Healthcare Questions Dominate Sen. Dan Sullivan Town Hall

Senator Dan Sullivan speaks to public in Afognak building on Near Island, Kodiak. Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Republican Senator Dan Sullivan held a town hall in the city of Kodiak Saturday and attracted a sizeable crowd. He dedicated the bulk of the meeting to the public’s questions, and most focused on healthcare.

One commenter, Mike Milligan, said the United States has a health care system based on money.

He connected his statement to Sullivan’s support of putting outside funds into political campaigns.

“Other people have a healthcare system based on health and you have been a consistent supporter of [the] Citizens United [Supreme Court] decision, which keeps money in politics. How can you address this money associated with healthcare delivery when you’re such an ardent supporter of Citizens United?”

In response, Sullivan told a story about a woman who approached him and his family at dinner. The person said she and her husband were paying $3,000 dollars a month under the affordable care act with a $10,000 dollar deductible.

“Come on, that’s $33,000 dollars before you get any coverage. That’s completely unaffordable. So, it’s complex, it’s very personal, as you mention Mike. I get it. And that’s why we’ve been trying to meet with everybody.”

Sullivan said they’re working towards reform for the state.

Scattered among the many comments on health care were several about protecting fisheries resources.

Gina Friccero referred to an incident in 2014 where a massive flow of mining waste in Canada escaped into lakes that served as spawning grounds for sockeye salmon.

“The residents of the great state of Alaska have made it clear across party lines that we do not want to put the salmon habitat at risk. After the failure of Mount Polley mine, it is obvious that there is no viable way to protect our watershed from the pollution caused by mining. We ask that you make us a priority and stand against mining in any area that threatens the ecology of salmon habitat.”

Sullivan said he believes in responsible resource development and transparency. He discussed the ongoing issue of Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay watershed. The Environmental Protection Agency recently settled a lawsuit with the Pebble Limited Partnership that allows the company to apply for a federal permit for a mine in the area.

“If that mine ever goes to permitting, which it’s not at permitting at all yet – state, federal permitting – it has to meet the highest standards. And we shouldn’t trade one resource for another. We already know we have great resources, as you mentioned, in Bristol Bay.”

He said the permitting process should be fair.

At the town hall, Sullivan also spoke about some of the bills he’s started or contributed to, including one to bolster missile defense and another to encourage new entrants into the fishing industry and provide training for young fishermen.

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