Grant Makes Healthcare Available for Rural Alaska

Health Insurance Company, Premera Blue Shield has pledged a $5.7 million grant to increase healthcare in rural areas of Alaska. As of July 2019, Alaska has fourteen critical access hospitals, thirty two federally qualified health centers located outside of urbanized areas, and just four short-term hospitals outside of urbanized areas. As of that same time, Alaska boasts zero rural health centers. 

These grants could change the way that rural healthcare operates in Alaska. The funds from Primera will be split between two entities: Alaska Native Tribe Consortium (ANTC), and the University of Alaska Anchorage’s grantmaking fund administered by the Rathmusen Foundation, in partnership with the Alaska Community Foundation.   

This grantmaking fund which is known as the Rural Health Care Fund will receive the largest portion of the money, in the amount of $3 million dollars. Then, grants will be awarded to various rural outpatient clinics, community health centers, and hospitals in amounts ranging from $25,000-$100,000 to make small capital improvements and well as to upgrade medical equipment. 

The University of Alaska Anchorage will receive $1.77 million, which will be used to expand their nursing program, the money will be used more specifically to expand an existing program focused on native recruitment into nursing known as: “Recruitment and Retention of Alaska Natives into Nursing” which will focus on recruitment from rural Alaska. 

University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor, Cathy Sandeen, had a lot to say about UAA receiving this grant funding from Primera: “By increasing the number of nursing students from rural Alaska communities, the university helps meet a demand for medical professionals who understand the unique health care needs of rural Alaska and have a desire to return home to their communities to practice.”

In addition to the funding going to the previously mentioned programs, $700,000 will be going to the Alaska Native Tribal Consortium to build an Education and Development Center to train health professionals in a variety of fields. President and Chairman of ANTC Andy Teuber says that these funds will enable the consortium’s people to receive training in a variety of fields that will benefit the community overall: “Becoming behavioral, community and dental health aides. Each program offers Alaska Native centered learning, dedicated to expanding culturally appropriate health care at the village level.”

Alaska happens to have the highest cost of healthcare in the entire country, part of which has to do with a lack of qualified medical professionals in the state. Because Alaska has to offer out-of-state medical staff incentives to bring them to the state, this increases the costs passed off to the consumer.

Authored by Lianne Hikind

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