BECKY BOHRER

Walker says he'd veto Anchorage legislative office purchase

Gov. Bill Walker said Thursday that he would veto the purchase of a legislative office building in Anchorage if that item remains in the state infrastructure budget.

Walker told The Associated Press the purchase is not compatible with where the state is financially right now. He said legislators should know where he stands on the issue as they put the budget together.

Bill seeks to address rising health insurance rates

JUNEAU (AP) — State officials in Alaska are proposing a program to address high-cost health insurance claims in hopes of stabilizing rising rates on the individual policy market.

Just two companies — Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield and Moda Health Plan Inc. — serve the individual market in Alaska and have filed for double-digit rate increases each of the past two years. State officials say that's not sustainable. They hope that reviving a high-risk pool to handle claims for the costliest conditions will bring some relief.

Walker picks Spohnholz to succeed Gruenberg in Alaska House

Gov. Bill Walker on Tuesday appointed Ivy Spohnholz to fill the state House seat vacated when Anchorage Democratic Rep. Max Gruenberg died last month, calling Spohnholz a "worthy successor."

Spohnholz was one of three finalists for the job whose names were sent to Walker for consideration by Anchorage Democrats. The other two were Taylor Brelsford and Kendra Kloster.

By law, the appointee must be a member of the same political party as the predecessor, and in this case, would be subject to confirmation by House Democrats.

Alaska judge tosses lawmaker challenge to Medicaid expansion

A state court judge in Alaska on Tuesday upheld Gov. Bill Walker’s decision to expand Medicaid without legislative approval, finding that the federal Social Security Act requires Medicaid expansion.

Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner dismissed a challenge to Walker’s authority by the Legislative Council, which is comprised of state House and Senate lawmakers. That decision can be appealed.

Alaska judge tosses lawmaker challenge to Medicaid expansion

(AP) — A state court judge in Alaska on Tuesday upheld Gov. Bill Walker's decision to expand Medicaid without legislative approval, finding that the federal Social Security Act requires Medicaid expansion.

Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner dismissed a challenge to Walker's authority by the Legislative Council, which is comprised of state House and Senate lawmakers. That decision can be appealed.

Legislators pay fond tribute to Rep. Gruenberg

JUNEAU — Legislators paid tribute Feb. 16 to the late state Rep. Max Gruenberg, remembering the Anchorage Democrat as a kind man and a stickler for details with a penchant for amending bills that he thought could be improved.

There were tears and laughs at the remembrance, held in the House speaker’s chambers, as stories were shared. There were jokes about Gruenberg’s amendments and breaks in floor sessions, known as “at eases,” so Gruenberg could iron out details or nail down answers to questions. There were tears remembering acts of kindness and the impression that he left.

Moda Health suspension lifted; company must raise $179M

JUNEAU (AP) — Insurance regulators in Alaska and Oregon announced Feb. 8 that a company that had been suspended from offering health insurance policies in the states over concerns with its financial condition will be allowed to resume that business.

The Alaska Division of Insurance and the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services said they have reached an agreement with Moda Health Plan Inc. aimed at stabilizing its financial position.

Moda allowed to resume business under consent order

JUNEAU (AP) — Insurance regulators in Alaska and Oregon announced Monday that a company that had been suspended from offering health insurance policies in the states over concerns with its financial condition will be allowed to resume that business.

The Alaska Division of Insurance and the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services said they have reached an agreement with Moda Health Plan Inc. aimed at stabilizing its financial position.

Alaska, Oregon suspend Moda Health as finances worsen

Alaska insurance regulators on Jan. 28 suspended Moda Health Plan from accepting new or renewal policies in the state, citing concerns with the Oregon-based company’s financial situation.

The Alaska Division of Insurance acted after officials in Oregon placed the company under supervision because of its financial condition.

Alaska, Oregon suspend activity by health insurer Moda

JUNEAU (AP) — Alaska insurance regulators have suspended Moda Health Plan from accepting new or renewal policies in the state, citing concerns with the Oregon-based company's financial situation.

Moda is one of two companies offering individual insurance policies for Alaskans on the federally facilitated health insurance marketplace. The other is Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The Alaska Division of Insurance acted Thursday after officials in Oregon placed the company under supervision due to its financial condition.

Walker’s Permanent Fund plan gets first Senate hearing

JUNEAU (AP) — The chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee said Jan. 26 that he wants to vet several ideas surrounding the use of Alaska Permanent Fund earnings.

Sen. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, said that could include a constitutional amendment to allow voters to weigh in on the matter. So far, such a measure has not been introduced.

Stoltze said he wants to be able to have different bills and ideas ready to send to the Senate Finance Committee for additional review.

Alaska Supreme Court upholds local school contribution

The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday upheld as constitutional a state requirement that local school districts help pay for education, reversing a lower court decision.

The ruling came in a case filed against the state by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

In 2014, a state court judge ruled in the borough's favor, finding that a required local contribution for schools is a dedicated fund that violates a constitutional provision that no state tax or license will be earmarked for any special purpose.

About 7,700 Alaskans have enrolled in expanded Medicaid

A state health department official says that since the state expanded Medicaid to cover more lower-income Alaskans on Sept. 1, about 7,700 people have enrolled.

Chris Ashenbrenner is the Medicaid program coordinator for the state health department.

The department had estimated that nearly 20,100 newly eligible Alaskans would enroll during the first year of expansion, and Ashenbrenner believes that enrollment is on track for that.

She says enrollment in the first half of the year may be more robust because of pent-up demand for health care.

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