Legislature(2013 - 2014)CAPITOL 106

02/04/2014 03:00 PM HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES

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03:05:28 PM Start
03:06:44 PM HB263
03:40:31 PM Presentation: Mmis, Department of Health and Social Services
05:02:31 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 263(HSS) Out of Committee
+ Presentation: MMIS, Dept. of Health & Social TELECONFERENCED
         HB 263-EXTEND SENIOR BENEFITS PAYMENT PROGRAM                                                                      
3:06:44 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HIGGINS  announced that the  first order of  business would                                                               
be HOUSE BILL NO. 263, "An Act extending senior benefits."                                                                      
3:07:11 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MIKE HAWKER, Alaska  State Legislature, as sponsor                                                               
of HB  263, offered an overview  of the bill.   He explained that                                                               
this  proposed bill  would  extend the  termination  date of  the                                                               
Senior Benefits  Payment Program from  June 30, 2015 to  June 30,                                                               
2021.  He  shared that the program had been  established in 2007,                                                               
in response  to the recognition  for the unsustainability  of the                                                               
original Longevity  Bonus Program,  which was  not a  needs based                                                               
program.   He reported that there  was still a need  and a desire                                                               
to  address the  expenses  of  living in  Alaska  for low  income                                                               
seniors.  He  explained that this was a three  tiered program for                                                               
benefit  payments of  $125, $175,  or $250  each month,  based on                                                               
household  income relative  to the  federal poverty  level index.                                                               
He declared  a desire to  help Alaskan seniors with  the proposed                                                               
bill, which would extend the program for six years through 2021.                                                                
3:10:40 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  PRUITT asked  for an  explanation to  the program                                                               
extension  being presented  this  year, as  it  would not  expire                                                               
until next year.                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER, in  response, said that the  program was a                                                               
"life-safety  security for  these  seniors."   He explained  that                                                               
waiting  until  next  session  would  create  greater  angst  for                                                               
seniors, while this proposed bill  would let them know in advance                                                               
that  the program  was  being  extended.   He  declared that  the                                                               
average age  of the recipients was  75 years, and he  said "quite                                                               
frankly,  those  are folks  I  don't  want  to cause  trauma  and                                                               
concern for over the course of the coming year."                                                                                
3:12:17 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON expressed his  agreement with bringing this                                                               
issue forward early, although he  stated concern for the six year                                                               
length  of the  proposed  extension.   He  pointed  out that  the                                                               
current rate of deficit spending  had reduced savings, which were                                                               
projected to run out sometime in  the not too distant future.  He                                                               
suggested amending the  proposed bill to a  three year extension,                                                               
as  this   would  not   put  fiscal   constraints  on   a  future                                                               
3:13:59 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER offered his opinion  that the values of the                                                               
elected representatives to the State  of Alaska should prioritize                                                               
programs  which  benefited  all low  income  seniors  across  the                                                               
state.   He  asked to  give  low income  seniors this  additional                                                               
surety that the program had  endorsement from the legislature for                                                               
more gravitas in  the future.  He allowed that  the program would                                                               
always  have  to  compete  in the  budget  process  for  adequate                                                               
funding,  although it  should not  have  to "fight  for its  very                                                               
existence  in a  subsequent reauthorization."   He  declared that                                                               
this was  the right thing  to do, and the  best thing to  do, for                                                               
our seniors, and  that it was possible for this  to be done right                                                               
3:16:22 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HIGGINS expressed  agreement  with Representative  Hawker,                                                               
although he  stated his agreement with  Representative Seaton for                                                               
fiscal conservatism.   He declared that elders  and children were                                                               
valuable  resources  in Alaska,  and  this  value should  not  be                                                               
questioned.  He endorsed the proposed bill in its current form.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER indicated  AS  47.45.301(c), which  stated                                                               
that program funding  could be reduced or eliminated  in a fiscal                                                               
year by  the Department of  Health and Social Services  (DHSS) if                                                               
it   estimated  that   appropriations   for   the  program   were                                                               
insufficient to  meet the  demands of the  program.   He declared                                                               
that  there was  an expansion  and contraction  mechanism in  the                                                               
program,  which would  accomplish the  same goal  as intended  by                                                               
Representative  Seaton,   without  prematurely   terminating  the                                                               
3:18:17 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  asked if  the current statute  allowed the                                                               
department   to  shift   payments   to   the  most   economically                                                               
challenged, as opposed to a pro rata reduction.                                                                                 
3:19:08 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER  directed the  question  to  DHSS for  its                                                               
interpretation of  the statute and  its intentions.   He reported                                                               
that low  income seniors were not  funded if in prison,  in state                                                               
nursing  homes, in  veterans or  Pioneer homes,  or in  public or                                                               
private institutions  for mental disease.   He declared  that the                                                               
state was "very  prudent with our spending of the  money for this                                                               
3:20:18 PM                                                                                                                    
RON  KREHER,  Director,  Director's Office,  Division  of  Public                                                               
Assistance, Department  of Health and Social  Services, said that                                                               
generally  a pro  rata  reduction to  balance  across the  groups                                                               
served would be  followed, but ultimately DHSS  desired to ensure                                                               
that  those at  greatest risk  with  the lowest  income would  be                                                               
ensured of the benefit.                                                                                                         
3:21:14 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  asked if the  statute would require  a pro                                                               
rata approach,  or could the  majority of payment be  directed to                                                               
the most economically challenged group.                                                                                         
3:21:39 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  KREHER   offered  his  belief   that  the   statute  allowed                                                               
flexibility  for either  approach, as  this specific  program was                                                               
not heavily regulated.                                                                                                          
3:22:15 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE NAGEAK clarified the income limits for benefits.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER pointed out  an inconsistency regarding the                                                               
income  limits  of  the  federal poverty  level  in  the  sponsor                                                               
statement.   Since it was  written, there had been  an adjustment                                                               
of the  federal poverty  level and  he said  he would  revise the                                                               
sponsor statement.   He  stated that  the smallest  payment, $125                                                               
per  person per  month, applied  to an  individual senior  with a                                                               
personal annual income of less  than $25,515, or a married senior                                                               
couple with  annual income less than  $34,405.  He said  this was                                                               
bench marked  to 175 percent  of the  federal poverty level.   He                                                               
reported  that the  $250 per  person  per month  payment went  to                                                               
individual seniors with a personal  income of $10,935 or less, or                                                               
married senior couples  with an income of $14,745  or less, which                                                               
was 75 percent  of the federal poverty level.   He emphasized the                                                               
difficulty for these  elders with the costs of  living in Alaska.                                                               
He reflected  that a lot  of time  had been spent  creating these                                                               
tiers on the  original bill, and that the program  has proven its                                                               
importance and its durability and  workability for the state.  He                                                               
declared  that  DHSS had  wide  latitude  to determine  equitable                                                               
funding for the program, if it could not be fully funded.                                                                       
3:26:14 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HIGGINS closed public testimony.                                                                                          
3:26:31 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER moved  to adopt  Amendment 1,  labeled 28-                                                               
LS1256|A.1, Mischel, 1/31/14, which read:                                                                                       
     Page 1, line 1:                                                                                                            
          Following "extending":                                                                                              
          Insert "the Alaska"                                                                                                 
          Following "benefits":                                                                                               
          Insert "payment program"                                                                                            
There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER,  as  the  sponsor  of  proposed  HB  263,                                                               
expressed his support for Amendment 1.                                                                                          
The committee took a brief at-ease.                                                                                             
3:28:16 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON referenced his  earlier concern for the six                                                               
year extension in proposed HB 263.   He moved to adopt conceptual                                                               
Amendment 2,  "which would be to  change on line 6,  page 1, 2021                                                               
to 2017."                                                                                                                       
3:29:11 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER objected for discussion.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON offered  his  belief  that the  department                                                               
[DHSS] would  pro rata everything  down, and he  offered examples                                                               
to  these  payments.    He opined  that  the  legislature  should                                                               
determine the payments.   He expressed his  concern for extending                                                               
a  $25  million annual  program  for  six  years, when  a  budget                                                               
deficit was projected in the near future.                                                                                       
3:30:45 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  PRUITT,   referencing  the   proposed  conceptual                                                               
Amendment  2, asked  if Representative  Seaton  had intended  the                                                               
proposed expiration  date to  be 2018, instead  of 2017,  as that                                                               
would be three years after the current expiration.                                                                              
3:31:17 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON asked  to restate  the expiration  date in                                                               
his proposed conceptual Amendment 2 to be 2018.                                                                                 
3:31:45 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE NAGEAK noted  that the value of  income levels was                                                               
dependent upon the cost of living in various areas of the state.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   HIGGINS   reminded    committee   members   that                                                               
discussion should be limited to proposed conceptual Amendment 2.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  expressed  his  support  for  the  Senior                                                               
Benefits  program, as  it  was  an Alaska  program,  and was  not                                                               
initiated through a federal matching program.  He explained:                                                                    
     It's one  we saw the need,  we see the need,  and we're                                                                    
     addressing it,  and the reason  that is  significant to                                                                    
     the amendment, is that I  personally prefer to give the                                                                    
     seniors a  leg up on this  one, because, if we  get in,                                                                    
     like we are all  very concerned about, the legislature,                                                                    
     if we  get into this boat  of looking for ways  to cut,                                                                    
     this  is going  to be  low hanging  fruit, because  its                                                                    
     dollar for  dollar; in other  words, they cut  a dollar                                                                    
     out  of spending  for senior  programs,  it's a  dollar                                                                    
     more in  general funds; whereas  a lot of  the Medicaid                                                                    
     stuff, you  know, we have to  cut twice as much  in the                                                                    
     spending in order to get the same savings.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  expressed his desire to  pass the proposed                                                               
legislation, and  declared his opposition to  proposed conceptual                                                               
Amendment 2.                                                                                                                    
3:34:08 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   TARR  expressed   her  opposition   to  proposed                                                               
conceptual  Amendment 2,  stating that  a longer  term commitment                                                               
promoted  better  planning  and  encouraged seniors  to  stay  in                                                               
3:35:11 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  withdrew proposed conceptual  Amendment 2.                                                               
He declared his  support for the program, and  suggested that the                                                               
legislature, and  not a department,  should have the  latitude to                                                               
make any changes to the program.                                                                                                
3:35:37 PM                                                                                                                    
The committee took a brief at-ease.                                                                                             
3:36:03 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER moved to report  HB 263, as amended, out of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
fiscal notes.  There being  no objection, CSHB 263(HSS) was moved                                                               
from the House Health and Social Services Standing Committee.                                                                   

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 263.pdf HHSS 2/4/2014 3:00:00 PM
HB 263
HB 263 Sponsor Statement.pdf HHSS 2/4/2014 3:00:00 PM
HB 263
HB 263 SBP Fact Sheet (01-31-14).pdf HHSS 2/4/2014 3:00:00 PM
HB 263
HB263-DHSS-SBPP-02-03-14 Fiscal Note.pdf HHSS 2/4/2014 3:00:00 PM
HB 263
HB 263 ACoA Letter of Support.pdf HHSS 2/4/2014 3:00:00 PM
HB 263
HB263 AARP Letter of Support.pdf HHSS 2/4/2014 3:00:00 PM
HB 263
HB 263 Letter in support AGENET.pdf HHSS 2/4/2014 3:00:00 PM
HB 263
HB 263 Letter of support Community connections.pdf HHSS 2/4/2014 3:00:00 PM
HB 263
HB263 letter of support Carol Dejka.pdf HHSS 2/4/2014 3:00:00 PM
HB 263
AK MMIS Legistlative Review.pdf HHSS 2/4/2014 3:00:00 PM
Xerox MMIS Update.pdf HHSS 2/4/2014 3:00:00 PM