Legislature(2005 - 2006)

2005-01-24 House Journal

Full 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                                    
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                               

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I urge your prompt and favorable action on this measure.                                            
                                Sincerely yours,                                                    
                                Frank H. Murkowski