One of the new laws set to take effect in Alaska will require health insurance policies to cover treatment of autism spectrum disorders.
All or portions of a number of bills became law, effective Tuesday, with the start of 2013. Another new measure provides tax incentives to encourage oil and gas exploration outside the North Slope and Cook Inlet.
A part of the autism bill took effect earlier, establishing a task force to study issues such as the state providing insurance coverage for the disorder.
The debate over autism coverage was one of the most emotional during the last regular session of the Legislature, as families and advocates descended on the Capitol to tell their stories and lobby for change.
Supporters cast the bill as a way to help children while easing the financial and emotional strain that families face in getting treatment.
Some insurance companies opposed the measure, saying it was unfair to put the burden on private companies.
However, Amy Carter, a spokeswoman for Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield, said the insurer now expects rates to rise at a lower level than initially predicted. She said Monday that Premera estimates its small and large group customers will see variable rate increases of less than 2 percent, while no impact on rates is expected at this time for individual members.
Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, a primary sponsor of the Senate bill, said in an email that "the state has consistently adopted state-mandated coverage as part of its standard health plan for state employees," even though there was no requirement to do so.