Across the country, health care costs are falling. After years of climbing prices, many states are finally reducing the growth in health care costs or have stopped cost growth completely. Unfortunately, because of Gov. Sean Parnell's mismanagement, Alaska health costs are rising sharply and hurting consumers.
While Parnell's office is churning out political press releases and an op-ed from Commissioner Bell that just ran in Alaska Dispatch News, Alaskans will remember that Parnell himself is responsible for these insurance rate hikes.
Months ago we joined many other Alaskans who asked Gov. Parnell to take actions that could reduce health costs. The NAACP joined the Chamber of Commerce, Association of Hospitals and Nursing Homes, Anchorage Faith and Action Communities Together and many other organizations to support expansion of Medicaid. Data from around the country is very clear: Medicaid can help bring down health costs.
Unfortunately, Sean Parnell didn't listen to business leaders or community activists, and rejected federal funding for Medicaid.
Sean Parnell made another critical error when his administration was one of just a few in the country that failed to strengthen its insurance rate review process. According to the expert, non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, Alaska's insurance rate review has the bare minimum standards for insurance oversight.
The Alaska Public Interest Research Group urged Parnell to use federal funds to strengthen our state's rate review program, which would have strengthened insurance accountability and protected consumers from unwarranted price gouging. But Parnell refused to strengthen rate review.
When Parnell approved massive cost increases requested by health insurers, his administration failed to offer any analysis to justify the rate increases. It is unclear if Parnell reviewed the rate increase at all, or whether he simply signed off on it.
Parnell is resorting to shrill, partisan press releases as he attempts to pass the buck and shift blame away from insurance rate increases that he approved.
Alaskans see through these political tricks. Parnell could have held down rates with Medicaid expansion, but he didn't. He could have strengthened insurance rate review, but he didn't. Now that he's signing off on massive rate increases, Alaskans know who is responsible: Gov. Sean Parnell.
Kevin McGee is first vice president and chairman of the political action committee of the NAACP in Anchorage.