After announcing his candidacy earlier this summer, Al Gross came to KRBD to explain why he’s running against Republican Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan in 2020.

Al Gross has been traveling the state to listen to the concerns of Alaskans. Gross said he’s running for the good of the state.

“What I would like to see is a future for Alaska that involves new jobs, growth, and a positive future for the state,” said Gross. “And Dan Sullivan’s not doing that at all. He represents the status quo and the status quo’s not working here in Alaska.”

Gross referred to the number of people moving out of the state, the decreased state budget, shrinking higher education system, and cutbacks in the ferry system. He said he wants to bring more jobs and increase the economy in Alaska through green energy and renewable energy, and fixing healthcare.

“Yeah, I really think healthcare in Alaska is holding back the economy,” said Gross. “We’ve got the most expensive healthcare system in the entire world, and in the entire country, and it’s prohibitively expensive for companies or individuals to move to the state to start new businesses because healthcare is triple the national average here in Alaska.”

Gross said he doesn’t want to change the current health insurance system, but he does want to provide more options to increase the number of people moving to Alaska—such as healthcare providers.

“What I would like to see is a public option where people have the option to buy into a public system such as Medicare, without having to have the private health insurance companies as an intermediary,” said Gross. “And of course Medicare functions with a very, very low administrative cost—maybe three or four percent—compared to private health insurance which is more like 25 or 30 percent.”

He acknowledged that some people are unhappy with Medicare because of prescription drug prices, as well as limitations in healthcare providers who accept Medicare patients. Gross said savings could be applied to paying physicians more.

“Cost savings could occur by negotiating directly with drug companies, or perhaps being able to buy drugs from overseas to force competition into the system,” said Gross.

According to Gross, new businesses won’t come to Alaska to create new jobs unless the healthcare system is fixed. Gross said the state needs to control healthcare costs in order to develop non-resource related businesses.

 “When you’re on the phone with an Alaska Airlines agent, they are almost one hundred percent of the time in Idaho, or Arizona or Washington, and never in Alaska because those employees cost a whole lot less in those states than they would in Alaska—almost exclusively because of healthcare costs,” said Gross.

Gross discussed other policies he would look into if elected.

As the tourism industry continues to grow, more cruise ships have been caught dumping waste water. Gross said reinstating the observer program, as well as having special technology, could help reduce this problem.

“Some sort of technology that’s tied into their tanks that ensures that those valves are not opened while the ship is being tracked on inside waters,” said Gross. “We do have pretty advanced technology that could potentially do that now.”

Gross is running as an unaffiliated candidate. He said he plans to be on the open Democratic primary ballot in August of 2020.