Alaska health official's testimony says federal regulations are strangling rural hospitals

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - An Alaska health official is in Washington this week testifying in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on administrative health care costs. She says some rural hospitals in Alaska are overwhelmed by federal rules.

“When you look at a state like Alaska. Our needs are going to be much different than a state like Iowa,” said Becky Hultberg, President and CEO of the Alaska State Hospital & Nursing Home Association.

Hutlberg is looking for relief from the federal government for Alaska’s hospitals. Hultberg says federal regulations that might work for larger states and hospitals are strangling Alaska’s rural areas.

“Most of our regulatory framework does not necessarily impact patient care. It’s checking a box. It’s filling out a form,” said Hultberg.

Hultberg says the money spent on complying with regulation leads some rural Alaska hospitals to provide fewer services. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) invited Hultberg to testify. The senator says her state's rural hospitals are stretched thin.

“You miss out on that opportunity cost to get better health care outcomes and that is a cost,” said Murkowski.

The committee is trying to come up with ways to lower health care costs for Americans, discussing the benefits of private services versus public services like Medicare.

“It’s time to ramp up the fight for Medicare for all so that everyone is covered, no one goes broke because of a medical bill, and we start treating health care like the basic human right that it is,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Warren says Medicare costs are unfairly inflated in reports. She says the costs related to private health insurance are much higher because, she says, priced-in to private insurance services is the money going into their own pockets.

“It’s time to crack down on the shady practices private insurance companies use to juice their profits,” said Warren.

A recent study from George Mason University says Medicare for all would boost government health spending $32.6 trillion over 10 years.