ISER releases Alaska health-care trends from newly compiled public data

by Michelle Saport  |   

All Americans spend a lot to get health care-but Alaskans spend the most per resident, face the highest insurance premiums, and have seen overall spending grow much faster. The Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) has compiled a new chart book of public data and begun trend analysis to help address public policy questions related to health.

"Health care is a major sector of our economy and ISER is committed to developing nonpartisan resources to help provide Alaskans a better understanding of health-care costs and potential ways to change the upward trajectory," said ISER Director Ralph Townsend.

Jessica Passini, Rosyland Frazier, and Mouhcine Guettabi began work more than two years ago compiling data for the chart book. Their recent report highlights trends in Alaska's health-care spending since the 1990s, including:

  • In less than 25 years, Alaska's spending for health care increased more than 5 times over. Spending was $1.5 billion in 1991, $4.8 billion in 2005, and $8.2 billion by 2014.
  • From 1991 through 2014, health-care spending grew on average 7.8 percent a year in Alaska and 6.0 percent nationwide.
  • In both Alaska and nationwide, hospital care still takes the largest share of the health-care dollar. But that share declined somewhat between 1991 and 2014-from 43.2 percent to 42.6 percent in Alaska and from 41 percent to 38 percent nationwide.

"The data is wide ranging and easy to access," said Senior Research Professional Rosyland Frazier, co-author of the report. "This is part of ISER's continuing effort to provide information and research to support the development of policies that promote the well-being of all Alaskans."

The chart book is a powerful resource that can be used to analyze questions about health-care spending that face Alaskans including:

  • What is the effect of Medicaid expansion on access, cost, and health outcomes?
  • How has the Affordable Care Act changed the Alaska health care market?
  • What is the effect of medical tourism on insurance premiums?
  • How have the high premiums affected Alaska business growth?
  • Which policies have been successful in improving access, reducing cost, etc?
  • What are the budgetary consequences if health care costs continue to outpace economic growth?

"ISER is continuing to grow resources and expertise in health policy," said ISER Director Ralph Townsend. Resources in health care include the work of the Center for Behavioral Health Research Services (CBHRS), which joined ISER in 2015, as well as a recent report on the 80th percentile rule.

"Spending money on learning what works will help us save money in the long run," Townsend said.

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