Medicaid program reforms will increase quality of care in the Alaska Tribal Health System

Date Posted: September 26, 2016

When Gov. Walker expanded Medicaid in Alaska last year, there was also a push to reform the program to better meet the health needs of those being served.

Representatives of the Alaska Tribal Health System (ATHS) have been key partners with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) to jointly develop a package of Tribal Medicaid Reform recommendations that both improve the quality of care and create efficiencies in costs of the program. The recommendations are driven by a need to provide Alaska Native people access to the highest quality health care possible in their own community. When a higher level of care is necessary, it will be coordinated and made readily available through the ATHS. This will allow all health care to be provided by or through the ATHS, meaning patient care will be culturally appropriate and address the needs of our people.

Our work on Medicaid reform in the Tribal health system will address the unique health needs of our people and help the State support its recent Medicaid expansion to sustain basic Medicaid services for all recipients especially in these difficult budget times.

The ATHS and DHSS Tribal Medicaid reform recommendations include the following:

  • For medically necessary travel, Tribal organizations will be able to arrange non-emergency transportation services to improve the patient experience and create efficiencies.
  • Alaska Native patients needing overnight accommodations to receive care will have patient-friendly and culturally appropriate lodging operated by the ATHS and reimbursed by Medicaid at the appropriate federal per diem rate.
  • An expanded role and more appropriate reimbursement rates for Community Health Aides and other certified Tribal community health providers to furnish services to Alaska Native people in their home communities earlier and more effectively, and ultimately at a reduced cost.
  • Behavioral health services available in more villages and Tribal Clinics, including at-risk children, as well as more integration with other health services.

In the coming months, we will continue to work with the State of Alaska to seek Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approval of the proposed Medicaid State Plan Amendments to implement these innovative, flexible, and culturally appropriate solutions to Medicaid care in the ATHS.

For more information on the recommended initiatives or the Medicaid reform work, contact Jim Roberts with ANTHC’s Intergovernmental Affairs department at