Alaska has some of the highest healthcare costs in the nation and the numbers are getting worse. The Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association (ASHNHA) says lawmakers in Washington D.C. are partly to blame.

In 2016 alone, the federal government released close to 24,000 pages of new regulations for hospitals and clinics -- including those here in Alaska. And implementing them has carried a hefty price tag. 

"There's a lot of incentive for regulators to add regulation. There's little incentive to remove regulations," Becky Hultberg, President and CEO of ASHNA said on Monday. 

Hultberg says the average hospital in Alaska spends $7 million dollars a year on implementing federal regulations -- which gets passed on to patients, to the tune of $1,200 per inpatient admission. 

"This is really a hidden tax," Hultberg said. 

Hultberg says many of the new rules are meant for hospitals in the Lower 48, not the kinds of facilities in Alaska -- where health care hubs are far and few between. Regulations like upgrading patient data communications systems. Hultberg says, make sense for large cities with multiple facilities, but increase costs for smaller clinics in Alaska that are already running on low-profit margins.

"As an example, little Wrangle Medical Center, eight beds, has had to spend over $65,000 this year on an IT upgrade that really made no improvement to patient care," Hultberg said. 

Throughout the summer, Hultberg has been traveling back and forth to Washington D.C., trying to educate lawmakers about Alaska's health care struggles.

She says state regulators are adding to the burden too.

"It's really important that regulators like the state recognize that they're not the only game in town," Hultberg said. 

With a new president comes new hope, Hultberg says. Perhaps the Trump Administration will work with Alaska to make exceptions that can help bring the patient price tag down.

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