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Alaska Legislature approves subscription health care bill

The Alaska Legislature has passed a bill that will allow health care delivery through subscription in the state.

According to the plan, primary care physicians may charge consumers a monthly fee for their care—much like a gym membership. Patients may be able to get some medical treatments through direct health agreements, which eliminates the need for insurance companies to get involved.


By a vote of 12 to 7, the Senate on Thursday approved the House’s amended version of the measure. This year, the whole Legislature has approved five bills, including this one. It is headed toward Governor Mike Dunleavy. On Thursday, his spokeswoman remained silent about the governor’s intention to sign the law.

Conservative organizations, including the Alaska Policy Forum, have long backed the idea, claiming it might lower the state’s medical costs.


Legislators who were suspicious of the idea of subscription-based health care said that while it might provide more options for those in Alaska who are willing to pay for a subscription on top of their insurance, it would not increase access for those in the state who cannot afford insurance or whose plans only cover a portion of routine care.


A clause in the law requires clinics who provide these kinds of agreements to keep taking Medicare patients and to have at least 20% of their patients either fully uninsured or Medicare-eligible. The intention of the provision is to alleviate a chronic lack of physicians who are ready to treat patients who are covered by public insurance.


A previous version of the law was adopted by the Senate in May with the backing of eighteen senators; however, early this month, House members altered the plan to eliminate some of the Senate’s preferred limits.


In an effort to prevent private equity companies from purchasing the clinics and lowering the quality of treatment, the House eliminated a number of limitations, one of which was the requirement that the clinics offering direct health agreements be owned by Alaska-based physicians. The House also eliminated the need for clinics offering these agreements to make it apparent to their clients that they are not insured, which means that more costly or sophisticated medical treatments will not be paid for or offered.


Sen. Jesse Kiehl, a Democrat from Anchorage, stated,

"Alaskans don't get to know what they're buying isn't insurance," before voting against the measure on Thursday. “If you believe you have something you don’t have, you and your family are left exposed.”


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