Governor Walker signs healthcare omnibus SB 105 into law

Governor Walker signed Senate Bill 105 at the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce’s meeting at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage this afternoon. Supporters of the omnibus health bill gathered to watch its sponsors – including Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, Rep. Geran Tarr, and Sen. David Wilson – speak to the bill’s merits, and watch it become Alaska’s newest law. Three different pieces of legislation were combined before passage to create a bill offers a range of good changes related to health care in Alaska.

The bill improves medical transparency in Alaska. Sponsored by Representative Spohnholz, the medical cost measures in the bill require healthcare providers and facilities to help patients make more informed decisions about the costs behind their care. Instead of waiting to be surprised by a medical bill, SB 105 requires healthcare providers to publicly post the costs of their most common procedures, and install signs to let patients know they can ask for estimates in advance. The bill requires that providers supply good faith estimates of what patients can expect to pay – including a full explanation of the charges – within 10 days of being asked.

“Healthcare costs are a critical issue in Alaska,” Governor Walker said today. “Trying to keep costs sustainable is an important issue for individuals and families, but also for businesses and our economy. Seeking care is often hard enough – our medicals bills shouldn’t hurt, too.”

The bill also included a measure on ACES (adverse childhood experience syndrome), sponsored by Representative Tarr. Trauma that children go through early in life – whether it’s abuse, toxic stress, neglect, or more – continues to affect them for the rest of their lives, rippling out into their families and communities. Her measure encourages policymakers to make decisions for Alaska in a trauma-informed way, and to consider the extra support that children, adults, and communities need as a consequence of ACES.

The bill also improves billing for marital and family counseling, a measure sponsored by Senator Wilson. Among other administrative tweaks, it means Alaska marital and family therapists can directly bill Medicaid, streamlining the process for Alaskans who seek care, no matter their income bracket.

This press release was provided by the office of Governor Walker.