How is Medicaid used in Alaska? Test your knowledge

SPONSORED: If you think you know what Medicaid looks like in Alaska, it might be time to think again. Learn more about the program’s impact, then put your knowledge to the test with an online quiz.

SPONSORED: Nearly 30 percent of Alaska residents are covered by Medicaid, the state and federal health care program that provides access to health care for vulnerable people. But how much do you really know about this program that is used by nearly 1 in 3 of your friends, neighbors, and co-workers?

Check out these facts about Medicaid, including Alaska data provided by Providence Alaska -- then take their Medicaid quiz to test your knowledge.

Many Medicaid recipients work full-time.

Among Alaska adults receiving Medicaid benefits, 60 percent are working people. In many cases, Medicaid is a temporary helping hand to fill a short-term coverage gap. In others, it provides affordable coverage for people who don’t have insurance through their employers or don’t earn enough to afford private insurance.

ZamZam Landau is one of the more than 211,000 Alaskans who receive health coverage through Medicaid. After getting divorced, Landau wasn’t sure how she would provide for her four children and her mother. She was working as a personal care assistant, but the job didn’t pay enough to make ends meet, and it didn’t offer medical coverage. Then a friend pointed her toward Medicaid.

“I worry about rent and insurance. Those are the two important things in my life, my daily worries,” said Landau, who was temporarily homeless after her divorce. “A single parent cannot survive off one paycheck to take care of four kids and a disabled mom.”

Recently, Landau went back to school to earn her GED and study to become a certified nursing assistant -- something she says she wouldn’t be able to do if she needed to work two jobs in order to afford health insurance.

“When I wake up in the morning, I have one less thing to worry about,” she said.

Nearly half of all Alaska births are covered by Medicaid.

The average cost of giving birth in Alaska is $10,000 to $14,000, so it’s not surprising that even working families may struggle with the bill, especially if they are on a high-deductible plan or encounter additional complications.

Medicaid use is even more prevalent among families whose babies are born early or with immediate health needs. In the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at The Children’s Hospital at Providence, 57 percent of patients rely on Medicaid to cover some or all of the cost of life-saving care.

Speaking of children...

One out of every three Alaska children is covered by Medicaid via Denali KidCare. Among kids who experience special medical needs, the coverage rate climbs to 46 percent. Many of these young patients have working parents who aren’t able to afford other insurance or who need assistance with medical costs.

Before getting Medicaid coverage, Landau said, her children had never seen a dentist. Flu symptoms were fixed with soup and rest, not trips to the doctor. Now that she knows medical care is available -- like when her daughter cut her forehead and needed stitches -- Landau said she feels more comfortable just letting them be kids, with all the minor illnesses and injuries that come hand-in-hand with childhood.

“I'm not going to put them inside a bubble so they don't get sick, get injuries, fall in the park and break a leg,” she said. “I let them explore. I let them learn. I let them be exposed to things and play with other kids.”

Military veterans benefit from Medicaid.

Nearly one in 10 veterans nationwide has Medicaid coverage, including in Alaska, where we have the country’s highest population of veterans per capita. Veterans represent 12 percent of the country’s homeless population, and those vets in particular are likely to have “significant health needs,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Medicaid impacts long-term health.

Adults with Medicaid are four times as likely as adults with no coverage to seek preventive care such as annual checkups, according to a report from health care industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans. Among children, Medicaid recipients are two to three times as likely to receive preventive care.

Why does it matter?

“The right preventive care at every stage of life helps all Americans stay healthy, avoid or delay the onset of disease, keep diseases they already have from becoming worse or debilitating, lead productive lives, and reduce costs,” the Centers for Disease Control reports.

Among the 60 percent of Alaska Medicaid recipients who are working adults, their access to preventive care may have benefits for their employers as well. Health and productivity research group the Integrated Benefits Institute estimates that lost productivity due to illness costs U.S. employers about $530 billion annually.

For Landau’s mother, preventive care revealed that a chronic cough was actually a lung infection. After years of quelling symptoms with cough syrup, Landau said she recently realized she hadn’t heard her mother cough in months.

“I am very thankful my mom’s able to get the right treatments,” she said.

Medicaid supports Alaska jobs.

When Alaska expanded its Medicaid program in 2015, the economic impact went beyond job creation in the health care field to have ripple effects in industries such as air transportation and real estate, according to a Halcyon Consulting report. The report estimates that rolling back Medicaid expansion in Alaska could result in the state losing nearly 3,700 jobs in health care and other fields -- a total of $267 million in lost wages and a $556 million overall decrease in economic output.

Ready to test your knowledge?

Click here to take Providence Alaska’s Medicaid quiz and see if you can separate myth from reality. Can you score a perfect 10 -- and ace the bonus question?

Providence Health & Services Alaska is part of Providence St. Joseph Health, a not-for-profit network of hospitals, care centers, health plans, physicians, clinics, home health services, affiliated services and educational facilities. Providence is the state’s leading health care provider, serving Alaskans in Anchorage, Eagle River, Kodiak, Mat-Su, Seward, and Valdez.

This article was produced by the Marketing Services department of Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with Providence Health & Services Alaska. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.