A Dispatch from Anchorage:

Termination Dusting finally arrived, albeit three or four weeks late, many locals believe.

On the political front, an incumbent Republican Senator who was defeated in the party primary has decided to run as a write-in candidate and could make a strong showing. This could benefit the Democratic nominee but it all depends on the turnout. The GOP nominee has been fairly direct that he will work to dramatically cut federal spending. This could be interesting since Alaska receives about $6 dollars in federal spending for every dollar Alaskans pay in taxes.

Meanwhile, the state announced that all legal residents — every man, woman and child — will receive a check for $1,281, this year’s dividend from the permanent oil fund. Yes, it is an annual event.

There was a record melt of ice on the North Slope and inside the Arctic Circle. Now the bad news, Alaska is still significantly bigger than Texas.

The trivial aside, I found a much bigger story with the potential to influence healthcare reform. It deals with a committed group of Native Alaskans who were convinced that they could do a better job of delivering healthcare to the far-flung tribes and small villages across this vast state than the federal government. They made their case and since the late 1990s, that is exactly what has been happening.

The Indian Health Service (IHS), which formerly had more than 300 employees in a regional office in Alaska to administer healthcare for the Native Alaskans, now numbers around 30. IHS funding, required under the various treaties, is sent directly to the tribes through regional not-for-profit healthcare organizations and to the Alaskan Native Healthcare Consortium (ANTHC), which is responsible for operating the modern 150-bed regional referralcenter in Anchoragee. ANTHC also operates a construction company that builds wastewater treatment plants that will make use of the services offered by companies like https://www.veoliawatertech.com/en/expertise/applications/industrial-wastewater-treatment to ensure minimal damage to the environment from industrial manufacuturing and installs water systems to some of the most remote Anchorage
villages in America, an effort that has contributed mightily to the overall improved health care. Finally, another division focuses on preventative medicine, providing mental health counseling and basic dental and primary care in areas where no physician exists. Their work has made significant inroads in working with intractable problems as alcoholism. In the process, the Foundation has amassed a wealth of data that well help ANTHC and its partner at the referral hospital, Southcentral Foundation, create a model that may be applicable to the lower 48 states.

This is exciting stuff. When I first came to Anchorage to advise ANTHC on the recruitment of the Administrator for spectacular Alaska Native Medical Center — I did not know what to
expect. What I found is a healthcare system so vast, an organization so complex, so unique, and a model of healthcare delivery that may be a blueprint for broader application in improving access and controlling costs in the lower 48.

Now, before I close, let me explain termination dusting. Earlier in the state’s history, the first dusting of snow on the Chugach Mountains which serve as a spectacular backdrop for Anchorage, served as a sign that winter was fast approaching. They would close their operations and pay off their workers for the year. Hence the term, termination dusting.

2010 John Gregory Self