Governor names members to Medicaid Reform Advisory Group

Gov. Sean Parnell has named nine Alaskans to serve on the Medicaid Reform Advisory Group, which was created by the governor to bring in stakeholders and craft a proposal for meaningful reforms to the state’s Medicaid program. Specifically, the group will engage stakeholders such as physicians, specialists, pharmacists, dentists, the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, community health centers and other non-profit health care providers, behavioral health providers, tribal health leaders, veterans affairs, insurers, and constituents.

Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Bill Streur will chair the group. The group’s final report must be submitted to the legislature for approval no later than November 15, and be ready for inclusion in the governor’s FY 2016 budget proposal.

Gov. Parnell named Renae Axelson, Senator John Coghill, Dr. Ilona Farr, Sandra Heffern, Representative Pete Higgins, Kenai Mayor Mike Navarre, Gene Peltola, John Torgerson and Kevin Turkington to the working group.

Axelson, of Anchorage, is a licensed nurse who has been an involved member of Alaska’s health care community for the last 30 years. She currently serves as the compliance officer for Geneva Woods Pharmacy. Axelson has served as an advisory board member at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.

Coghill, of Fairbanks, has served in the Alaska Senate since 2009. He previously served as a state representative since 1999. Born in Fairbanks and raised in Nenana, Coghill served in the U.S. Air Force. He is a small business owner.

Farr, of Anchorage, is a practicing physician and owner of Alaska Family Medical Care. Farr serves on the Blue Cross Physicians Advisory Board and Geneva Woods Homeowners Association. She is a member of the American Academy of Family Practice, and American Association of Physicians and Surgeons.

Heffern, of Anchorage, is the owner of Effective Health Design Enterprises. She previously served as the chief executive officer of Ready Care, and as program director for ASSETS, an organization that provides supported employment and living services for individuals with disabilities and/or mental illness.

Higgins, of Fairbanks, was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 2012. He is a dentist with offices in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Wasilla. Higgins attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and earned his DDS from Creighton University.

Navarre, of Soldotna, is the mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. He served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1984 to 1996. Navarre earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Eastern Washington University.

Peltola, of Bethel, retired this year as chief executive of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC). YKHC serves about 50 surrounding villages in Western Alaska. Peltola oversaw construction of five primary care clinics in the region, and during his tenure YKHC replaced more than 30 health clinics. He was the recipient of the Alaska Federation of Natives’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006; Indian Health Service’s Chief Executive Officer of the Year in 2007; and the Healthy Alaska Natives Foundation Luminary President’s Award in 2009.

Torgerson, of Soldotna, is the executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District. He has held numerous public positions in his career, including state senator for eight years, Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly member for five years, acting deputy commissioner of the Alaska Marine Highway System, deputy commissioner of aviation, and acting director and business manager of the Alaska Division of Agriculture. Torgerson has also served as president of the Alaska Municipal League.

Turkington, of Anchorage, is the founder and president of Midnight Sun Home Care, which provides non-medical, in-home care to aging adults. A 46-year resident of Alaska, Turkington is an active community member, and board representative for numerous local and national senior and business organizations, including Older Persons Action Group, Mabel T. Caverly Senior Services, and the Mayor’s Senior Citizen Advisory Committee.