Tony Knowles (Courtesy photo)

Tony Knowles (Courtesy photo)

Alaska Voices: Vote for an independent who will work to build unity

Dr. Al is ready to take on Washington.

  • Monday, October 19, 2020 5:35pm
  • Opinion

After moving to Juneau in 1994 to become Alaska’s ninth governor, my wife, Susan, and I chose Al Gross to be our orthopedic doctor and his wife, Monica, as the pediatrician for our three children.

Now, 25 years later, we are again choosing Al Gross, this time as our candidate for the U.S. Senate.

We first chose Al and Monica because they had earned a reputation in Juneau as first-class health care providers. We are choosing Dr. Al today as a great health care champion for a state and nation in the midst of a deadly pandemic that in the last eight months has infected almost 8 million and killed over 215,000 Americans.

These alarming and growing statistics are a direct consequence of a president without a plan, supported by political cronies in the Senate who sadly pick politics over science. For the sake of our medical and economic health, we must get control of this situation as one nation. Dr. Al is the independent Alaskan who can help lead the way out of this tragic mess.

In my eight years as governor, one of my proudest accomplishments was creating Denali Kidcare with bipartisan support in the Legislature. In partnership with the federal government, it provided access to health care for children and pregnant women in low-income families who didn’t qualify for Medicaid and couldn’t otherwise pay for health insurance.

After its inception in 1999, more than 25,000 children and 9,000 pregnant women had affordable health care for the first time. Today it serves many more. Dr. Al is committed to protecting this bedrock health care public policy.

But there is much more to be done in these demanding and dangerous times of COVID-19. Fortunately for Alaskans, Dr. Al has a straightforward plan that will allow any Alaskan access to affordable health care while keeping necessary competition to keep prices low. We need to offer all Americans a public option. It is outrageous that in this international pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, the only action taken by the president and his do-nothing followers in the Senate is to repeatedly try to kill the existing Affordable Care Act.

It is not enough to then give lip service to comprehensive health insurance when there is no concrete plan to provide it. Repealing the ACA goes in the opposite direction and would deprive 62,000 Alaskans of health care and no longer protect those with preexisting conditions. The empty sham promises of the president and his Senate followers to cover preexisting conditions are hollow at best.

Dr. Al is ready to take on Washington. He will build up, not tear down existing health care systems. He’ll not only work to expand health care for Alaskans, but also will take on the exorbitant costs of Big Pharma prescription drugs by mandating negotiations with the Food and Drug Administration and Medicare and allowing lower cost FDA-approved drugs to be imported from Canada.

As a Vietnam vet myself, I know that Al understands the needs of veteran health care. He worked nine months in a VA hospital and had many vets as patients in his Juneau practice. He will not just protect the provisions of TriCare but will fight to improve it by extending the cutoff date for health care coverage for children and dependents of vets from ages 18 to 26 — the same benefit in the current ACA.

Dr. Al will work to build the necessary bipartisan support for these steps, free from outside influence. That’s because as a candidate, he takes no political contributions from corporate PACs. Dr. Al will fight to protect the ACA guarantee that no insurance company can restrict coverage because of preexisting conditions, including the potential long-term effects of even mild cases of the COVID-19 novel virus. These cases, in addition to the tens of thousands of Alaskans with current preexisting conditions, cannot be allowed to be a barrier to Alaskans in the health insurance marketplace.

I knew and admired Dr. Al’s late father, Av Gross, who served as attorney general for Gov. Jay Hammond. I never thought about Av or his boss belonging to opposite parties because they both championed progressive policies like the Permanent Fund and subsistence, based solely on their merits and fairness to all Alaskans.

Al Gross comes from that same mold. He is independent — not as a political choice — but because he is a lifelong Alaskan, husband, father, sportsman, commercial fisherman and doctor who loves this state. He has the talent, independence and passion to work for all Alaskans. He has a plan and will build the unity that we desperately need in these times.

That’s why the Knowles’ family again chooses Dr. Al — for U.S. Senate.

Tony Knowles served as the Anchorage mayor from 1981-87 and as Alaska governor from 1994-2002.

• By Tony Knowles

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