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State Exchange Profiles: Alaska


Final update made on December 4, 2012 (no further updates will be made) 

Establishing the Exchange

On July 17, 2012, Governor Sean Parnell (R) announced that Alaska will not create a state-run health insurance exchange, and instead will allow the federal government to operate an exchange in the state.1 While a bill establishing an exchange was introduced in the 2011 legislative session and reconsidered in 2012, it failed to pass.

Prior to the announcement that the state would not operate its own exchange, Governor Parnell openly opposed exchange legislation and affirmed that if Alaska proceeded with developing a state-based exchange, it would use its own money.2,3 As such, the Alaska Health and Social Services Department hired a subcontractor to conduct background research, complete an overview of state options, and conduct a financial analysis of the costs of an exchange. The final report released in June 2012 was cited by the Governor in his decision not to proceed with a state-exchange.4

Essential Health Benefits (EHB): The ACA requires that all non-grandfathered individual and small-group plans sold in a state, including those offered through the Exchange, cover certain defined health benefits. Since Alaska has not put forward a recommendation, the state’s benchmark EHB plan will default to the largest small-group plan in the state, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska- Alaska Heritage Select Envoy PPO.

Exchange Funding

Alaska is the only state that chose not to apply for the $1 million federal Exchange Planning grant. Instead, the state allocated $200,000 of its own funds for background research and analysis.5

Next Steps

The federal government will assume full responsibility for running a health insurance exchange in Alaska beginning in 2014.

1. Press Release. Office of Governor Sean Parnell. July 17, 2012.
2. Bohrer, B. “State moving ahead with health exchange plan” Associated Press. September 1, 2011.
3. Letter from Governor Parnell to Senator French. March 11, 2011:
4. State of Alaska Department of Health and Social services Health Insurance Exchange Planning. Final Report. June 21, 2012.
5. Feidt, Annie. ‘Alaska Takes Biggest Step Yet Toward Exchange.’ Kaiser Health News. February 14, 2012.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.