Alaska Legislature passes legislation affecting the health and well-being of Alaskans
The first regular session of the 31st Alaska Legislature concluded on May 15 and a special session is now underway. Following is a roundup of DHSS-related legislation passed this session and on the way to the governor’s desk for his signature. This information was shared in a commissioner’s email to staff in late May.
Senate Bill 93 establishes a workforce enhancement program to address Alaska’s shortage of health care workers. Known as SHARP-3, this public-private partnership increases access to health care for Alaskans, especially the underserved, by enhancing practitioner recruitment and retention statewide. Through SHARP-3, practitioners agree to work for selected employers in exchange for repayment of student loans or other incentives. Employers fund the program without the need for any general state funds. The bill passed in both chambers unanimously.
Senate Bill 10 extends the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council. The council works to reduce suicide through planning, prevention and public awareness efforts. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Alaskans between the ages of 10 – 64, and the council is a vital partner in pursuing strategies that can reduce this impact.
Senate Bill 37 reauthorizes the Alaska Vaccine Assessment Program. This program is a great example of a public-private partnership that allows the state to purchase vaccines at discounted rates and distribute them directly to health care providers. Alaskans gain improved access to vaccines; health care providers receive state-supplied vaccines at no charge; and payers benefit from cost savings thanks to bulk vaccine purchasing.
Senate Bill 44 primarily ensures that physician assistants can provide telemedicine services in collaboration with their supervising physicians. The bill also includes cost-savings measures for our Medicaid pharmacy program, which will allow the department to respond more nimbly to drug price changes.