Legislature(2005 - 2006)
2005-01-24 House JournalFull Journal pdf
2005-01-24 House Journal Page 0153 HB 106 HOUSE BILL NO. 106 by the House Rules Committee by request of the Governor, entitled: "An Act establishing the senior care program and relating to that program; creating a fund for the provision of the senior care program; repealing ch. 3, SLA 2004; and providing for an effective date." was read the first time and referred to the Health, Education & Social Services and Finance Committees. The following fiscal note(s) apply: 1. Fiscal, Dept. of Health & Social Services 2. Fiscal, Dept. of Health & Social Services 3. Fiscal, Dept. of Health & Social Services 4. Fiscal, Dept. of Health & Social Services The Governor's transmittal letter dated January 21, 2005, follows: "Dear Speaker Harris: Under the authority of art. III, sec. 18, of the Alaska Constitution, I am transmitting a bill relating to health care benefits available to eligible low-income senior citizens. In 2004, the SeniorCare program was enacted that provided for needs- based cash assistance and a prescription drug benefit (ch. 3, SLA 2004). Today, approximately 6,800 seniors with incomes below 135 percent of the federal poverty level for Alaska receive $120 a month in 2005-01-24 House Journal Page 0154 cash assistance through the SeniorCare program. This program has been very successful in reaching senior citizens in Alaska truly in need of cash assistance. Unfortunately, the SeniorCare program is anticipated to sunset no later than January 1, 2006. Therefore, the legislation I am proposing today will repeal the temporary law created last year and replace it with a permanent law that will strengthen the SeniorCare program and allow it to continue. It is crucial that the State of Alaska continue to provide critical support for Alaska's most needy senior citizens beyond January 1, 2006. My proposal to improve SeniorCare is through the creation of a supplement to the recently enacted federal Medicare drug benefit for Alaska's seniors. Under the new federal Medicare benefit, many seniors are still required to pay premium and deductible expenses for prescription drugs out of their own pockets. For Alaska seniors with incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, I propose that SeniorCare pay these premiums and deductibles on our seniors' behalf - a benefit of approximately $670 per person annually. Seniors with Medigap or other comparable coverage will also be eligible to receive this benefit as long as they meet the basic income and asset standards for SeniorCare. I anticipate that over 40 percent of the estimated 41,000 Alaska seniors will be eligible for the SeniorCare benefit. With passage of this legislation, the end result will be that as of January 2006 virtually all seniors in Alaska will be eligible for prescription drug coverage through a combination of federal, state, and employer-sponsored drug plans. This represents an achievement in which we should all be proud. Over the past several years I have listened to our senior citizens throughout Alaska and there is no doubt in my mind that adequate prescription drug coverage remains a top priority of our seniors. Additional state support for SeniorCare in the years to come will help resolve this longstanding issue. It is a sound investment well worth making. 2005-01-24 House Journal Page 0155 I urge your prompt and favorable action on this measure. Sincerely yours, /s/ Frank H. Murkowski Governor"