ALASKAN FLAVOR – Young dancers Eloise Branch, Ella Haley Colliver, Maddox Dozier, Molly Hames, Maddy McDevitt, Aurora Phillips and Annie White emerge from the skirt of Mother Ginger, played by Jill Kisaka, during a rehearsal for “The Nutcracker” Wednesday. The Alaska-themed ballet opens 7 p.m. tonight at the Performing Arts Center. Tickets are on sale at and at the door. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Inflation, Zoning, STRs Cited for Housing Crisis
01 Dec 2023 15:26

By GARLAND KENNEDY Sentinel Staff Writer High construction costs, restrictive zoning, and short-te [ ... ]

Tourism Task Force Seeks More Input
01 Dec 2023 15:24

By SHANNON HAUGLAND Sentinel Staff Writer The Tourism Task Force hopes its second open house set f [ ... ]

Volunteers Working On Bus Permit Plan
01 Dec 2023 15:22

By SHANNON HAUGLAND Sentinel Staff Writer Assembly member Thor Christianson says he is working on  [ ... ]

Missionary, Scholar Archpriest Oleksa Dies
01 Dec 2023 15:20

By Sitka Sentinel Staff The well-known Russian Orthodox missionary and scholar, Archpriest Michael  [ ... ]

Inuit Seek Bigger Role in National Climate Action
01 Dec 2023 15:15

By YERETH ROSEN Alaska Beacon The Inuit people of the Arctic, facing some of the most dramatic eff [ ... ]

December 1, 2023, Police Blotter
01 Dec 2023 14:11

Police Blotter Sitka police received the following calls by 8 a.m. today: November 30 At 5:37 a.m [ ... ]

December 1, 2023, Community Happenings
01 Dec 2023 14:06

Climate Change: Indoor Air Quality Most climate air quality concerns are for wildfire smoke and out [ ... ]

Schools Get Warning About Gender Issues
30 Nov 2023 15:21

By SHANNON HAUGLAND Sentinel Staff Writer Sitka School Superintendent Steve Bradshaw has received  [ ... ]

Flow Better, but Spring Loses Artesian Status
30 Nov 2023 15:19

By GARLAND KENNEDY Sentinel Staff Writer Following six weeks of repair and restoration work, water [ ... ]

November 30, 2023, Community Happenings
30 Nov 2023 12:24

Frederick Mork Dies at Age 68 Frederick Martin Mork died November 27 at his home in Sitka. He was  [ ... ]

November 30, 2023, Police Blotter
30 Nov 2023 12:12

Police Blotter Sitka police received the following calls by 8 a.m. today: November 29 At 2 a.m. a [ ... ]

Assembly Postpones Vote on Airport Lease
29 Nov 2023 15:04

By SHANNON HAUGLAND Sentinel Staff Writer Assembly members expressed support for renewal of the ci [ ... ]

Nutcracker Back with Special Sitka Touches
29 Nov 2023 14:30

By GARLAND KENNEDY Sentinel Staff Writer Featuring iconic holiday music and ballet routines, a mul [ ... ]

Deadly Wrangell Landslide Part of a Pattern
29 Nov 2023 14:27

By YERETH ROSEN Alaska Beacon As the Southeast Alaska community of Wrangell mourns and continues t [ ... ]

November 29, 2023, Police Blotter
29 Nov 2023 14:20

Police Blotter Sitka police received the following calls by 8 a.m. today: November 28 At 12:30 a. [ ... ]

November 29, 2023, Community Happenings
29 Nov 2023 14:12

‘Light-Up Lincoln’trong>Event, Party Dec. 2 The third annual Light-Up Lincoln Street will be held a [ ... ]

Airport Lease Dilemma on Assembly Table
28 Nov 2023 15:21

By SHANNON HAUGLAND Sentinel Staff Writer Does the city want to enter into a new lease agreement w [ ... ]

Sea Walk Phase II Needs More Funds
28 Nov 2023 15:18

By SHANNON HAUGLAND Sentinel Staff Writer Inflationary pressure is raising costs of Phase II of th [ ... ]

Conservationists Back New SE Native Corps.
28 Nov 2023 15:17

By JOAQLIN ESTUS Alaska Beacon The conservation group the Wilderness Society has changed its posit [ ... ]

November 28, 2023, Police Blotter
28 Nov 2023 13:14

Police Blotter Sitka police received the following calls by 8 a.m. today: November  27 At 1:38 a [ ... ]

November 28, 2023, Community Happenings
28 Nov 2023 13:11

Moose to Host Holiday Party Sitka Moose Lodge and Women of the Moose will hold the children’s ho [ ... ]

Airport Terminal on Assembly Agenda
27 Nov 2023 15:02

By SHANNON HAUGLAND Sentinel Staff Writer Possible scenarios for the 2024 renewal of the city’s  [ ... ]

DDF Teams from Sitka, Edgecumbe Score Wins
27 Nov 2023 15:00

By SHANNON HAUGLAND Sentinel Staff Writer Sitka and Mt. Edgecumbe high schools logged a number of  [ ... ]

Weekend City League Games
27 Nov 2023 14:51

By Sentinel Staff In city league basketball games last week, AKO overcame Schmolck Mechanical 59-53 [ ... ]

Other Articles

Daily Sitka Sentinel

Alaska Sounding Alarm On Medicaid Coverage


Alaska Beacon

When Brandy Barnes got the first notice that she might be dropped from Medicaid, she was worried. One of her teenage sons is autistic and needs significant care to lead a full life.

“My main concern is that my son is disabled,” she said. “He has therapies, medications, doctor appointments that cannot be dropped. I started asking around, and apparently this was happening to everyone.”

She said everything from his education to his bus pass are dependent on his Medicaid status. Barnes was proactive during the pandemic and updated her paperwork with the state. But this summer she got a letter that said she had a new case manager and that her paperwork was missing.

Barnes is trying not to join the thousands of Alaskans who were dropped from Medicaid because of paperwork problems. Only a third of Alaskans are staying covered as the Department of Health works through post-pandemic Medicaid renewals.

Part of the reason is that lots of people have issues with their paperwork. Over the last two months, 13,000 Alaskans have lost coverage for paperwork problems — enough that officials say they are sounding the alarm and the federal government has asked the state to pause dropping people for paperwork reasons because too many children may be losing coverage. Nearly 40% of the Medicaid recipients in Alaska are children.

A pause in disenrollments

The high number of people who are losing coverage for paperwork reasons has state and federal officials concerned. It is called “procedural disenrollment” and the number of them jumped substantially from June to August. Faulty or missing paperwork is the reason 40% of Alaskans lost Medicaid coverage for the months of August and September.

Deb Etheridge, the director of the Division of Public Assistance, said the Health Department is increasing its outreach as a result.

“When we saw the high procedural disenrollment, we really kind of just reiterated sounding the alarm,” she said.

As a result of the number of people losing Medicaid for paperwork reasons, states got a letter from the federal government asking them to pause certain disenrollments until they could make sure eligible children are not losing care.

Etheridge said the division is seeking an in-depth analysis of who is getting dropped for paperwork reasons — if it is children, adults, or people who no longer use Medicaid.

“I’m concerned,” she said. “I want all providers and all individuals to have access to health care and Medicaid if they’re otherwise eligible.”

Procedural disenrollments are a tough metric for the state to improve, since the division is dependent on individual Alaskans to keep their information up to date, Etheridge said.

“That’s kind of been the hardest part of the game. We’re still calling people and asking them to return their forms,” she said.

Etheridge said it’s important that people give the state their correct address and open and then respond to their mail, so that the state can keep them enrolled in the program if they qualify.

Official paperwork is complicated

The process is difficult for the state to navigate, but also for individuals like Barnes. After she got the notice that said she may lose care, she tried to contact the new case manager. After weeks of attempts, she said she got another notice that her son may lose coverage. She went to a Division of Public Assistance office and worked with an employee to get all her paperwork filed. They were unable to contact her case manager.

Then she got another letter. It said the state hadn’t received her paperwork and her son would lose coverage — his daily help navigating the community, his medication, his weekly therapy. An advocate helped her turn the paperwork in again. She was notified that her case worker no longer worked for the state. Then she got a ton of backdated paperwork in the mail. All of it was weeks out of date — some of it was up to a year out of date.

One letter was a notification that she had a new case worker — the one who had already left, she said. Another said if her paperwork didn’t come in she would be denied Medicaid. Another said she was missing part of her paperwork and would be denied coverage.

The letters said her coverage would end after the end of July. She’s filled her medications and her son is going to therapy. She said she’s waiting to see if she gets a Medicaid card in the mail — or a bunch of bills. She is still waiting for a new caseworker.

“This is common amongst different people that I talked to that have disabled children,” she said. “In the autistic community, I know quite a few parents and they’re all struggling with similar issues.”

State fixes

Division Director Etheridge said the state is keeping up with paperwork, but there can be confusion if people are too proactive and send in paperwork before the state asks for it. Alaskans can update their contact information with the state at any time, however. And as far as case workers go, she said there are currently a couple of vacancies.

The Health Department is taking significant steps to reduce the number of people who fall off the Medicaid rolls because they have not updated their paperwork.

Etheridge said the division has plans to change the appearance of the envelopes it uses for notices, so that Alaskans won’t mistake the state’s communication for junk mail. She said the Health Department is reaching out to health care providers to ask them to remind patients about the renewals and the need to update their information to avoid getting dropped for paperwork reasons. In state airports, the Health Department has televised reminders for Alaskans to update their information to stay enrolled in health care.

Etheridge said that if someone’s Medicaid benefits are stopped in error, the state can reissue them retroactively for up to 180 days.

Barnes said she feels lucky. She said even though the state notices say her son may lose Medicaid, she hasn’t yet gotten bills for his care — even though she hasn’t gotten a Medicaid card either.


Login Form




At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






October 2003

Sitka’s new city engineer, Dan Jones, 51, says his nearly 30 years in the field has given him qualifications for all aspects of his new post. ... He replaces Milt Ludington, who has moved to a different position in the city public works department.



October 1973

One of the most active organizations around town this fall has been the Sitka High Drill Team, the Wolverettes. A spaghetti feed Saturday is the latest project.


Local Events


Daily Sitka Sentinel on Instagram!


Daily Sitka Sentinel on Facebook!