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Two Years Later: The Benefits of the Affordable Care Act for Alaska

As  you may know, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010.  Two years later, the health reform law has continued to provide thousands of Alaska residents with insurance protections, preventive benefits and resources to improve care.  For more information on the benefits of the law in your state, please see below.

For too long, too many hardworking Americans paid the price for policies that handed free rein to insurance companies and put barriers between patients and their doctors. The Affordable Care Act gives hardworking families in Alaska the security they deserve. The new health care law forces insurance companies to play by the rules, prohibiting them from dropping your coverage if you get sick, billing you into bankruptcy because of an annual or lifetime limit, or, soon, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition. 

All Americans will have the security of knowing that they don’t have to worry about losing coverage if they’re laid off or change jobs.  And insurance companies now have to cover your preventive care like mammograms and other cancer screenings.  The new law also makes a significant investment in State and community-based efforts that promote public health, prevent disease and protect against public health emergencies. 

Health reform is already making a difference for the people of Alaska by:

Providing new coverage options for young adults

Health plans are now required to allow parents to keep their children under age 26 without job-based coverage on their family’s coverage, and, thanks to this provision, 2.5 million young people have gained coverage nationwide. As of June 2011, 7,836 young adults in Alaska gained insurance coverage as a result of the new health care law.

Making prescription drugs affordable for seniors

Thanks to the new health care law, 2,329 people with Medicare in Alaska received a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of their prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole in 2010. In 2011, 2,277 people with Medicare received a 50 percent discount on their covered brand-name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole. This discount resulted in an average savings of $702 per person, and a total savings of $1,598,748 in Alaska. By 2020, the law will close the donut hole.

Covering preventive services with no deductible or co-pay

In 2011, 38,665 people with Medicare in Alaska received free preventive services – such as mammograms and colonoscopies – or a free annual wellness visit with their doctor. And 54 million Americans with private health insurance gained preventive service coverage with no cost-sharing, including 121,000 in Alaska.

Providing better value for your premium dollar through the 80/20 Rule

Under the new health care law, insurance companies must provide consumers greater value by spending generally at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care and quality improvements instead of overhead, executive salaries or marketing. If they don’t, they must provide consumers a rebate or reduce premiums. This means that 170,000 Alaska residents with private insurance coverage will receive greater value for their premium dollars.

Removing lifetime limits on health benefits

The law bans insurance companies from imposing lifetime dollar limits on health benefits – freeing cancer patients and individuals suffering from other chronic diseases from having to worry about going without treatment because of their lifetime limits. Already, 237,000 residents, including 86,000 women and 64,000 children, are free from worrying about lifetime limits on coverage. The law also restricts the use of annual limits and bans them completely in 2014.

Creating new coverage options for individuals with pre-existing conditions

As of the end of 2011, 44 previously uninsured residents of Alaska who were locked out of the coverage system because of a pre-existing condition are now insured through a new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan that was created under the new health reform law. To learn more about the plan available in Alaska, check here.

Preventing illness and promoting health

Since 2010, Alaska has received $6.6 million in grants from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act. This new fund was created to support effective policies in Alaska, its communities, and nationwide so that all Americans can lead longer, more productive lives.

Increasing support for community health centers

The Affordable Care Act increases the funding available to community health centers in all 50 states, including the 169 existing community health centers in Alaska. Health centers in Alaska have received $28.2 million to create new health center sites in medically underserved areas, enable health centers to increase the number of patients served, expand preventive and primary health care services, and support major construction and renovation projects. 

Strengthening partnerships with Alaska

The law gives states support for their work to build the health care workforce, crack down on fraud, and support public health.  So far, Alaska has received more than $43.7 million from the Affordable Care Act. Examples of Affordable Care Act grants not outlined above to Alaska include:

·         $2.9 million for health professions workforce demonstration projects, which will help low income individuals receive training and enter health care professions that face shortages.

·         $1.5 million to help Alaska reduce health care fraud by identifying efficient and effective procedures for long-term care facilities to conduct background checks on prospective employees, thereby protecting its residents.

·         $233,000 for school-based health centers, to help clinics expand and provide more health care services such as screenings to students.

·         $60,000 to support outreach to eligible Medicare beneficiaries about their benefits.

·         $191,000 for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers, organizations run by and for families with children with special health care needs.

·         $4.1 million for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs. These programs bring health professionals to meet with at-risk families in their homes and connect families to the kinds of help that can make a real difference in a child’s health, development, and ability to learn - such as health care, early education, parenting skills, child abuse prevention, and nutrition.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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