Alaska eyes Obamacare replacements with skepticism

WASILLA, Alaska — In the small town that birthed the political career of Sarah Palin, the debate over the future of health care has taken on an urgency unlike that playing out in much of the lower 48 states.

That’s because Alaska currently has the second-highest per capita spending on health care in the country, with plans costing two-and-a-half times the national average, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Both the House’s American Health Care Act and the Senate’s delayed vote to roll back the Affordable Care Act stand poised to drive those costs even higher.

While Palin has been one of Obamacare’s loudest critics, falsely warning that the law would lead to the creation of death panels, many residents of Wasilla seem unsure about the effort to replace it.

And while some in the town of just 7,800 residents say they want change, many out this week running errands at a local hardware store or taking kids to recreate at Wasilla Lake expressed frustration at the state’s high cost of care. Others were reflexively against new proposals that would drive premiums even higher and leave potentially more neighbors, coworkers — perhaps even themselves — uninsured.

“Health care up here is so expensive,” said Brittany Ward, who gets health insurance through her Army veteran father. “It makes me hopeless. … I can’t afford [care] and I need it.”

Ward has schizophrenia, something which landed her in the hospital recently and saddled her family with a $68,000 bill.

The ongoing debate among politicians on the issue is so frustrating, Ward said, she could not bear to watch the news.

“They don’t understand health care for the middle and lower class,” Ward said.

Ron Taber said he signed up on the insurance exchange but that the cost was still higher than was feasible for him to pay. After going to the hospital with chest pain, he said his deductible was still $7,000.

“It’s not something that should ruin people,” he said.

Across town, Craig Pell…

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