In response to Charles Wohlforth's opinion, "How a simple state regulation added $85 million each year to Alaska health care costs," I want to clear up a couple misrepresentations.
I'm an emergency physician at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau, where I've been helping patients for 17 years. I'm also a board member of the Alaska College of Emergency Physicians.
The report Mr. Wohlforth cites is very clear in stating that its conclusions cannot be used to imply that the 80th percentile rule is responsible for increasing costs at all. The study only shows that expenditures went up, which could easily be due to the growing number of people with health insurance accessing care from the growing number of doctors in Alaska.
The 80th percentile rule was designed to protect patients from receiving expensive bills for out-of-network care, particularly in emergencies. While the rule can be improved, it works. Since it was implemented, more doctors are in-network and more specialists are working in emergency care. Patients can access better emergency care without worrying about costly bills for unexpected out-of-network care.
The high cost of health care in Alaska is a complicated issue that won't be solved by eliminating consumer protections. If the 80th percentile rule were eliminated, patients would end up continuing to pay more and insurers would simply get to cover less. That sounds like a bad deal for Alaska patients.
Dr. Nathan Peimann