Analyst says health care overhaul would harm some Alaskans

The Anchorage Daily NewsDecember 11, 2009 

The health care reform bills before Congress that would extend insurance coverage to tens of thousands of Alaskans who are uninsured wouldn't necessarily be good for all Alaskans, according to an economic consultant who is tracking the health bills for the University of Alaska.

The bill passed by the U.S. House Nov. 7 could make it harder especially for older Alaskans on Medicare to get in to see doctors -- and it could hurt Alaska's economy if Alaskans have to pay more taxes for medical care but get less back, says Mark Foster, a contract consultant for the Institute for Social and Economic Research, an arm of the University of Alaska Anchorage.

He analyzed the House bill, and has some observations about the Senate bill that's center stage now, but can't tell yet how the Senate version would affect most Alaskans.

Assuming the Senate passes a bill, a conference committee would attempt to craft a compromise between the House and Senate bills.

Foster's report, and a Congressional Budget Office report on the effects of the bill proposed in the Senate, give a sense of who might benefit, and who could be hurt.

Foster believes Alaskans who use Medicare, the federal insurance for senior citizens, will be harmed if the House bill prevails. Many seniors already can't find primary-care doctors who will accept Medicare because it pays doctors below Alaska market rates, and even below the rates paid by the joint federal-state Medicaid insurance available to low-income people.

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