Project Background

Alaska has a sporadic history of working towards reforming our healthcare system.  As a fairly young state, many of our health reform activities have actually focused on growth and building of infrastructure.  The growth was responsive to local need but lacked systematic and strategic planning.  The result has been healthcare delivery systems and funding structures that lack efficiency and struggle to maximize utilization controls.  The unsustainable growth in healthcare costs has necessitated our focus towards better management and coordination of our health care dollars and services.

Alaska did not participate in the state innovation model dollars that were made available during the early stages of implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  This left us at a significant disadvantage in trying to plan and implement comprehensive reform.  However, our reticence may be to our advantage as we look to successes in other states that are further down the reform road than Alaska.  We can learn and borrow approaches from the other states that have implemented strategies that have reduced their costs while improving access to quality healthcare.

The Administration, legislature, private entities and providers have been grappling with rising healthcare costs from their own unique perspectives.  In Spring, 2017 a small group met in Juneau to see if there was an avenue for us to bring together our collective knowledge and begin work on a comprehensive healthcare plan for Alaska.  From the experience of other states, we knew this would require leadership, commitment and money to effectuate the needed change.  We agreed to work together and began the process of defining a vision, guiding principles and goals for the Alaska healthcare system transformation.


The vision for Alaska’s healthcare system is to improve Alaskan’s health while also enhancing patient and health professional’s experience of care, and lowering the per capita healthcare growth rate.

Guiding Principles

  • Focus on improving individual and population health outcomes (defined holistically including mental, behavioral, oral, vision and social health)
  • Health coverage for all with common basic benefits.  There is shared responsibility in reforming and paying for coverage, with everyone – individuals, business, insurers and governments – playing a role.
  • Focus on whole person/integrated systems of care
  • Use proven healthcare delivery practices supported by appropriate payment mechanisms
  • Seeking recognition and ways to incorporate social determinants of health in patients’ care plans

Project Management Committee

The governance role of the Project Management Committee is to provide overall direction, guidance and support to the project, and to monitor the project to ensure successful delivery of expected outputs and outcomes within scope and budget.  The governance model is a consensus model whereby each member has an equal vote, equal responsibility and equal liability.  There is no hierarchy and no one individual has power over another.

Senator Natasha von Imhof

Representative Ivy Spohnholz

Pat Pitney, Director

Elizabeth Ripley, CEO, Mat-Su Health Foundation

Becky Hultberg, CEO/President   Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association

Nancy Merriman, CEO Alaska Primary Care Association

Kalani Parnell, Director of Organizational Improvement, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium   

(see PARTNERS page for a list of contributors).

Project Coordinator:

Sandra Heffern, Effective Health Design

The project coordinator acts as liaison between the fiscal agency and the project management committee, manages the workflow of the strategy development teams, ensures timelines and deliverables are met while meeting quality standards, and ensures the scope of the project stays within agreed upon boundaries.