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JUNEAU – The Alaska Legislature Monday approved a measure that improves statewide access to vaccines and reduces healthcare costs for providers and insurance payers.
Senate Bill 37, sponsored by Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, renews the Alaska immunization program in the Department of Health and Social Services, which is scheduled for expiration on January 1, 2021.
“Alaska’s immunization program is an innovative public-private partnership that ensures Alaskans a healthier future at the lowest possible cost,” said Sen. Giessel. “The department reduces vaccine-preventable diseases, and providers have improved health outcomes for their patients and easier vaccine stock management. The insurers pay less to vaccinate individuals, and we all save more money in the long-run due to decreased medical costs from vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Established in 2014, the program monitors, purchases and distributes all childhood vaccines and select adult vaccines to providers, making access to vaccines universal for all Alaskans. By 2018, the program covered more than 333,000 Alaskans, 45 percent of the total population. Next to clean drinking water and good nutrition, vaccines have saved more lives than any other public health intervention.
The program is fully-funded by the state Vaccine Assessment Account through fees from health plans and insurers. There are no undesignated general funds needed for this program. The state leverages its buying power to purchase vaccines in bulk using the fees collected from healthcare payers then distributes vaccines to providers who administer them at no charge, improving health and wellbeing while lowering overall vaccine costs by 20-30 percent.
SB 37 passed the Senate 19-0 and the House 35-1, for a combined vote of 54-1. The bill is now on its way to Governor Mike Dunleavy’s desk for his signature.