Research Matters No. 115 – Trends in Alaska’s Health-Care Spending

All Americans spend a lot to get health care—but Alaskans spend the most per resident, face the highest insurance premiums, and have seen overall spending grow much faster. Jessica Passini, Rosyland Frazier, and Mouhcine Guettabi of ISER have compiled a chart book of  publically available information on health-care spending in Alaska and nationwide since the 1990s and highlight some trends in a new publication, “Trends in Alaska’s Health-Care Spending.”The chart book, available online, synthesizes a wide range of data and present it as an objective, easy-to-use resource.  The authors hope this broad information on trends in health-care spending will help Alaskans better understand what happened, consider possible reasons why, and think about potential ways to change the upward spiral.

  • In less than 25 years, Alaska’s spending for health care increased more than 5 times over. Spending was $1.5 billion in 1991, $4.8 billion in 2005, and $8.2 billion by 2014
  • From 1991 through 2014, health-care spending grew on average 7.8% a year in Alaska and 6.0% nationwide
  • In both Alaska and nationwide, hospital care still takes the largest share of the health-care dollar. But that share declined somewhat between 1991 and 2014—from 43.2% to 42.6% in Alaska and from 41% to 38% nationwide.
  • Care by doctors accounts for the next largest share of spending in Alaska and around the country. But in Alaska that share increased between 1991 and 2014, from 27.4% to 30.4%, while nationwide it dropped, from 26% to 23.3%.
  • Family premiums in Alaska were 27% above the U.S. average in 2016—nearly double the 14% difference in 2003. The gap widened because Alaska premiums grew faster
  • Alaska employers paid on average $16,680, or about 79%, of the total 2015 premium of $21,089. Employees paid on average $4,409, or 21%.
  • Alaska’s Medicaid enrollment in March 2018 was 50% larger than in September 2015, when the state expanded its program. The expansion, under terms of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), covers single people 19 to 64, with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty guideline.

Rosyland Frasier
Senior Research Professional
(907) 786-5432

Read the research summary, full report, and access the excel workbook from our publication database.

The Harold E. Pomeroy Public Endowment supported this research.

All ISER publications are solely the work of the individual authors. This work should be attributed to the authors, not to the Institute of Social and Economic Research, the University of Alaska Anchorage, or the sponsor of the research.