State Considers Offering Employees More Out-of-State Medical Incentives
Critics say proposal could hurt local economies
ANCHORAGE - A new idea to help cut down on health care costs for state employees would encourage them to get their medical treatment outside the state.
Right now the state will pick up the tab for airfare if a surgery is cheaper outside. A new proposal would allow the state to include hotel and car rental costs, even a companion to go along if it is considered necessary for the patience to have assistance.
The state Administration Commissioner, Becky Hultberg, says even with those allowances the bill is likely to be cheaper in the long run because medical costs in Alaska are so high.
“Even 4 or 5 times higher than we see in the Pacific Northwest,” says Hultberg. “That does raise some questions in our mind about whether or not it makes sense for people who make that choice to go out of state to not have the financial burden of travel.”
But the business manager for the state’s largest employee union, the Alaska State Employees Association, says he sees a downside. Jim Duncan says it could hurt smaller hospitals and rural providers who could lose a big chunk of their business if more state employees decide to go outside for treatment. He also says that it might be more expensive for people who wish to be surrounded by family and friends as they recover from complicated surgeries. They would go without or be forced to fly more family members on their own.
The state says no one would be forced to go outside for care, but that it would give patients more options. Commissioner Hultberg says the state spends more than 600 million dollars every year on health care costs for current and retired state workers. She says anything that can save money is worth considering.