Alaska in Brief

Alaska Senate approves new rules for subscription-style health care plan

By: - May 11, 2023 5:00 am

Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, at center left, discusses Senate Bill 45 with fellow senators on Wednesday, May 10, 2023. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

Alaskans would be able to more easily get subscription-style health care from their doctor or dentist if a bill passed by the Alaska Senate on Wednesday becomes law.

The Senate voted 18-2 to approve Senate Bill 45 from Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, sending the bill to the House for further consideration.

The House Labor and Commerce Committee has scheduled it for a hearing at 3:15 p.m. Friday.

While there’s no easy fix for high health care costs, Wilson said, SB 45 would offer an alternative to health insurance.

Under a “direct health care agreement,” also called “concierge care,” a customer agrees to buy a subscription to a doctor’s office. That doctor charges a monthly fee, and in exchange, that customer gets access to regular checkups or other services.

SB 45 clarifies in state law that this type of arrangement isn’t regulated like insurance, and Wilson said he believes it can be a cheaper alternative to traditional health insurance.

“It is truly amazing how much less expensive health care can become when that third party is removed,” he said, speaking about health insurance companies that act as intermediaries between a doctor and a patient.

The Alaska Dental Society testified in support of the bill, with the group saying that roughly half of dental patients don’t have dental insurance. 

A direct agreement could offer a way to provide services without an up-front bill or the administrative costs of insurance, it said.

“It’s a very interesting and new system,” said Sen. Forrest Dunbar, D-Anchorage and one of the lawmakers who supported the bill.

Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, also voted in support of the bill but said Alaskans should be careful not to expect too much.

Giessel is an advanced practice registered nurse, and she questioned whether the bill will actually increase access to health care.

An existing concierge care practice in Anchorage has extremely high costs, she noted.

“I do question whether this bill will increase any access to care,” she said. “There is nothing in this that would guarantee it.”


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James Brooks
James Brooks

James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. A graduate of Virginia Tech, he is married to Caitlyn Ellis, owns a house in Juneau and has a small sled dog named Barley. He can be contacted at [email protected]