and Social Services began identifying ways in which working together could result in Medicaid cost savings for the State.  One method they identified was making sure Alaska Natives have better access to tribal facilities, which are fully federally funded. 

"Over half of the people who receive services at the Alaska Native Medical Center travel from outside of Anchorage to access health services,” said Valerie Davidson, ANTHC Senior Director of Legal & Intergovernmental Affairs.  “Patient housing is critical to ensuring meaningful access to care at ANMC for pregnant moms, for those who are receiving cancer treatment, and for other people who must receive care far away from their home communities."

The savings would be achieved because more patients would be able to go ANMC, instead going to Alaska Regional Hospital or Providence Medical Center.   While both hospitals are excellent facilities, they aren’t eligible for the 100-percent federal funding that ANMC is.  Therefore, the State has to pick up 50-percent of the Medicaid tab, which is currently costing millions every year.   Building the residential facility along with ANMC’s plans to increase services in several key areas will result in a 30-percent increase of Alaska Native services that would be able to receive care at ANMC.

"Runaway medical costs are the biggest driver in the growth of the government.  If we don't get a handle on them - we don't get a handle on growth,” said Senate Finance Co-Chair Pete Kelly.  “But the savings is only a small part of this.  The human element goes far beyond whatever savings could ever be achieved.  We are going to truly improve the lives of thousands of Alaska Natives and their families.  That to me is priceless."

For example, in FY2012, the State paid Providence and Alaska Regional almost $30 million to receive care that could’ve been provided at ANMC.   In addition to actual medical costs, Medicaid also picks up other costs associated with travel including: hotels, food, taxi rides, and plane travel.   The new facility will help reduce those costs as well.

“One of the most critical components of medical recovery is a strong support system including strong cultural values,” said Senator Kevin Meyer.  “This bill creates more of a community atmosphere by keeping families together during this critical period.  It also brings cultural values into the recovery process because it allows Native foods to be served and offers other programs that provide strong ties to home.”

For more information, please call Heather Shadduck in Senator Kelly’s office at 907-465-3709.

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