RIGGING IN THE RAIN – Spencer Severson works on trolling gear this afternoon aboard his sailboat, the F/V Dryas, in ANB Harbor. The Sitka Sound commercial spring troll season opened June 16. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today that the Sitka Sound fishery has been extended and will now close at 11:59 p.m. June 21. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

What's In It For Sitka

Since the Affordable Health Care Act went into effect in 2010 Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski has taken every opportunity to say how terrible it is and how she wants it to be repealed.

She now has the chance to see her wish fulfilled.

Sen. Dan Sullivan and the third member of Alaska’s delegation in Washington, Rep. Don Young, are on board with her.

From time to time they will come up with an anecdote about someone in Alaska having difficulty getting affordable coverage. They worry about that and, as in no other issue affecting Alaska, they worry about the effect on the U.S. Treasury.

But the facts are that the Affordable Care Act has made health insurance available to thousands of Alaskans for the first time. Also for the first time, it gave protection to all Americans, ending the “pre-existing condition” exception for coverage and removing lifetime limits on benefits, as but two examples.

Without enumerating the many benefits the ACA provides to us as individuals, whether our coverage is from the exchanges or from private, employer or government plans, we wish to point out an area of financial benefit that the ACA provides to our entire community of Sitka.

For that we turn to Rob Allen, chief executive officer of Sitka Community. With his permission we print the following letter, dated Jan. 5, which he sent to Sen, Murkowski, and separately to Sen. Sullivan and Rep. Young,

Dear Senator Murkowski,

I am writing to urge you to vote against repeal of the Affordable Care Act unless and until there

is a viable alternative that would ensure affordable medical care for all Alaskans.

I know that your Republican colleagues in Congress have declared the Affordable Care Act a

failure. I am not sure why. As the CEO of Sitka Community Hospital, I can report that the

Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid have had a direct positive effect on your

constituents here in Sitka. We are your typical struggling rural critical access hospital, and I

truly believe we would have had to close if not for the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid

expansion. It has helped the citizens of our small town access healthcare, and has improved

our finances as a community hospital.

Following is a table showing the charity care that Sitka Community Hospital has provided over

the past several years. You can easily see the trend downward as the Affordable Care Act took

effect. You can also observe the dramatic improvement last year, when Governor Walker

expanded Medicaid. As part of that process we were allowed to preemptively enroll apparently

eligible patients for Medicaid. We have signed up more than 35 people to date. We also have

numerous patients that used to receive charity care, but now have Medicaid. It has made an

incredible difference to our finances and to the health of Sitkans.

Charity Care at Sitka Community Hospital

2012 $851,000

2013 $664,000

2014 $360,000

2015 $434,000

2016 $ 59,280

For the first six months of fiscal year 2017, which began last June, we have accrued less than

$15,000 for charity care. In our analysis, the reductions in charity care and bad debt are solely

due to the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion. The savings have helped stabilize

our finances, and have allowed us to invest in better services for our patients. I’m not sure how

the increase in the number of your constituents receiving health care can be characterized as a

failure.

I voted for you in the 2016 primary and general elections because I truly believe that you have

the best interests of Alaskans at heart. While repealing the Affordable Care Act is part of the

Republican Party platform, it would be bad for your constituents. There are times when it is

important to put politics aside and do the right thing. This is one of those times. I urge you to

not join your Republican colleagues in repealing or gutting the Affordable Care Act unless and

until you have a viable and feasible plan to ensure the availability and affordability of health

care services, and the stability of our health care system in Sitka, in Alaska, and for the nation as

a whole.

Please do not vote for bills or budgets that will compromise the access to healthcare of so many

Americans. It will be far better for Sitka Community Hospital and your constituents for you to

work towards improving the health care system we have and making it work for more people.

Please contact me if you would like more information on the impact of the Affordable Care Act

on your constituents in Sitka.

Sincerely,

Rob Allen

 

CEO, Sitka Community Hospital

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