There’s a saying in dog mushing: you’re only as strong as your weakest dog. Of course, this applies to any team, or any life situation where people must work together. In rural Alaska, we understand this reality better than most.
Right now, we must stick together to protect rural health care. A bill before the U.S. Senate could make it impossible for some air ambulance companies to stay in business. S. 1895, which claims to be about medical billing transparency, would actually raise rates for Medevac companies, forcing them either to increase their prices, or quit serving certain, high-cost areas. Various proposals in the House of Representatives would bring the same consequences. It should come as no surprise that rural Alaska falls into the high-cost category. We could lose air ambulance service as a result, a scary prospect, especially during a time of national pandemic.
I agree that controlling health care costs for all Americans is critically important, but we cannot transfer that risk from one group to another, which is what we are doing with S. 1895. Rural Alaskans, many of whom are Alaska Native people, would be hurt the most.
As the CEO for Mt. Sanford Tribal Consortium, I know firsthand how critical secure funding sources are to our limited health care services in rural Alaska. Our partners experience the same financial challenges as our Native health care organizations, and we must stick together for mutual success.
Residents of our community are four hours away from a hospital, so time is of the essence when it comes to medical emergencies. Our Congressional delegation is rightly focused on the COVID-19 crisis, but we need them to pay close attention to this issue, and oppose any provision that would jeopardize air ambulance service in rural Alaska. There is simply too much at stake.
Evelyn Beeter is the CEO of Mt. Sanford Tribal Consortium, and an award-winning dog musher. She lives in Chistochina, AK.