• Alaska’s Health-Care Bill: $7.5 Billion and Climbing

      Foster, Mark A.; Goldsmith, Oliver Scott; Leask, Linda E.; Merrill, Clemencia (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2011-08)
      Health-care spending for Alaskans reached about $7.5 billion in 2010. For comparison, that’s close to half the wellhead value of all the oil produced in Alaska that year. It’s also roughly equal to half the wages Alaskans collected in 2010. The state’s health-care spending has been rising fast, tripling since 1990 and jumping 40% just between 2005 and 2010—and at current trends it could double by 2020, reaching more than $14 billion. Here we report on who’s paying the bills, what we’re buying, what’s contributing to the growth, and other aspects of health-care spending. We conclude with a discussion of how Alaska could get better value for its health-care dollars.
    • How Hard Is It for Alaska’s Medicare Patients to Find Family Doctors?

      Frazier, Rosyland; Foster, Mark A. (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2009-03)
      In the past few years, Alaskans have been hearing reports that some primary-care doctors won’t see new Medicare patients. Medicare pays these doctors only about two-thirds of what private insurance pays—and that’s after a sizable increase in 2009. But most Americans 65 or older have to use Medicare as their main insurance, even if they also have private insurance. Just how widespread is the problem of Alaska’s primary-care doctors turning away Medicare patients? ISER surveyed hundreds of doctors to find out—and learned that so far there’s a major problem in Anchorage, a noticeable problem in the Mat-Su Borough and Fairbanks, and almost no problem in other areas.
    • Improving Health Care Access for Older Alaskans: What Are the Options?

      Frazier, Rosyland; Foster, Mark A. (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2010-06)
      This report focuses on the problem older Alaskans who rely on Medicare face getting access to primary care, and discusses some of the options policymakers are considering to resolve the problem. But older Americans across the country also report difficulty getting the primary care they need. The discussion here sheds light on the problem and potential solutions nationwide. Most Americans 65 and older use Medicare as their primary health insurance. Medicare is federal health insurance for people 65 and older, people under 65 with certain disabilities, and people of any age with end-stage renal disease—but this report looks only at access issues for Medicare beneficiaries 65 and older. Doctors don’t have to participate in the Medicare program. But those who do participate have to accept, as full payment, what Medicare pays for specific services. Many primary-care doctors say Medicare doesn’t pay them enough to cover their costs—so growing numbers are declining to see new Medicare patients. Among primary-care doctors nationwide, 61% accept new Medicare patients.1 National surveys sponsored by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission have found that 17% of Medicare patients in the U.S. had “a big problem” finding family doctors in 2007—up from 13% in 2005.2 In Alaska, a 2008 survey by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) found that just over half of Alaska’s primary-care doctors were willing to treat new Medicare patients.3 The situation was worse in Anchorage, where 40% of all older Alaskans live. Only 17% of primary-care doctors in Anchorage were willing to treat new Medicare patients as of 2008 (Figure 1).4
    • Response to Questions: Potential Effects on Alaska of Proposed Health-Care Reform Legislation

      Foster, Mark A.; Frazier, Rosyland (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2010-01)
      Mark Foster of Mark A. Foster and Associates (MAFA) is a consultant to ISER, and Rosyland Frazier is an ISER research associate. Both the authors have broad experience studying health-care issues in Alaska, and they have recently been looking at the problems Alaska’s Medicare patients face in getting primary-care doctors to see them. They prepared this note to respond quickly to questions from and discussions with the Office of the Governor in Washington, D.C. and Alaska’s Congressional delegation. Those questions and discussions were about the possible implications for Alaska’s Medicare patients of provisions in health-care reform legislation the U.S. Congress is considering, as well as about the broader potential effects on Alaska of the proposed legislation. This is by no means a full analysis of the many complex issues associated with health-care reform. A working paper by the same authors—examining the Medicare-access problem and related health-policy issues in more detail—will be available soon. The findings and conclusions of this note are those of the authors. If you have questions, get in touch will Rosyland Frazier at: anrrf@uaa.alaska.edu