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Governor Denies Health Coverage for Retiree Dependents

For the thousands of young Alaskans age 26 and younger without health insurance, there was finally hope that they would finally have coverage with the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in March.

But for these dependents of retired teachers, municipal and state workers, hope vanished with an executive decision made by Gov. Sean Parnell, R, not to apply a provision of the new federal health care reform law to the state’s public retiree health plan.

The new law requires most insurance plans to extend coverage for policyholders’ dependent children until they reach age 26. But citing a clause that exempts public plans, the governor announced in July that Alaska’s state plan would allow coverage up to age 26 only for dependents of active employees.

Retirees received the bad news on page 2 of a public retiree newsletter. In the Health Newsletter for AlaskaCare members, public retirees read, “Based on the most recent federal regulations issued in June 2010, the AlaskaCare Retiree Health Plan is not subject to the provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requiring some health care plans to add coverage for older dependent children up to age 26.”

Reaction from public retirees was swift. There are more than 35,000 retired state and municipal employees and retired public school teachers.

“Many retirees were shocked and very disappointed as we thought the new health care law was written to cover all health insurance plans,” said Sam Trivette, an AARP advocacy volunteer.

Some state senators have denounced the governor’s action, pointing to the low cost of coverage for young adults. People go to the emergency room when they have medical problems, including young adults. The emergency room is the most expensive way of handling medical problems.

Those who have health insurance end up paying – through added premiums -- for those who without health insurance who use the emergency room. But there are minimal costs in covering these typically low risk dependents until they reach age 26.

It’s a pocketbook issue for all Alaskans. And it makes sense to provide health coverage to the dependents of Alaska’s retired state and municipal workers as well as retired teachers.

Contact your legislator today and tell them it isn’t fair for the dependents of Alaska’s retired state and municipal workers and retired teachers to be excluded from health care coverage.

Find your state senator and state representative by first locating your community.

We need your voice to be heard. For more information, contact Ann Secrest in the AARP Alaska State Office via email at asecrest@aarp.org.

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