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Premera to invest $50M in Alaska health care after tax cut

WASHINGTON — Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska — the sole health insurance company on Alaska's individual market — will invest an additional $50 million in Alaska over five years as a result of the federal tax cuts, the company announced Tuesday.

The company said it would use the funding to "provide continued stability to the individual insurance market, improve access to care in rural areas and support local communities in their efforts to address behavioral health issues."

The funding comes from a "one-time-only refund for the company," Premera said in an announcement.

The $50 million comes in addition to a $25 million reimbursement the company made to the state's reinsurance program last year after lower-than-expected claims in 2017. Alaska insurance officials said they don't expect similar results this year.

The individual market has fewer than 20,000 customers, and "just a handful of customers can cause dramatic swings in the amounts paid out in claims," Premera said, noting also that "approximately 30 percent of customers enter or leave the market each year."

The company will use some of the funds to provide rebates to individual market customers, and $1.5 million in rebates to large group customers in 2018.

Other funds will to rural initiatives to boost telemedicine and tele-psychiatry programs, as well as $8 million in spending on behavioral health for addiction and childhood trauma issues, "with a specific focus on how these issues impact homelessness," Premera said.

Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska is the health insurance provider for Anchorage Daily News employees.