Alaska Won’t Have State-Run Health Insurance Exchange

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has opted not to create a state-run health insurance exchange and will instead rely on the federal government to run the program. Parnell made the decision months ago and said he was standing by that as the Nov. 15 federal deadline for states’ choices looms.

“I think the federal government should pay for its own requirements, rather than the state,” Parnell said.

A health insurance exchange is an online website where consumers can shop a variety of health insurance options. Some states already have sites up an running while others are planning to work with the federal government to implement a hybrid exchange. But several states took Parnell’s stance, opting not to run their own exchange.

“They were only going to be funding a part of the health insurance exchange development and I just did not want to take us down the road of further entangling our finances with the Affordable Care Act if, indeed, the federal government would be financing it themselves,” Parnell said.

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Remote Alaska to Stockpile Food, Just in Case

Photo credit: Christie 13

Alaska is known for pioneering, self-reliant residents who are accustomed to remote locations and harsh weather. Despite that, Gov. Sean Parnell worries a major earthquake or volcanic eruption could leave the state’s 720,000 residents stranded and cut off from food and supply lines. His answer: Build giant warehouses full of emergency food and supplies, just in case.

For some in the lower 48, it may seem like an extreme step. But Parnell says this is just Alaska.

In many ways, the state is no different than the rest of America. Most people buy their groceries at stores, and rely on a central grid for power and heat. But, unlike the rest of the lower 48, help isn’t a few miles away. When a fall storm cut off Nome from its final fuel supply last winter, a Russian tanker spent weeks breaking through thick ice to reach the remote town.

Weather isn’t the only thing that can wreak havoc in Alaska, where small planes are a preferred mode of transportation and the drive from Seattle to Juneau requires a ferry ride and 38 hours in a car. The state’s worst natural disaster was in 1964, when a magnitude-9.2 earthquake and resulting tsunami killed 131 people and disrupted electrical systems, water mains and communication lines in Anchorage and other cities.

“We have a different motivation to do this, because help is a long ways away,” said John Madden, Alaska’s emergency management director.

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Law of the Sea Treaty, Supported by Alaska’s Governor, Lt. Governor & Congressional Delegation, now DOA

The United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty now has 34 senators opposed to it and thus lacks the Senate votes needed for U.S. ratification, a key opponent of the treaty announced Monday.

But the treaty’s main Senate proponent denies the treaty is sunk, saying plenty of time still exists to win support before a planned late-year vote.

The Law of the Sea Treaty, which entered into force in 1994 and has been signed and ratified by 162 countries, establishes international laws governing the maritime rights of countries. The treaty has been signed but not ratified by the U.S., which would require two-thirds approval of the Senate.

Critics of the treaty argue that it would subject U.S. sovereignty to an international body, require American businesses to pay royalties for resource exploitation and subject the U.S. to unwieldy environmental regulations as defined.

The list of treaty opponents has been growing, and on Monday, Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican and a leader of efforts to block it, announced that four more Republicans have said that they would vote against ratification: Sens. Mike Johanns of Nebraka, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rob Portman of Ohio and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

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Photo credit:  Department of Defense