With all the attention paid to health insurance in Alaska and across the nation, the issue remains confusing, complex and frustrating for many consumers in the state. What do the new health care reforms mean? How can you find affordable coverage? Before you start your search for medical insurance quotes, there are several factors to consider.
Alaska Health Insurance by the Numbers
These are some facts according to a study released by the University of Alaska-Anchorage:
- 2010 health care spending in Alaska reached an incredible $7.5 billion. That’s close to half the 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 healthcare spending has been rising fast, tripling since 1990 and jumping 40 percent between 2005 and 2010. At current trends, it could double by 2020, reaching more than $14 billion.
- Individual Alaskans pay about 20 percent of those costs; state and federal programs pay around 40 percent; and private and government employers pay another 40 percent.
- Recent estimates indicate that about 18 percent of adults and 9 percent of children are uninsured. Based on 2010 census figures, those percentages equate to about 17,000 children and 94,000 adults.
- A day in an Alaska hospital costs an average of 50 percent more than in the U.S. as a whole, and costs for common procedures are roughly 35 percent higher in Alaska than elsewhere in the country.
What Is Health Insurance?
Health insurance is coverage that can protect you from the full expense of regular health care, as well as the costs of medical and surgical procedures. In exchange for paying a premium, your insurance company will cover the cost of your healthcare and certain types of medical procedures.
Health coverage may be available from your employer, but you also have the option of purchasing your healthcare coverage privately. If you are self-employed or unemployed, you may be able to get group insurance through professional associations or through private health insurance providers.
What Does Health Insurance Cover?
Health insurance can cover a variety of medical treatments and procedures, from regular checkups and family care to major surgery. The coverage will vary with different healthcare providers and plan types, so it is important to determine your needs before you buy a specific health insurance plan.
Under the Affordable Care Act, all medical insurance policies must meet a minimum standard of coverage options including the following:
- Ambulatory care
- Emergency care
- Maternity care
- Mental health
- Substance abuse treatment
- Prescription drugs
- Rehabilitative and facilitative services
- Laboratory services
- Preventive services and chronic disease management
- Children’s dental and vision care
Make sure that you know what your policy covers, what family members are covered and what you will pay for the coverage. Some medical insurance policies like HMOs will only cover procedures performed by certain professionals in a network. A PPO will allow you to choose your provider and then pay based on that provider’s preferred status.
How Does Health Insurance Work in Alaska?
A typical AK health insurance plan requires the policyholder to pay monthly premiums for the coverage it offers, but that is not the only expense you will likely have to pay. Most healthcare plans have limits, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs you will need to pay whenever you seek medical treatment. Those costs can include the following:
Co-payments: A co-payment is the cost you have to pay for medical services such as a doctor's visits and lab work, and for prescription medicine. Co-pays are typically around $25.
Deductibles: A deductible is the amount you have to pay before your insurance begins to cover medical expenses, during the covered year. If you do not meet your deductible within the year, your expenses do not carry over into the next year.
Coinsurance: Some policies may have coinsurance, which requires you to pay a certain percentage of the services rendered. Your coinsurance may be an amount you pay in addition to your co-pay and may apply toward your deductible.
You Are Required To Carry Health Insurance
One stipulation of the Affordable Care Act is the individual mandate that requires all people to carry medical insurance, or pay a fine of $95 per adult in the household or 1 percent of household income, whichever is greater.
Households that make between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level for Alaska may qualify for a federal subsidy or tax credit for medical insurance. The federal subsidy is like a coupon the consumer can use to lower the cost of medical insurance.
What Will Your Health Insurance Quotes Look Like?
The quotes you receive from Alaska health insurance providers will vary depending on a number of factors, including these:
- Whether you need individual or family coverage
- The deductible you choose
- Your age
- Whether your employer pays some of the premium
- Whether you smoke
A typical health insurance plan for a single person in Alaska costs around $300 a month, while family coverage may be closer to $900 per month.
Where To Find Health Insurance in Alaska
You have probably heard about the slow and agonizing process of trying to find a health insurance policy on Alaska's newly minted exchange. The process does not have to be that complex. Knowledgeable, independent insurance agents in the Trusted Choice® network are always available to answer your questions, suggest coverage options and even assist you in filing a claim.
Contact a Trusted Choice member agent near you to find out how you can get the perfect health insurance policy that meets your needs and budget.