Opinion: We need to repeal this regulation to stop rising health care costs

  • By Jim Grazko
  • Thursday, February 16, 2023 2:30am
  • Opinion

Our state has reached a critical junction in our fight against rising health care costs.

The Alaska Division of Insurance is holding hearings to consider abolishing Alaska’s 80th percentile regulation. This regulation was enacted in 2004 to protect patients from surprise billing, which occurs when medical providers bill a patient for the difference between the amount they charge and the amount that the patient’s insurance pays.

Why is this important? Alaska has the highest health care costs in the country. We need every tool in our arsenal to decrease health care spending. The federal No Surprises Act, which was passed in 2020, means that the 80th percentile regulation is no longer needed. The federal No Surprises Act shields patients from surprise billing.

The 80th percentile regulation drives up health care costs. A 2018 report from the University of Alaska Anchorage showed the 80th percentile regulation accounts for “between 8.61% and 24.65% of the increases in expenditures the state has experienced over the last decade. These results are statistically significant and robust.”

Health Affairs, a leading health policy journal, found in a 2022 study that U.S. health care spending was highest in Alaska, where per-person spending was $14,500. Out-of-pocket spending represented 42% of the health care dollars spent in the state, which means more than $4 of every $10 spent on healthcare in Alaska came from out-of-pocket expenditures.

Simply put, we need to repeal this regulation so we can stop the rise in health care costs. Join me in making your voice heard: https://aws.state.ak.us/OnlinePublicNotices/Notices/View.aspx?id=209678&mkt_tok=ODU3LVlHUi02NTkAAAGJ0eZxjaIxnMsbXxZVLfTzmMH9TNREvLSg0rc9aiYFtEVSWfyIhHQaFoG7XzK0AaVEMtjKii3erFkNp0CTlEU.

• Jim Grazko is president of Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska. He resides in Anchorage. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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