As the cost of health care continues to rise, many Alaskans are finding that without health insurance, expenses associated with doctor visits, prescription medications, emergency care and hospitalization can become overwhelming. Employers, too, are recognizing that to recruit and retain quality employees, they must find a way to provide affordable, comprehensive major medical and dental plans that not only offset these costs, but also promote a healthy work force.
"Alaska is similar to other states in that health insurance is viewed as a very important benefit to have for your employees," said Jeff Davis, president, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska. "What is different about Alaska is that the state has a fairly shallow labor pool, and in a market where labor is in short supply, it is even more important that employers do everything they can to retain good employees."
"Health insurance is definitely important, especially when a business is trying to get top-level employees who value wellness and their own health," agreed Tyler Phillippay, regional marketing manager, ODS Alaska. "Providing health insurance in turn helps employers, because it maximizes the employees' ability to show up and to contribute to the business."
HOW INSURANCE IS SOLD
Depending on need, there are many types of insurance plans available. These can range from individual and short-term plans to a small employer, a large employer, an individual association or group association plans. According to the Alaska Insurance Consumer Guide, in individual plans, an employee is asked to provide evidence of insurability, which may require undergoing a medical examination. In a group plan, unless the group is small, individuals are rarely required to undergo a medical exam. This is because insurers require minimum member participation levels and minimum employer contribution levels to ensure that there are sufficient individuals in the group in good health to balance those in poor health.
Both hospital benefits and physician or provider benefits are covered in any comprehensive health insurance plan, and Alaska law also mandates that certain specific services be covered if the plan is sold within the state. These include, but are not limited to, coverage for newly born or adopted children for at least 30 days; coverage for treatment of alcoholism or drug abuse; low-dose mammography screening if the contract covers mastectomies and prosthetic devices and reconstructive surgery; and coverage...