SITKA, AK-- A group of citizens in the island town of Sitka held a town hall meeting on Friday July 7, 2017 to discuss the the Senate Health Care Bill and its impact on Alaskan communities. Over 80 people attended the gathering at the local clan house/community event space, Sheet'ká Ḵwáan Naa Kahídi. Attendees included health care providers from Sitka Community Hospital and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (SEARHC), elders, non-profit directors, teachers, fishermen, and small business owners. Neither Senator Lisa Murkowski nor Senator Dan Sullivan attended, but both sent statements that were read aloud.
VIDEO: Excerpts from the town hall
After an introduction from the local Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment coordinator about the benefits and challenges of the ACA and what would change under the new proposed Senate bill, citizens stood up and shared their experiences and concerns with health care and insurance coverage in Alaska. This included comment from Sitka Community Hospital administrator Rob Allen on the positive impact of the ACA and Medicaid expansion, and testimony from Dr. Robert Hunter who shared how the ACA had allowed many Sitkans to receive treatment for substance abuse. “We need more help, not less help,” he said.
State Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins also spoke about the state government’s role in expanding coverage and how many of his rural constituents depend on the ACA. After the Town Hall, residents gathered to record video messages to send to Senator Murkowski and Senator Sullivan, and to write postcards to the senators voicing their concerns.