As an Alaskan, you have many choices when it comes to affordable health insurance coverage. You can enroll in an employer insurance plan, sign up for DenaliCare, enroll in Medicare, search for a plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace, or buy a plan from an insurance company.

This guide explains your Alaska health insurance options in detail.

What to know about insurance in Alaska

  • Open enrollment: The open enrollment period for 2022 coverage in Alaska runs from November 1, 2021 through January 15, 2022. If you miss this period, you’ll have to wait until the following year or qualify for a special enrollment period to obtain ACA coverage.
  • Special enrollment: Certain life events may qualify you for a special enrollment period. If you’ve moved, been married, had a child, or were laid off and lost your coverage, you have 60 days to sign up for a new plan under a special enrollment period.
  • Marketplace plans: Alaskans can enroll in a new affordable health insurance plan using the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. These policies all conform to the standards of the Affordable Care Act, and through the exchange you can learn if you qualify for the Advanced Premium Tax Credit.
  • Direct enrollment: You’re not required to use the federal exchange to obtain coverage and can buy a plan from any insurance company you choose. If you’re interested in the Advanced Premium Tax Credit, you need to enroll in coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
  • Coverage typesRoughly 48.4% of Alaskans have insurance coverage through an employer. Another 3.5% have non-group coverage, 21.3% are covered by Medicaid, and 10% are enrolled in Medicare. About 11.5% of Alaskans are uninsured.

How do I enroll in Alaska's health insurance marketplace?

Alaska uses the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. Enrolling is easy, and you can begin by going to HealthCare.gov and creating an account. You’ll need to provide accurate contact information when you set up your account.

After you fill out your application, the website automatically determines if you qualify for the Advanced Premium Tax Credit, which can reduce your monthly premiums. You’re also informed if you qualify for Medicaid and other financial assistance programs. Make sure that before you apply you have the full name, birth date, and Social Security number for everyone you want to include on your plan.

Other information you need to provide includes:

  • Your marital status
  • How many dependents you claimed on your last tax return
  • Your total household income
  • Whether you’d like to qualify for financial aid

The next step is to review the plans that are available on the Health Insurance Marketplace. HealthCare.gov shows the monthly premium, deductible, and coinsurance requirements for each policy. The comparison tool lets you see up to three plans side-by-side to help you choose the individual or family plan that best suits your needs. When you’ve made your decision, you can complete your enrollment on the website.

The following companies offer insurance plans in Alaska through the Health Insurance Marketplace:

  • Moda
  • Premera

How do I enroll in Alaska individual and family insurance?

Enrolling in a family health insurance policy isn’t significantly different from enrolling in individual coverage. The main difference is that you need to consider the medical needs of each family member and find a plan that works for everybody in your family. These are the primary things to consider before you shop for coverage:

  • Any special medical needs
  • The coinsurance requirements you’re willing to meet
  • The deductible amount you can afford
  • The monthly premium you can afford

Insurance for individuals in Alaska 

Shopping for an individual plan gives you more flexibility because you don’t need to consider anyone else’s needs. Selecting a policy with a higher deductible and coinsurance can save you money on monthly premiums. The type of plan you choose also impacts the cost.

There are different types of plans you can choose from:

  • A Health Maintenance Organization plan (HMO) offers the best choice if you don’t make many visits to a doctor or a specialist or require prescriptions. It has lower monthly premiums and higher deductibles. HMO plans are the least expensive plans. However, there are restrictions with an HMO plan. You’ll need to get a referral if you want to see a specialist, you’ll need to name a primary care physician, and you’re limited to using the HMO plan’s in-network medical providers.
  • A Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan is a better idea if you regularly visit doctors or specialists. You’ll have more flexibility with a PPO plan, although you’ll pay more for it. You aren’t limited to in-network providers, you don’t need to name a primary care physician, and you’ll never need to obtain a referral to see a specialist.
  • A Point of Service Plan (POS) is a hybrid of an HMO and a PPO. You can use out-of-network providers, but any time you want to see a specialist, you’ll need to get a referral.

Insurance for families in Alaska 

When shopping for family coverage, you need to consider the best way to reduce the cost of health care for your entire household. If someone in your household is more likely to use your coverage regularly, you may save more money in the long run by choosing a policy with higher monthly premiums but a lower deductible.

Also, consider what type of plan is best for your family. You may save money with an HMO, but you should review the network to see if you have access to the health care services your family needs. If you want more choice over your doctors and specialists, consider enrolling in a PPO or POS.

How much does health insurance cost in Alaska?

There are four tiers of policies available on the Health Insurance Marketplace: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Each tier categorizes policies based on factors such as annual deductibles, coinsurance requirements, and monthly premiums.

Average premiums in Alaska 2019 2020 2021 2022
Most affordable Bronze Plan $472 $448 $435 $429
Most affordable Silver Plan $701 $698 $673 $672
Most affordable Gold Plan $672 $636 $608 $610

  • Bronze plans offer the lowest monthly premiums but provide the least comprehensive coverage. Expect to pay higher deductibles and a 40% copay whenever you need medical care. A Bronze plan can save you money if you’re healthy and just want protection in case of an unexpected injury or illness. Keep in mind that you need to pay your entire deductible before receiving coverage. In 2022, the cheapest Bronze plan in Alaska costs $429 per month.
  • Silver plans are more expensive than Bronze plans, but your deductible and copayments are lower. Whenever you receive medical treatment, you’re only required to pay 30% of the total cost once you’ve met your deductible. Plus, you may qualify for a discount on a Silver plan that makes it more affordable than a Bronze plan. The least expensive Silver plan in Alaska in 2022 costs $672 per month.
  • Gold and Platinum plans offer the most coverage, and premiums in Alaska are actually lower for Gold plans than Silver plans. These policies are better for individuals and families who require ongoing treatment for chronic medical conditions. The coinsurance requirement is 20% with Gold plans and 10% with Platinum plans. In 2022, the most affordable Gold plan in Alaska costs $610 per month.

What kind of low-income health insurance is available in Alaska?

There are two programs available to assist low-income Alaskans with their health care coverage. The first is Alaska’s Medicaid program, DenaliCare, which is funded by the state and federal governments. The second is the Denali KidCare program, which provides coverage for children. Your eligibility for either program depends on your income, household size, and whether anyone in your family has a disability.

Medicaid in Alaska 

DenaliCare is administered by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and is the state’s Medicaid program. To qualify for DenaliCare, you need to have low income and meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • You’re over 65 years of age
  • You have a permanent disability
  • You take care of a disabled person
  • You’re the parent or guardian of one or more children under the age of 18
  • You’re pregnant

You may qualify for DenaliCare if your income is under a sliding threshold that increases with household size. The individual threshold is $17,131 per year, for example, but it increases to $29,207 for a family of three. If you’re pregnant, your unborn child counts as a household member.

You can apply for DenaliCare through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace or by calling the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Assistance at 907-465-1617.

Denali KidCare 

If you don’t qualify for DenaliCare and can’t afford insurance coverage for your children, you can still apply for Denali KidCare. This program helps children under the age of 19 and pregnant women. To enroll a child, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Your child isn’t covered by a health insurance policy
  • Your child must have a Social Security number or a pending application for one
  • You must be ineligible for Medicaid
  • Your child must be under 19 years of age

Denali KidCare covers minor children and pregnant women who don’t qualify for Medicaid. You’re required to pay a small monthly premium and receive coverage for prenatal care, routine examinations, immunizations, prescription drugs, approved outpatient procedures, dental, vision, and mental health care.

You can apply for Denali KidCare through the Health Insurance Marketplace or the Division of Public Assistance.

What are Alaska’s Medicare options for seniors and people with disabilities?

Alaskans have several options to choose from when it comes to Medicare. You can enroll in Original Medicare, or opt for a Medicare Advantage Plan.

  • Original Medicare is the basic form of Medicare managed by the federal government. It consists of Part A (inpatient care), and Part B (preventive care and outpatient medical services). It pays for hospital care, preventive services, durable medical equipment, and other medical services, but does not cover prescriptions. Supplemental plans are available to help with prescription costs – these plans are known as Medicare Part D.
  • Medicare Advantage Plans are sold by private insurance companies. Although plans must offer at least the same coverage as Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage Plans often cover extra services such as prescription medications, dental, and vision.

If you choose Original Medicare, you can also purchase supplemental plans to extend your coverage. Medicare Part D covers prescription medications, while Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) covers deductibles, copays, and other out-of-pocket Medicare costs.

Eligibility

To qualify for Medicare, you must be at least 65 years old or have a qualifying disability. In most cases, a qualifying disability is a condition that makes you eligible for at least 24 months of payments from the Social Security Disability Insurance program or Railroad Retirement Board. You may be able to qualify sooner if you have end-stage renal disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Enrollment

If you start receiving your Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits at least four months before you turn 65, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare. Otherwise, you must fill out an application online or contact your local Social Security office. You can enroll in Medicare during the following periods:

  • Initial enrollment: Your initial enrollment period starts three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after your 65th birthday. If you’ve never had Medicare, you can enroll during this period. If you started receiving Medicare when you were younger, you can also make changes to your plan.
  • General enrollment: Choose this enrollment period if you missed your initial enrollment period. The Medicare general enrollment period is January 1 to March 31. You can choose Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medigap, or Part D.
  • Medicare Advantage open enrollment: You can make changes to your Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, from January 1 to March 31.
  • Open enrollment: You can join, switch plans, or drop your coverage from October 15 to December 7 each year.
  • Special enrollment periods: You may qualify for a special enrollment period if you lose your coverage or have changes to your eligibility outside the regular enrollment periods.

Medicare Resources

If you need assistance with your Medicare enrollment, you can call Access Alaska at 1-800-770-4488 to speak with a State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) counselor at no cost.

Are there short-term health insurance plan options in Alaska?

If you know that you’re going to lose your health insurance because you’re changing jobs, moving, or have missed your enrollment deadline through the Health Insurance Marketplace, short-term health insurance may help you bridge a gap in coverage. Alaska doesn’t have any restrictions on temporary coverage, so federal laws apply instead. These mandate that a short-term policy can only last a year and you’re only able to renew it twice, for a total of 36 months of coverage.

Short-term health insurance policies, while offering cheap health insurance, aren’t bound by the rules written into the ACA, so you can be denied coverage for preexisting conditions, and your premiums may be increased due to your health history.

Alaska Insurance FAQs

Does Alaska require health insurance?

Alaskans aren’t required to have health insurance. There’s no state mandate for coverage, and the ACA mandate isn’t enforceable after Congress repealed the penalty in 2019. If you don’t have insurance, you’re not going to pay any fines on your taxes, but you will be responsible for all your medical expenses.

Do I have to use the Health Insurance Marketplace in Alaska?

If you’re not interested in the Advanced Premium Tax Credit, you don’t need to use Alaska’s Health Insurance Marketplace to obtain coverage. Keep in mind that the only way to qualify for the tax credit is to enroll in a policy through the exchange.

What types of alternative health insurance plans (like cost-sharing plans) are available in Alaska?

The most popular form of cost-sharing plans are faith-based plans. In a faith-based plan, members share health care costs with other members. You don’t need to be a member of a particular denomination (or even religious), to participate in a plan. While these plans can be relatively low-cost, most faith-based plans don’t conform to ACA standards and don’t cover pre-existing conditions, mental health care, or pregnancy.

Do I need health insurance if I have HSA/FSA?

Health savings accounts and flexible savings accounts are meant as supplements to your existing health insurance coverage. These accounts are designed to help you put money aside for unexpected medical expenses.

Do I need short-term disability coverage in Alaska if I have health insurance?

Short-term disability insurance covers out-of-pocket expenses that traditional health insurance doesn’t. For example, your health insurance pays for doctor’s appointments and medical procedures but doesn’t replace your wages while you can’t work. This is useful insurance, but it doesn’t replace your health care plan.

Do I need long-term disability coverage in Alaska if I have health insurance?

Long-term disability coverage works like short-term disability insurance so that you can continue to pay for your groceries, utilities, and mortgage if you’re unable to work due to a disability or chronic health condition.

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Insurance and healthcare consultant

Tammy Burns is an experienced health insurance advisor. She is ACA-certified for health insurance and other ancillary, life, and annuity products.

She’s always been driven by a desire to help people, spending more than 25 years as a practicing nurse in hospitals, private doctors’ offices, home health, and hospice. As a nurse, Burns supported patients filing insurance claims with Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies, as well as responding to billing questions from confused patients.

Seeing firsthand how unsuspecting patients are frequently confused by an overly complex system they don’t understand led Burns to become an insurance agent and healthcare consultant, now helping people understand the medical system. Since becoming an agent, she has worked with some of the largest and most reputable insurance carriers and agencies in the nation, and she has built a large and loyal clientele by way of her commitment to transparency and personalized service.

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