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Administration Recognizes Value of Begich Copper Plan, Announces Alaska Study on Benefits



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“Copper Plan Can Reduce Costs for Working Alaskans”

After leading the charge to fix the health care law and make it work better for Alaskans, Administration officials today recognized the value of yet another of U.S. Senator Mark Begich's common sense fixes by announcing they will conduct a formal study on the benefits of Begich's "Copper Plan" proposal. A recent study from the Council for Affordable Health Coverage said that Begich's bill could reduce premiums by 18 percent, attract more individuals to the marketplace, and save taxpayers billions of dollars.

“It is no secret that I have been frustrated with Administration officials throughout this process, but I am glad that they are finally coming around and recognizing that my common sense Copper Plan will not only increase consumer choice while controlling costs but also create additional stability in smaller markets like Alaska," said Begich. “The skeptics didn't want to believe that the law could be fixed to work for small businesses and families, but I have never let the naysayers stand between me and delivering results. Given the recent announcement from Governor Parnell's Division of Insurance and his ongoing refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion, my copper plan is more important than ever before for Alaska families. "

Begich has been a relentless advocate for fixing parts of the health care law by increasing consumer choice and controlling health care costs. This includes Begich’s "Copper Plan" which will help Alaskans gain access to affordable, quality care. In addition to introducing legislation and encouraging the Administration to take action, Begich wrote a letter just last week to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell calling for a study to analyze the benefits of a “Copper Plan” to the insurance market. In a letter to Begich today, Burwell announced HHS would in fact conduct a formal study.

The Sept. 6 letter from Begich to Burwell says, in part: “While this is a common-sense plan that I believe should be available immediately, policymakers have been dragging their feet to make it a reality and I would appreciate your assistance in moving it forward.” A copy of the full letter is attached.

What others are saying about the Copper Plan:

Premera, a leading health plan provider in Alaska, recently said that “action is necessary” to establish balance in the individual market and voiced support for Begich’s “Copper Plan” stating in a September 5 press release:

“We also support proposals at the federal level that would provide insurers with greater flexibility to design options for consumers, such as ‘copper plans’ that would potentially give consumers a more affordable option.”

A recent study released by Avalere Health shows that the “Copper Plan” health insurance option proposed by Begich would lower premiums by nearly 18 percent, reduce taxes and deficits, cut spending, and save American taxpayers up to $5.8 billion. The Copper Plan would also help small businesses retain their current plans and creates more choice for Americans.  A copy of the study can be found here

“The nation's self-employed and micro-businesses face many challenges in accessing affordable health coverage, often confronting barriers not faced by larger employers.  We are pleased Senator Begich introduced this bill to create a more affordable option for those unique small entrepreneurs who seek to start, save and grow their small businesses,” said Katie Vlietstra of the National Association for the Self Employed.

“Even with subsidies, individuals and families still struggle to afford coverage. This bill would lower premiums by 18 percent compared to the lowest level bronze plans currently offered in the exchanges.  That would offer welcome relief for hard working Americans and would increase the likelihood of small retailers retaining the health insurance coverage currently provided to their employees,” said Neil Trautwein of the National Retail Federation.

Background:

Alaska has not taken advantage of opportunities to invest additional resources into its rate review program and is one of only 10 states to not receive rate review funding. The Affordable Care Act makes available $250 million in grants to States to strengthen their rate review programs and bolster State authorities. Governor Parnell’s Administration has not accepted or applied for any grants for their rate review program.

Specifically, the State of Alaska did not accept federal dollars to create its own state health care exchange, which would have provided funding for outreach and education -- missing an opportunity to bolster enrollment and provide more Alaskans with affordable health care.

Also, the State has refused to expand Medicaid to Alaska’s most vulnerable families, which could help control costs. For example, the state of Arkansas is now seeing lower premiums, in part due to the bigger risk pool created by the private Medicaid option. Premiums are falling two percent next year. (Source: Arkansas Times 8/26/2014)

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