The leading health plan in Alaska plans to invest $50 million in the state to help rural areas and help stabilize the insurance market here.

Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska says the money is from an unexpected federal tax refund as part of 2017 tax reform. Company officials say tax savings are expected to trigger some premium rebates for certain individuals and groups. The money will also be used to offer enhanced telemedicine and telepsychiatry programs in rural areas and focus on addiction and other behavioral health issues such as homelessness.

“This is welcome news for Alaskans who endure some of the highest health insurance costs in the nation,” said Lori Wing-Heier, director of the Division of Insurance."

“We look forward to learning more details about the premium rebates for individual and small group customers and the tax refunds that will be returned to large group customers,” Wing-Heier added.

Premera officials say the $50 million will be invested over a five-year period. 

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