Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Palin's health care initiative for Alaska

While CNN, HuffPo, MSNBC and the other major news outlets are still talking about the cost of Palin’s wardrobe, hair and makeup, the Anchorage Daily News is reporting and discussing what news publications should – the issues.

The Anchorage Daily News has an editorial of Palin’s healthcare initiative for the state. I’m blown away at how thoroughly and openly they discuss her proposal and the pros and cons, mostly the pros, of it.

I'm usually not for increased government spending, but this is an area in which Palin knows her state and what's best for it.

Maybe this is a reflection of her 80% approval rating in Alaska. The fact that a major local newspaper (that probably leans to the left as most newspapers do) is legitimately discussing her proposal is astounding.

Our view: Palin backs important health initiatives, focusing on kids
Forward thinking

Published: December 7th, 2008 10:23 PM
Last Modified: December 7th, 2008 12:21 AM

Gov. Sarah Palin has proposed some excellent health care initiatives that will make a big difference to affected families in the coming year.

Most importantly, Palin announced she is backing an expansion of Denali KidCare, the government-funded health insurance for children and pregnant women in working families.

Palin's support, along with a sympathetic new administration in Washington, D.C., should convince reluctant legislators that it's time for Alaska to cover more uninsured children.

The governor wants to extend the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to families earning up to twice the federal poverty level -- $44,000 for a family of three.

Now coverage is limited to those earning a maximum of 175 percent of the poverty level, or $38,500 for a family of three -- an income that doesn't leave room for buying non-essentials like health insurance.

Expanding the program will make about 1,300 more children and 225 more pregnant women eligible for coverage, the governor's office said.

In the 2008 legislative session, the Senate voted to raise the coverage to those earning twice the poverty level, but the House did not, and the governor sat out the debate. A year was lost.

Some legislators during the last session worried that the federal government, which pays 70 percent of the costs, might not reauthorize the children's health program. With Obama in office, that worry fades.

The expansion Palin proposes will cost the state less than $1 million a year -- affordable in a state as wealthy as ours, even with a drop in oil revenues. When the program was first started, under Gov. Tony Knowles in the 1990s, oil was selling for under $10 a barrel.

Many states offer government insurance to children in families earning 2.5 times the poverty rate or more.

Palin said she's going for a smaller increase because that's what she thinks the Legislature will support.

It's a start.

The governor also proposed several other good health initiatives: Dedicating $250,000 to earlier diagnosis of autism; establishing a state health commission to work on improving health care for Alaskans; and continued investment in anti-tobacco and anti-obesity programs. Those efforts would include a new state Web site to promote healthy lifestyles.

The health commission, which she said would get going early next year, should focus on improvements that would make the most difference in Alaskans' health:

• A plan for universal insurance coverage, perhaps like the bill Sen. Hollis French has proposed. Too many people see doctors only in an emergency, when problems are worse, and more expensive to treat.

• Dealing with the shortage of primary health care providers in Alaska. That could mean encouraging doctors to hand over more routine patient services to nurses, case managers or pharmacists; it could mean state benefits like loan forgiveness that will entice more primary care health workers to Alaska.

• A way to hold down the steadily escalating costs of medical care.

Quite a challenge.

With proposals announced this week, the governor has helped get the
conversation started.

BOTTOM LINE: Gov. Palin has some good ideas for modest improvements in Alaska's health care system.

1 comment:

Northern Exposer said...

You just keep on hitting home runs don't cha? You betcha!

By the way, I thank you for your comments on my last post about the Canadian situation. But trust me, don't get too excited, Canadian politics are usually quite the bore unless it's election time or there's a scandal. But, a healthy interest is pretty cool. Nothing wrong in being politically rounded.