Murkowski to HHS Nominee: Instead of ‘Affordable,’ Many Alaska Health Care Premiums Doubling

Senator Says Employer Mandate Having “Chilling Effect” on First Responder, Firefighter Hours

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today stressed the costly and potentially-harmful Alaskan impacts of the Affordable Care Act with the nominee to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services – who would oversee the further implementation of health care reform if approved.

During a hearing of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Murkowski informed the nominee Sylvia Burwell that not only are health care premiums more than doubling for many Alaskans, but that some vital first responders – including firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) – are seeing their hours diminished as their employers seek to avoid paying the employer mandate.

(Murkowski: “We have not worked to reduce the cost of health care.” – Click image to view)

Senator Murkowski began her comments to Burwell by saying “It all comes down to the cost. The ACA has more than doubled premiums in the state.  A nineteen year old Alaskan used to pay $911 in 2013 for a low-cost plan, but if they buy the most comparable plan now, the price more than doubles to $2300…We have not worked to reduce the cost of health care, as we must do.”

(Murkowski: Health care employer mandate is having a chilling effect on our first responders. Click image to view)

Moments later, Murkowski shared a deep concern of many Alaskans in the emergency services sector: that the 30 hour/week schedule that triggers the employer mandate covering their health insurance had led many to pull back on the weekly schedule for EMTs and firefighters.  After talking with Alaskans in the Mat-Su Valley, Fairbanks and Southeast Alaska, Murkowski informed Burwell that “What I heard from the Mayor of the Mat-Su Borough is that they have moved emergency personnel from a 30 hour work week to a 29.9 hour work week…This is an issue for us where we’re seeing growth, we rely on these people covering vast areas and we are seeing a chilling effect in terms of our first responders.”

Nominee Burwell responded that she would like to hear more of Murkowski’s anecdotes and data as she works to refine the law.