With its 700,000 residents, Alaska has one of the smallest populations of a U.S. state.1 Still, it offers Alaskans the full range of health insurance options through employers, the private individual market and programs like the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Nearly half of Alaska’s residents get their coverage through their work. Medicaid covers one in five people in the state; Medicare, the federal government’s health insurance for Americans over 65, covers one in 10; and the ACA (also known as Obamacare) covers one in every 20 residents.2
Alaska only expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA in September 2015; by May 2020, the expansion had covered more than 58,000 additional Alaskans.3 Obamacare and the state’s Medicaid expansion helped drop Alaska’s uninsured rates from 19% in 2013 to 12% in 2018.4
Here you’ll find an overview of Alaska’s health insurance landscape and get help navigating your options to find the plan that’s right for you.
When Is the 2021 Open Enrollment Period in Alaska?
In 2020, the Open Enrollment Period (OEP) in Alaska lasts from November 1 to December 15 for coverage that starts on January 1, 2021. Keep in mind that you will need to re-enroll during the OEP each year to avoid a break in coverage.
If you don’t enroll at that time, you won’t be able to apply until next year’s OEP. There is an exception, though: If you have a “qualifying life event,” which is something that changes the size of your family or leaves you uninsured such as losing your job or adopting a child, that triggers a brief window called a Special Enrollment Period during which you can get insurance.5
Enrollment in Alaska peaked in 2016; by the 2020 OEP, only 18,000 Alaskans – or 2.4% of the population – enrolled through the Marketplace. 6
How Do You Enroll in Alaska’s Health Insurance Marketplace?
Under the ACA, Alaskans can purchase coverage and possibly qualify for subsidies through Alaska’s Health Insurance Marketplace (also called an “exchange”), which is run through the federal government. Residents use healthcare.gov to apply for and enroll in coverage.
ACA plans must provide 10 “essential health benefits,” including things like inpatient hospital care, prescription drug coverage and preventive care.
How Much Does Health Insurance Cost in Alaska?
The Alaska Marketplace organizes the plans that are available on and off the exchange by levels of cost-sharing, also called “metal” tiers of gold, silver and bronze.
From 2018 to 2020, premiums for qualified bronze and gold plans fell more than 17%, while the cost of premiums for silver plans remained the same. Here are the average monthly costs for a 40-year-old Alaskan for bronze, silver and gold plans sold through the state’s Marketplace:7
Average Premiums for Alaska Marketplace Plans (for a 40-year-old person)
|Lowest-Cost Bronze Plan||$540||$472||$448|
|Lowest-Cost Silver Plan||$699||$701||$698|
|Lowest-Cost Gold Plan||$779||$672||$636|
The federal government uses a “benchmark” silver plan — the second-lowest-cost silver premium for a 40-year-old —8 to calculate subsidies. Since 2018, this benchmark has remained constant.
Which Companies Offer Individual Health Insurance Plans in Alaska?
In 2020, two health insurance companies sell individual policies to Alaskans through healthcare.gov: Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska offers statewide coverage, while Moda Assurance is limited to specific locations.9
What Are My Coverage Options in Alaska If You’re Low-Income?
ACA Marketplace Plans (Obamacare)
With an income of between one and four times the federal poverty level (FPL), you may qualify for help paying your premiums.10 In 2019, nearly nine out of 10 ACA enrollees in Alaska received help in the form of subsidies called Advanced Premium Tax Credits (APTC).11 These monthly subsidies averaged $662.12
Here are some examples of cost savings with subsidies:
- A 28-year-old in Juneau who earns $24,000 a year could get a 2020 silver plan for $86 per month after subsidies,13 The same policy would cost $612 per month without the premium tax credits, which cover 86% of the cost.
- A family of three in Anchorage with an income of $50,000 a year could pay $246 per month after subsidies for a 2020 silver plan.14 This policy would cost them $1,548 per month without the premium tax credits, which cover 84% of the cost.
If you earn between 100% and 250% of the FPL, purchase a silver plan on the Marketplace, and receive premium tax credits, you may also qualify for cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) that will further reduce your out-of-pocket costs. In 2019, 26% of enrollees in Alaska Marketplace plans received CSRs.15
To get help with the Health Insurance Marketplace through the Alaska Division of Insurance, call (800) 467-8725.16 By going through the Marketplace application process you’ll find out if you qualify for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or other income-based discounts, too.
Alaska’s Medicaid program covers low-income children, pregnant women, families, adults without dependent children between ages 19 and 64, and the elderly, blind, and permanently disabled. It is the primary public program for basic health and long-term care services for low-income Alaskans.17
As of March 2020, one in three Alaskans were enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).18 Enrollment increased 83% since the ACA was implemented.19
To qualify, recipients must meet income requirements as a percentage of the federal poverty level. The percentages vary for different groups:20
- Parents: 138%
- Childless adults: 138%
- Pregnant women: 205%
- Children: 208%
- Seniors or people with a disability: 74%
The Alaska Medicaid program includes:21
Denali KidCare has coverage for both adults and children. For adults, it covers pregnant women who meet its income eligibility standards.22 In 2018, over one-half of Alaska’s births were financed by Medicaid.23 For kids, Denali KidCare provides the healthcare coverage that children and teens through age 18 need in 12-month, renewable periods.24
Chronic and Acute Medical Assistance (CAMA) is a state-funded program for Alaskans aged 21 to 65 who do not qualify for Medicaid but who need help with one or more specific illnesses.25
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
In 1999, Alaska expanded its Medicaid program to cover uninsured children up to age 19 whose parents earn too much to qualify them for Medicaid. Today, CHIP funds part of Denali KidCare.
How Do You Apply for Alaska Health Coverage Assistance?
The Division of Public Assistance determines eligibility for Alaska’s Medicaid programs.26 Start with the Medicaid Eligibility Pre-Screening Tool to see what help you qualify for, including Medicaid expansion.
Or, alternatively, you can open a MyAlaska account online. This gives you two options: Use the ARIES (Alaska’s Resource for Integrated Eligibility Services) portal to apply for assistance, or go to the federally facilitated marketplace (FFM) at healthcare.gov and apply for medical assistance.
Whichever route you take (ARIES or FFM), your application will be electronically submitted to the programs for which you are eligible. You will be contacted about your eligibility and next steps. Be sure to write down the tracking number you’re given to help in future processing.
What About Medicare Plans for Alaska Seniors and People with Disabilities?
If you’re 65 or over, under 65 with long-term disabilities, or have ALS or end-stage renal disease, the federal health insurance program that helps cover your health costs is Medicare.
Each year, the Open Enrollment Period for Medicare runs from October 15 through December 7. Nearly one in eight Alaska residents receives Medicare benefits,27 and about 20% of those also enrolled in Medicaid.28
Of Alaska’s 106,000 Medicare beneficiaries,29 99% choose to receive their benefits from Original Medicare. (That percentage is exceptionally high compared with the national average of less than 67%.)30 The few hundred remaining beneficiaries in the state prefer private Medicare Advantage plans.31 Both types of coverage provide enrollees with Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance) that takes care of hospitalization, doctor’s visits and emergency room visits.
Medicare Advantage (or Part C) offers additional benefits, such Part D prescription drug coverage. (With Original Medicare, you would have to purchase a standalone Part D plan.) In 2020, no companies in Alaska are offering Medicare Advantage plans.32
Medicare Part D
Over 35,000 Alaskans bought a standalone Medicare Part D drug plan.33In 2020, monthly plan premiums through nine insurers range from $13.20 to $85.20, for an average premium of $37.18.34 In 2017, nearly 60% of those with Part D prescription drug plans received both low-income premium and cost-sharing subsidies.35
Medicare Supplement Insurance
If you have Original Medicare, you can buy Medicare Supplement insurance (Medigap policy) from one of a dozen insurers. Medigap policies pay the portion Medicare does not pay.
Medigap offers 10 standardized plans. That means each plan’s benefits are the same no matter which insurer you choose, but premiums vary by company. For example, in Alaska, a Plan G policy at age 65 can cost from $111 to $208 monthly, depending on your gender, smoking habits, health, and the company you choose.36
Alaskans under age 65, or in the high-risk pool and otherwise unable to get insurance outside the Open Enrollment Period, may qualify for coverage through the Alaska Comprehensive Health Insurance Association (ACHIA).37
Alaska’s Medicare Information Office offers help through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). If you cannot afford your payments, ask about the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB), Special Low-income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) and Expanded SLMB programs.38
What Are My Coverage Options If You’re a American Indian/Alaska Native?
The Alaska Area Indian Health Service (IHS) works in conjunction with Alaska Native Tribes and Tribal Organizations (T/TO) to provide comprehensive health services to 175,000 Alaska Natives (Eskimos, Aleuts and Indians).39
But if you enroll in health coverage through the Marketplace, Medicaid or CHIP, you have better access to services that may not be provided by the Indian Health Service, tribal programs or urban Indian programs (known as I/T/Us). You also enjoy special cost and eligibility rules and do not give up your IHS benefits.40
Can You Buy Short-Term Health Insurance in Alaska?
For Alaskans in transition, short-term health insurance can help fill temporary insurance gaps, such as from job loss or needing a more affordable alternative to full-coverage ACA plans.
Alaska follows federal regulations regarding the duration of short-term health insurance, so any short-term plan you buy can cover up to 364 days initially, renewable to a total of about three years.41
Besides being an affordable option, short-term plans give you flexibility in how long you need coverage for, a big boon if you’re one of Alaska’s large number of seasonal employees, which include construction workers, fishers and people working in tourism.42
These short-term plans often do not cover all of ACA’s “essential health benefits,” but on the plus side, you can buy them at any time. Check disclosures carefully to see what coverage is guaranteed by any policy you’re considering.
1. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Population Distribution by Age.” kff.org (accessed June 11, 2020).
2. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Health Insurance Coverage of the Total Population.” kff.org (accessed June 11, 2020).
3. Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “Medicaid in Alaska.” alaska.gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
5. U.S. Government Website for the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace. “Getting health coverage outside open enrollment.” healthcare.gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
6. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Marketplace Enrollment, 2014-2020.” kff.org (accessed June 11, 2020).
7. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Average Marketplace Premiums by Metal Tier, 2018-2020.” kff.org (accessed June 11, 2020).
9. Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. “Health Insurance.” alaska.gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
10. U.S. Government Website for the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace. “Federal Poverty Level (FPL).” healthcare.gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
11. Kaiser Family Foundation. “State Health Care Snapshots: Alaska.” kff.org (accessed June 11, 2020).
12. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Estimated Total Premium Tax Credits Received by Marketplace Enrollees.” kff.org (accessed June 11, 2020).
13. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Health Insurance Marketplace Calculator.” kff.org (accessed June 11, 2020).
15. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.”Early 2019 Effectuated Enrollment Snapshot.” cms.gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
16. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Alaska Health Insurance Consumer Help.” cms.gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
17. Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “Medicaid Enrollment Information for Individuals.” alaska.gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
18. U.S. Government Website for Medicaid. “March 2020 Medicaid & CHIP Enrollment Data Highlights.” medicaid.gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
19. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Total Monthly Medicaid and CHIP Enrollment.” kff.org (accessed June 11, 2020).
20. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Medicaid in Alaska.” kff.org (accessed June 11, 2020).
21. Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “Alaska Medicaid Recipient Handbook.” alaska.gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
22. Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “MAGi Medicaid Income Eligibility Standards.” ak.us (accessed June 11, 2020).
24. Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “Denali KidCare.” alaska.gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
25. Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “Chronic and Acute Medical Assistance.” alaska.gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
26. Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “MAGI Medicaid Income Eligibility Standards.” ak.us (accessed June 11, 2020).
27. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Medicare Beneficiaries as a Percent of Total Population.” kff.org (accessed June 11, 2020).
29. Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “Alaskans Helping Alaskans.” alaska.gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
31. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Monthly Enrollment by Contract/Plan/State/County.” cms.gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
32. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Prescription Drug Coverage – General Information.” cms.gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
33. Cubanski, Juliette; Damico, Anthony and Neuman, Tricia. Medicare Part D in 2018: The Latest on Enrollment, Premiums and Cost Sharing, May 17, 2018. Kaiser Family Foundation. (accessed June 11, 2020).
36. Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. “2020 Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) Consumer Guide.” alaska. gov (accessed June 11, 2020).
39. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Alaska Area.” ihs.gov (accessed July 21, 2020).
40. U.S. Government Website for the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace. “Health coverage for American Indians & Alaska Natives.” healthcare.gov (accessed July 21, 2020).
41. Alaska Policy Forum. “Short-Term Plans: One Insurance Option for Alaskans in Transition.” alaskapolicyforum.org (accessed July 21, 2020).
42. Office of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski. “Murkowski Speaks to Alaskan Perspective of Short-Term Health Insurance Plans.” News release, October 11, 2018 (accessed July 21, 2020).