Legislature(2005 - 2006)HOUSE FINANCE 519

05/05/2005 01:30 PM FINANCE


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ HB 291 WORKERS' COMPENSATION RECORDS TELECONFERENCED
Scheduled But Not Heard
+ HB 297 OIL& GAS EXPLORATION CREDIT & LEASE TERMS TELECONFERENCED
Scheduled But Not Heard
+ HCR 12 LEG TASK FORCE ON RURAL SUSTAINABILITY TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHCR 12(FIN) Out of Committee
+ SB 142 REGIONAL SCHOOL BD LAND OWNERSHIP TELECONFERENCED
Scheduled But Not Heard
+ SB 144 EMISSION CONTROL PROGRAM PERMITS/REGS TELECONFERENCED
Scheduled But Not Heard
+ SB 150 ALASKA CHILDREN'S TRUST FUND GRANTS TELECONFERENCED
Scheduled But Not Heard
+ SB 130 WORKERS' COMPENSATION/ INSURANCE TELECONFERENCED
<Pending Referral>
+= HB 106 SENIOR CARE PROGRAM TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 106(FIN) Out of Committee
= SB 110 POLLUTION DISCHARGE & WASTE TRMT/DISPOSAL
Moved HCS CSSB 110(FIN) Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HOUSE BILL NO. 106                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     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.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
2:32:52 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JOEL GILBERTSON, COMMISSIONER,  DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & SOCIAL                                                                   
SERVICES, noted  that HB  106 was a  bill relating  to health                                                                   
care  benefits   available  to  eligible   low-income  senior                                                                   
citizens.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
In 2004,  the Senior  Care program  was enacted and  provided                                                                   
for  needs-based  cash  assistance and  a  prescription  drug                                                                   
benefit.   Today,  approximately 6,800  seniors with  incomes                                                                   
below  the 135%  percent  of the  federal  poverty level  for                                                                   
Alaska receive  $120 a month  in cash assistance  through the                                                                   
Senior  Care program.   The  program has  been successful  in                                                                   
reaching senior citizens in Alaska  that are truly in need of                                                                   
cash assistance.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Commissioner  Gilbertson added that  the Senior Care  program                                                                   
is anticipated to  sunset no later than January 1,  2006.  HB
106  would repeal  the temporary  law created  last year  and                                                                   
replace it  with a  permanent law  that would strengthen  the                                                                   
Senior Care  program, allowing it  to continue.   He stressed                                                                   
the crucial need for the State  to continue providing support                                                                   
for Alaska's most needy senior  citizens beyond January 2006.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
The  proposal  to  improve  Senior   Care  would  be  through                                                                   
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, Senior Care                                                                   
would  pay  the  premiums  and  deductibles  on  the  seniors                                                                   
behalf; a  benefit of approximately  $670 dollars  per person                                                                   
annually.  Seniors with Medigap  or other comparable coverage                                                                   
would  be eligible  to receive  the benefit  as long as  they                                                                   
meet the basic income and asset standards for Senior Care.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Commissioner Gilbertson  anticipated over 40%  percent of the                                                                   
estimated  41,000 Alaska  seniors would  be eligible  for the                                                                   
Senior  Care  benefit.   Passage  of  the  legislation  would                                                                   
result  in, virtually  all seniors in  Alaska being  eligible                                                                   
for  prescription  drug  coverage through  a  combination  of                                                                   
federal,  State,  and  employer-sponsored  drug plans  as  of                                                                   
January  2006.   That represents  an incredible  achievement;                                                                   
adequate prescription  drug coverage  remains a top  priority                                                                   
for seniors.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
2:38:12 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MARIE  DARLIN,  VOLUNTEER,  ALASKA   ASSOCIATION  OF  RETIRED                                                                   
PERSONS  (AARP), JUNEAU,  voiced strong  support for  HB 106,                                                                   
including  the   amendments  before   the  Committee.     She                                                                   
explained  that the  bill would  be helpful  and welcome  for                                                                   
older Alaskans that are most in need.  She urged support.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:40:22 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
LINDA GOHL, DIRECTOR, ALASKA COMMISSION  ON AGING, DEPARTMENT                                                                   
OF  HEALTH  AND  SOCIAL  SERVICES,  voiced  support  for  the                                                                   
legislation.   She noted that  seniors would prefer  the 300%                                                                   
level,   however,  HB   106   would  provide   a   reasonable                                                                   
compromise.  The drug benefit program is critical.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
2:41:57 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hawker MOVED to  ADOPT Amendment  #1, #24G-1,                                                                   
5/5/05.   (Copy  on File).   Co-Chair  Chenault OBJECTED  for                                                                   
discussion purposes.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hawker  explained  that the  amendment  would                                                                   
change federal  poverty level  amount from  300% to  175% and                                                                   
sunset June 30, 2007.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hawker noted changes  on the amendment,  Page                                                                   
1, Line  9:  "Reverts  to the  unreserved general  fund after                                                                   
all valid obligations June 30, 2007 are met".                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Commissioner Gilbertson voiced support for the amendment.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:44:37 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Chenault WITHDREW  his OBJECTION.   There  being NO                                                                   
further OBJECTION, Amendment #1 was adopted.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative Hawker  referenced the four fiscal  notes from                                                                   
the Department  of Health and  Social Services.   He inquired                                                                   
how the funding was anticipated to be spent.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JANET  CLARKE, ASSISTANT  COMMISSIONER,  DIVISION OF  FINANCE                                                                   
AND  MANAGEMENT SERVICES,  DEPARTMENT  OF  HEALTH AND  SOCIAL                                                                   
SERVICES,  summarized  the fiscal  note  handout.   (Copy  on                                                                   
File).                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
In FY06,  it is estimated that  the Senior Care  Program will                                                                   
cost  $6.87  million  dollars;  in FY07,  the  cost  will  be                                                                   
$13.212  million dollars.   Currently,  the  fund balance  is                                                                   
$8.86 million  dollars.   In FY06, no  general funds  will be                                                                   
needed for the program because  of forward funding.  In FY07,                                                                   
approximately  $12  million  general  fund  dollars  will  be                                                                   
necessary.  The program, currently,  will sunset midway FY06.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
2:48:17 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hawker asked if  the numbers were  consistent                                                                   
with the reconciled ones from the senior cash care benefit.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
2:49:06 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JON SHERWOOD, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH  & SOCIAL SERVICES, stated                                                                   
that at  this time, there  are fewer than 7,000  participants                                                                   
in the  program.   It is  anticipated that  once the  program                                                                   
begins, that  number will increase  to 7,000.  When  the drug                                                                   
benefit is  added, the  program could increase  approximately                                                                   
4,100, projected by FY07.  There  is no overlap between those                                                                   
numbers  and  that  the  cash  assistance  program  does  not                                                                   
provide any drug benefit.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:50:25 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
In   response   to   comments   by   Representative   Hawker,                                                                   
Commissioner   Gilbertson   explained  that   the   statement                                                                   
regarding cash benefits was accurate  and relates to existing                                                                   
populations.    Those individuals  will  have  no premium  or                                                                   
deductible through  federal law.  There is no  way to provide                                                                   
them the  drug benefit.  Cash  assistance is the only  way to                                                                   
deliver a benefit to them.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:51:52 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative Hawker referenced  the fiscal note, indicating                                                                   
the Senior  Care fiscal  note for  four full-time  employees.                                                                   
He asked  if any were  new positions.   Ms. Clarke  explained                                                                   
that  in  the FY06  budget,  the  Department  eliminated  all                                                                   
Senior Care  positions because the  program sunset.   Many of                                                                   
those positions still exist and  that the note would only ads                                                                   
them back into employment.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:52:46 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Holm asked if  Amendment #1 would  affect the                                                                   
fiscal note.   Ms. Clarke replied  it did and had  been taken                                                                   
into consideration with the revised note.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:53:14 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative Foster MOVED to  REPORT CS HB 106 (FIN) out of                                                                   
Committee  with  individual  recommendations   and  with  the                                                                   
accompanying fiscal notes.  There  being NO OBJECTION, it was                                                                   
so ordered.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CS HB  106 (FIN)  was reported  out of  Committee with  a "no                                                                   
recommendation" and  with four new  zero fiscal notes  by the                                                                   
Department of Health & Social Services.                                                                                         

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