New healthcare law touches on medical cost transparency, childhood trauma, and family therapy
By MARY KAUFFMAN
August 08, 2018
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 Tuesday. “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.”
You can expect to see these cost lists no later than February 1st, 2019.
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.
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.
This mandate for trauma-informed policy is being addressed by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), which is incorporating the policy into their work supporting children and families. SB 105 also provides a new opportunity for DHSS to do prevention work in a way not previously allowed by statute.
“The evidence shows that when children experience prolonged toxic stress, they are impacted over their lifetime from increased rates of depression, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, intimate partner violence. They also suffer physical health problems like heart disease and diabetes. By implementing a trauma-informed policy for the state we can develop policies that help nurture and educate children instead of spending hundreds of millions on increased state costs in children’s services, public safety, corrections, and health care,” said Rep. Tarr, who sponsored the initial ACEs language that was amended into SB 105 sponsored by Sen. David Wilson (R-Wasilla).
The research that first documented the negative impacts of ACEs started in 1998 when over 17,000 Americans were given a 10-question study to evaluate childhood traumatic experiences such as abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. In a report by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services titled “Overcoming ACEs in Alaska,” they found that in Alaska “childhood trauma is far more common than previously realized” and that “the impact of this trauma affects individuals over a lifetime and societies over generations.” The latest research shows that approximately 67 percent of Alaska’s children have an ACEs score indicating some level of childhood trauma.
“Too many children in Alaska are experiencing trauma, and we need to do more to support children and families. Thanks to the passage of this bill we can do the hard work to develop policies and programs to help children, young adults, and even adults overcome their trauma,” said Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage).
Today, Wallet Hub released its study on 2018's States with the Most Underprivileged Children. With August being Child Support Awareness Month and the U.S. having the seventh highest child poverty rate among economically developed countries, the personal-finance website WalletHub.com is reporting Alaska is 2018's state with the 4th most underprivileged children.
Welfare of Children in Alaska (1=Most; 25=Avg.):
For the full report Wallet Hub Report, visit:
Alaska Senate Bill 105 , including the language dealing with ACEs in Alaska, was approved by both the Alaska House of Representatives and State Senate on May 12, which was the final day of the Second Session of the 30th Alaska State Legislature. Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed the bill into law yesterday during a ceremony at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage.
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