Hearing held on bill to create universal health care in Alaska

Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2007

FAIRBANKS - State lawmakers are looking at a new bill in advance of the legislative session that would attempt to create universal health care in Alaska.

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The plan would require everyone to become insured and would help pay medical costs for the poorest Alaskans.

It would also create a health care board that would define essential medical services covered by the program and certify private coverage plans that meet state requirements.

The board would also oversee the Alaska Health Fund, where contributions from state and federal sources, as well as employers and employees, would go toward a sliding-scale voucher system.

Based on income, Alaskans could take those vouchers to the Alaska Health Care Clearinghouse, a "marketplace" of various certified policies.

Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, who sponsored the bill, called the late summer hearing before the Senate Health, Education and Social Services committee a "jump start on the 90-day session" next year.

The hearing including testimony from two national health care experts who both said that the federal government would have to provide the ultimate solution to health care problems in the United States.

"There's a limited amount that state government can do," said Michael D. Tanner, director of Health and Welfare Studies at the Cato Institute.

Tanner said the best thing state government could do would be to help lower the cost of health care by allowing people the freedom to purchase care from other states and allow small businesses within a given industry to band together.

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