Legislature(2007 - 2008)BELTZ 211

02/28/2008 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Heard & Held
Moved SB 147 Out of Committee
             SB 160-MANDATORY UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE                                                                         
2:30:25 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELLIS announced SB 160 to be up for consideration.                                                                        
SENATOR  FRENCH,  sponsor of  SB  160,  said his  comments  would                                                               
center  on  the  employer contribution,  questions  that  Senator                                                               
Bunde had earlier.  He said the employer provisions  are there to                                                               
make  sure everyone  contributes something  to health  insurance.                                                               
For businesses with  zero to 10 full time  employees the employer                                                               
levy is nothing; for 20 or  more employees the levy is 2 percent.                                                               
There are  three ways to  get around the levy;  one is to  pay 33                                                               
percent  of the  premium  costs  for your  employees,  two is  to                                                               
enroll  25 percent  of your  employees in  an employer  sponsored                                                               
plan  and three,  establish a  Section 125  plan (about  $300 per                                                               
SENATOR FRENCH  said the chart  before them compares the  levy as                                                               
it's  proposed  in  SB 160  with  California,  Massachusetts  and                                                               
Vermont  by income  levels. It  indicates that  California has  a                                                               
much steeper  levy that  goes from  1 -  6.5 percent  of payroll.                                                               
Massachusetts and  Vermont crafted compromises with  the business                                                               
community and decided on one standard  fee so they didn't have to                                                               
quibble  about  what the  income  was  and  what the  numbers  of                                                               
employees were. If you don't  provide health insurance at the job                                                               
site in Massachusetts the cost is a flat $295.                                                                                  
He said SB 160 would not  fix the Medicare crisis or the problems                                                               
brought on by  the low reimbursement rates.  It doesn't establish                                                               
a single payer plan like socialized  medicine which it is not. He                                                               
     Frankly, this  is a right-wing  solution to  the health                                                                    
     care problem that's been  crafted by conservative think                                                                    
     tanks and has been  adopted by Massachusetts and proved                                                                    
     to enroll more  people in insurance and  I think that's                                                                    
     the break through the country  has been waiting for for                                                                    
     some time.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR  FRENCH   said  this  legislation  doesn't   address  the                                                               
shortness  of  doctors in  the  state;  but  it will  reduce  the                                                               
unspoken  financial  penalty  everyone with  insurance  pays  for                                                               
people who don't have it.                                                                                                       
2:36:29 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS asked  what  impact this  would  have on  Alaska                                                               
Native health care  system which affects about 20  percent of the                                                               
SENATOR FRENCH replied  this system will not  supplant the Native                                                               
health  care system.  Language on  page  6 allows  any Native  to                                                               
participate if  they want  to; it lists  individuals who  are not                                                               
mandated to participate.                                                                                                        
2:38:59 PM                                                                                                                    
MARIE DARLIN,  Capital City Task  Force, AARP, supported  SB 160.                                                               
She  said  access to  health  care  is important.  Those  without                                                               
health care  delay treatment  so it  is more  costly in  the long                                                               
run.  Some  of the  questions  they  have,  however, are  who  is                                                               
covered,  how  comprehensive  the  coverage  is,  if  SB  160  is                                                               
efficient  and  practical and  will  it  result in  fairness  and                                                               
equity.  Another  concern was  how  much  choice does  it  really                                                               
2:41:34 PM                                                                                                                    
MEGH BARNETT, representing herself, supported SB 160.                                                                           
2:42:00 PM                                                                                                                    
KATIE SAUNDERS,  representing herself,  said she lives  in Copper                                                               
Center and goes to school in  Anchorage and that she supported SB
160.  Prevention is  the best  way  to approach  health care  she                                                               
2:42:27 PM                                                                                                                    
MARILYNN  RUSSEL,   representing  herself,  said  she   lives  in                                                               
Fairbanks  and  supported SB  160.  She  is uncomfortable  around                                                               
people who don't have coverage.                                                                                                 
2:43:24 PM                                                                                                                    
SUE JOHNSON,  representing herself,  said she lives  in Anchorage                                                               
and supported SB 160.                                                                                                           
2:44:03 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS asked Dr. Butler  about how this would affect the                                                               
Native  Health Service.  He knows  when  a Native  goes to  their                                                               
health care facility the first  payer is their personal insurance                                                               
and  then if  they don't  have it  he assumed  the Native  health                                                               
service picked it up. If SB  160 passed would that make the state                                                               
become  the  first   payer  and  would  the   state  actually  be                                                               
supplanting  federal  dollars  in   health  care  costs.  He  was                                                               
concerned  about  the  loss  of funding  to  Native  health  care                                                               
DR.  BUTLER,  Chief Medical  Officer,  Department  of Health  and                                                               
Social Services (DHSS), responded that  while he wasn't an expert                                                               
on  Indian  health  coverage, he  could  contribute  that  Alaska                                                               
Natives have  a poorer health  status than non-Natives  living in                                                               
the  state.  A  recent  analysis  of  the  effects  of  universal                                                               
coverage in  Taiwan, 10  years before and  10 years  after, found                                                               
the people  with poorest  levels of  health increased  their life                                                               
expectancy after  universal health  care became  available. There                                                               
was some diminution  in the disparities between  the groups. This                                                               
raises  the  question  of  whether   or  not  more  access  could                                                               
potentially address the disparity question.                                                                                     
SENATOR BUNDE commented that the  parallel might be with Medicare                                                               
where no one wants to take you  with Medicare; so you end up with                                                               
a health care system you can't use. He didn't know if that would                                                                
work the same way with the Native health care system or not.                                                                    
2:48:04 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELLIS said SB 160 would be held for further work and                                                                      
adjourned the meeting at 2:49:12 PM.                                                                                          

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