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KNBA News - State witnesses testify in Fbks 4 case; Alaska has nation's most costly health insurance

Oct 27, 2015

State witnesses take the stand in Fairbanks Four case

By Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The state has begun calling witnesses in the Fairbanks Four evidentiary hearing now in its fourth week. Witnesses so far were summoned by attorneys representing exoneration petitioners George Frese, Kevin Pease, Marvin Roberts, and Eugene Vent. Now the focus has shifted to witnesses offered by state lawyers trying to uphold the men’s convictions for the murder of John Hartman.

Yesterday, Fairbanks resident Stephen Paskvan testified he gave Eugene Vent’s mother, Ida Hogue, a ride to the airport shortly after her son was arrested for the Hartman attack. Paskvan recounted a brief conversation in which he says Hogue shared something Eugene told her.

"That he assured her that, 'Mom, I never got out of the car,” said Paskvan"

The comment presumably references a car Vent and the other three men allegedly rode around the city the night Hartman was assaulted on a downtown street. Hogue testified she doesn’t remember the comment, and doesn’t know Paskvan.

Hogue said, "I never spoke to him."

Monday, in a video deposition, cab driver Veronica Solomon recounts seeing four men around a car at the scene and around the time of the 1997 Hartman attack. Solomon says she tried unsuccessfully to report it to police a few weeks later, then avoided news about the case until 2005, when she looked up a picture of the Fairbanks Four.

"Marvin Roberts clearly to me looked like the person that was standing by the door and, I think it was Kevin Pease, he's the light colored person, I think I remember his name as being the one that looked like the person by the driver's door."

Solomon describes a car different from the one the Fairbanks Four are alleged to have been in the night of the Hartman attack. Solomon says she shared her story with a State Trooper re-investigating the Fairbanks Four case last year.

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Alaska's small population, high medical costs drive up health insurance costs

Based on a story by Annie Feidt, APRN

The Affordable Care Act was supposed to make health insurance accessible to all Americans. But individual health insurance in Alaska is the most expensive in the country according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation report -- a Fairbanks small business owner recently received a quote of 40-thousand dollars a year for health insurance for a family of five.

Most Alaskans who buy individual plans qualify for a generous subsidy that rises with premium increases. Still, about 5,000 Alaskans are paying full sticker price. The Affordable Care Act does exempt people from penalties for not having insurance if the lowest cost insurance amounts to more than 8% of their annual income.

State and insurance company officials cite two reasons for expensive health insurance in Alaska. High-cost claims can’t be spread out over a large population and high medical costs --  such as specialty care that can cost two to three times the cost of the same service in Seattle.

One of only two companies left who offer individual health insurance in the state, Premera Alaska, is working on legislation to create a high-risk pool. Through the pool, a tax on all health claims in the state would pay for claims from individuals with the largest medical bills.

And Alaska Division of Insurance director Lori Wing-Heier plans to work with doctors and hospitals to reduce specialty care rates. Open enrollment begins Sunday. 

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State honors the late, former Alaska First Lady Michael Cowper

The state of Alaska is flying flags at half-staff today in honor of former First Lady Michael Cowper, ex-wife of Steve Cowper, Alaska’s Governor from 1986 to 1990. Michael Cowper died Oct. 22 in Santa Barbara, California. She was 62.