Policymakers, Experts, and Patients Weigh in on the Importance of Coverage for Pre-Existing Conditions

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz

Press Conference Featured Policy Priorities and Personal Stories

Anchorage – On Friday, officials from the administration of Alaska Governor Bill Walker, health-policy advocate Dr. Alan Gross, and several patient-advocates joined Representative Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage) at the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center to highlight the importance of preserving protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.

The full event can be viewed on the Alaska House Majority Coalition Facebook page, and selected quotes have been included below for your convenience.

“There is a right way and a wrong way to reduce health care costs. Removing coverage for pre-existing conditions and other strategies that reduce access to medically necessary care is absolutely the wrong way,” said Representative Ivy Spohnholz, “Looking around the world, we see examples of how to improve health outcomes and customer satisfaction, while also containing costs. The health care price transparency legislation we passed this year is a good start because it empowers consumers with information and promotes more competition, which are both good things. As we work on solutions, we simply cannot allow matters to be made worse by denying coverage from the quarter of our population with pre-existing conditions.”

“As policymakers, we must take steps to improve health outcomes in Alaska. Allowing insurers to deny payments for the treatment of preexisting conditions is completely counter to that responsibility,” said Mike Navarre, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. “This is about ensuring quality, affordable healthcare for every Alaskan, something that should not be a partisan issue. Governor Walker is leading an effort with governors from other states to craft bipartisan solutions. The governor has also convened an executive team within the administration to work across departments on creative solutions to reduce costs in our state. I was also heartened to see work on this issue on both sides of the aisle this year in the Alaska Legislature.”

Leighan Gonzales, who was born with a preexisting condition and had open-heart surgery when she was only 5 months old, shared some of her experience regarding health coverage, “When I was 19 I felt chest pains, so I went to the only heart center we have in Alaska. I had out of state insurance because my parents had moved away, but they said ‘Go ahead, try it out, go see your doctor.’ So I went in, got all of the tests, and then a couple weeks later a bill for over $4,000. My insurance company rejected it. I was 19, alone, with a heart condition and no money, and then had to fight my insurance company to pay my medically necessary costs. It felt like I was being punished for wanting to live, for having even made it past infancy.”

“What does it mean to say someone has ‘medical coverage’ or is ‘insured’? It means that if they get sick or broken they can get access to the expertise and services of those who fix people professionally. I live by the concept of helping make people better, and I stand here today to report that our current health care system is broken. We need to do things differently to make things better but taking insurance away from someone because of a preexisting condition is not better, it is much worse,” said Dr. Alan Gross, a lifelong Alaskan and Orthopedic Physician turned health-policy advocate. “Fixing our health care system will be risky and potentially politically unpopular, but as Senator Ted Stevens once said, ‘To hell with politics. Sometimes you just have to do the right thing.’ Fixing our health system is the right thing.”

For more information, please contact Alaska House Majority Coalition Deputy Press Secretary Drew Cason at (907) 575-2068.

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