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8/8/2019
Standing up for our seniors

EDITOR, Daily News:

Last week, residents of Pioneer Homes across the state received a notice from the governor’s administration of substantial rate increases starting Sept. 1. The cost per resident will increase by between 40% and 140%, depending on the level of service received. The notice stated that the rates will increase in order “to match the cost of providing services.”

This rate increase is an example of the ‘too much, too fast’ approach taken by the governor that will directly — and drastically — impact the lives of our seniors. Pioneer Home residents may have to absorb a shock to their retirement plans, especially since many of them are living on fixed incomes provided by Social Security. The increased rates will result in a higher number of seniors going onto Medicaid and other public assistance. Many may choose to leave Alaska, taking their families, wisdom and history with them.

Earlier this session, the House passed House Bill 96, which allows for a one-time rebasing of rates for Pioneer Homes, and then provides a structure for reasonable and regular rate increases to ensure that rates keep up with the cost of providing care for residents. It uses the Social Security Cost of Living adjustment as a benchmark. The rates would increase, but at a much slower and steadier pace than the rate increase proposed by Governor Dunleavy.

Although HB 96 did not have time to pass the Senate, I, along with 18 other Representatives, wrote a letter to Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum and the Pioneer Home Director Clinton Lasley encouraging them to use HB 96 as a guideline for any proposed increase to rates. The bill initiated research and discussions during the legislative process that makes it an appropriate guide for the department in its decision-making process. I am disappointed that they did not utilize the resources we gave them.  

Alaska’s Pioneer Homes play a vital role in our communities by creating a home for our aging population, celebrating life through the final breath, and providing individualized care. I am frustrated with the lack of promise and commitment shown by the administration; the State of Alaska should stand by our historic commitment to provide for our aging population. Our seniors deserve better.

REP. DAN ORTIZ

House District 36

Ketchikan