Governor Walker signs bill increasing medical cost transparency, access to health services

A new Alaska law aims to increase transparency about medical costs and expand access to behavioral health services.

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Governor Bill Walker signed SB 105 into law yesterday. It combines three different pieces of healthcare legislation into one and requires healthcare providers to post signs letting patients know they can request estimates of medical costs in advance. Patients must receive the estimates within 10 days of asking. It also requires providers to post the costs of their most common procedures.

In addition, the law allows independent, licensed marital and family counselors to bill Medicaid directly. The goal is to increase the number of behavioral health providers who will accept Medicaid patients. There’s currently a shortage of Medicaid-eligible behavioral health providers in the state.

Behavioral health services include treatment for substance abuse, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health conditions.

Erin McKinstry is Alaska Public Media's 2018 summer intern. She has an M.A. from the University of Missouri's School of Journalism and a B.A. from Knox College. She's reported stories for The Trace, The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, Harvest Public Media, the IRE Radio Podcast, KBIA and The Columbia Missourian.

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