Legislature(2011 - 2012)SENATE FINANCE 532

02/07/2011 09:00 AM FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HOUSE BILL NO. 16                                                                                                             
     "An Act extending senior benefits."                                                                                        
9:57:42 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  MIKE HAWKER  stated that  HB 16  extends the                                                                    
Alaska  senior benefits  payment program  for an  additional                                                                    
four years.  The program  was established  in 2007  and will                                                                    
sunset June 30, 2011  without affirmative action during this                                                                    
legislative session.  He stated  that 10,093  elder Alaskans                                                                    
currently benefit from the program.  The oldest recipient of                                                                    
the  benefits  is 105  years  old.  The established  program                                                                    
provides monthly cash assistance  to Alaska residents age 65                                                                    
or older whose household income  is less than 175 percent of                                                                    
the federal  poverty guideline for Alaska.  He explained the                                                                    
various tiers  of the program.  He stressed that HB  16 does                                                                    
not  alter  the  current  benefits; it  merely  extends  the                                                                    
program four years.  The program costs $20  million per year                                                                    
and  the legislation  is a  maintenance  commitment. If  the                                                                    
money   appropriated   by   the  legislature   were   deemed                                                                    
insufficient  to   meet  the  needs  of   the  program,  the                                                                    
Department  of   Health  and   Social  Services   (DHSS)  is                                                                    
authorized  in statute  to reduce  or eliminate  the benefit                                                                    
available  to  the  recipient  in order  to  meet  the  most                                                                    
pressing needs of the state.                                                                                                    
10:03:41 AM                                                                                                                   
Representative Hawker  referred to a  convincing handwritten                                                                    
constituent  letter (copy  on file).  He  believed that  the                                                                    
bill should pass out of committee.                                                                                              
10:05:02 AM                                                                                                                   
Senator Thomas  referred to  the sectional  analysis stating                                                                    
that  the  department  may  reduce  or  eliminate  the  cash                                                                    
benefit    available   to    recipients    based   on    the                                                                    
appropriations. He  asked if the  benefits would  be reduced                                                                    
on a  prorated basis.  Representative Hawker  responded that                                                                    
regulations  regarding   potential  manifestations   of  the                                                                    
mentioned   section   have   not   yet   been   established.                                                                    
Historically,  ratable reductions  are implemented  as early                                                                    
as  possible  in a  fiscal  year,  eliminating the  need  to                                                                    
Co-Chair Stedman  requested a department's  perspective, and                                                                    
remarked  that  he  did not  anticipate  any  shortfall.  He                                                                    
expressed interest only in a hypothetical answer.                                                                               
WILLIAM J.  STREUR, COMMISSIONER,  DEPARTMENT OF  HEALTH AND                                                                    
SOCIAL  SERVICES,   replied  that   he  would   provide  the                                                                    
information at a later time.                                                                                                    
10:08:38 AM                                                                                                                   
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
10:09:50 AM                                                                                                                   
Senator Thomas asked about the "see delayed repeal note."                                                                       
Representative  Hawker referenced  the  Alaska statutes.  He                                                                    
noted the footnote  known as the "delayed  repeal," which is                                                                    
the four year sunset addressed in committee.                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stedman  asked if  the administration  supports the                                                                    
legislation.  Mr.  Streur  replied that  the  administration                                                                    
supports the extension.                                                                                                         
Co-Chair Stedman  asked why there  are six  positions needed                                                                    
to extend  the program.  Commissioner Streur  responded that                                                                    
the  six  positions  are  a   continuation  of  the  current                                                                    
staffing  allocated to  the  program. Representative  Hawker                                                                    
reminded that  the program is an  eligibility based program,                                                                    
which  includes 10  thousand beneficiaries.  The eligibility                                                                    
is dynamic and the number  of employees is reflective of the                                                                    
amount of  work necessary  to manage the  eligibility status                                                                    
of the beneficiaries.                                                                                                           
Co-Chair  Stedman asked  how seniors  are notified  that the                                                                    
program  exists.  Commissioner  Streur  responded  that  the                                                                    
program  is advertised  on the  state website  and in  local                                                                    
division  of public  assistance  offices.  He believed  that                                                                    
both rural and urban accesses are similar.                                                                                      
10:14:05 AM                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Stedman  asked about qualifying issues  for seniors                                                                    
in the  Pioneer Home. Mr.  Streur responded that  seniors in                                                                    
the Pioneer Home  are not eligible due  to the establishment                                                                    
of  the  Pioneer  Home  fee.   Since  the  majority  of  the                                                                    
residents in the  Pioneer Home are Medicaid  eligible, it is                                                                    
essential  to maximize  Medicaid. If  a resident  receives a                                                                    
subsidy,  the money  is  then used  to  offset the  Medicaid                                                                    
Co-Chair Stedman  asked if seniors  in the Pioneer  Home who                                                                    
pay  their own  bills  are included.  He  asked about  those                                                                    
residents fortunate enough to have  the liquidity to pay the                                                                    
substantial bills  each month.  He wondered if  the Medicaid                                                                    
issue  was  impacted  for   those  individuals.  Mr.  Streur                                                                    
offered to provide future information.                                                                                          
Co-Chair Stedman asked about those  residents of the Pioneer                                                                    
Home who are  without the additional funds  needed for small                                                                    
10:16:30 AM                                                                                                                   
Senator  Olson  asked  if benefits  were  granted  to  those                                                                    
people living  out of  state. Mr.  Streur believed  that the                                                                    
checks were for residents only.                                                                                                 
Senator  Olson asked  about  provisions regarding  transport                                                                    
out  of state  for  medical  reasons. Representative  Hawker                                                                    
stated  that beneficiaries  must  be  Alaskan residents.  He                                                                    
explained   that   eight    unidentified   recipients   were                                                                    
identified last  year for  leaving the  state and  the cases                                                                    
are currently in review.                                                                                                        
Representative  Hawker added  that  the program  statutorily                                                                    
provides for recovery provisions  for any benefits that were                                                                    
paid inappropriately as stated in AS 47.45.308.                                                                                 
Senator  Thomas asked  about electronic  advertising methods                                                                    
in regard to seniors and  low income seniors in rural areas.                                                                    
He   expressed  concern   regarding   the  distribution   of                                                                    
10:19:30 AM                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair  Stedman discussed  the fiscal  note from  DHSS and                                                                    
the   addition  of   $1,968,000   in   general  funds.   The                                                                    
administration is aware of the  true cost of the program. He                                                                    
believed it  appropriate for the governor  to bring foreword                                                                    
a budget  amendment to fund  the item. He mentioned  the two                                                                    
page   spreadsheet  exhibiting   case   summaries  and   the                                                                    
expenditure forecast.                                                                                                           
RON KREHER,  ACTING DIRECTOR, PUBLIC  ASSISTANCE, DEPARTMENT                                                                    
OF HEALTH  AND SOCIAL SERVICES (via  teleconference) offered                                                                    
to respond to questions.                                                                                                        
10:21:32 AM                                                                                                                   
DENISE  DANIELLO, EXECUTIVE  DIRECTOR, ALASKA  COMMISSION ON                                                                    
AGING,  expressed support  for  the  legislation. She  noted                                                                    
that  the bill  provides funding  for basic  necessities for                                                                    
the  seniors  in  Alaska.  She  noted  that  the  commission                                                                    
supports  this   legislation  and  the  extension   for  the                                                                    
benefits  payment  program.  She stated  that  greater  than                                                                    
10,000 senior  citizens receive  benefits from  the program.                                                                    
She stated  that several areas  in the state,  including the                                                                    
North  Slope borough,  have  citizens  participating in  the                                                                    
MARIE DARLIN,  COORDINATOR, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION  OF RETIRED                                                                    
PERSONS  (AARP)  TASK  FORCE,  emphasized  that  the  senior                                                                    
benefits  program allows  seniors to  remain in  Alaska. She                                                                    
spoke in support of the legislation.                                                                                            
10:25:34 AM                                                                                                                   
Representative  Hawker  repeated   one  question  raised  by                                                                    
Senator  Olson  regarding  those senior  citizens  currently                                                                    
living  out of  state.  He explained  that  the question  is                                                                    
addressed  in the  existing statute,  Section 47.45.304.  He                                                                    
recognized  that the  situation exists  for certain  seniors                                                                    
and  did not  want the  limiting  factor to  lead to  denied                                                                    
access. He noted  that when a person leaves  the state, they                                                                    
lose  their benefits.  The exceptions  to that  rule include                                                                    
receiving medical treatment out  of state, the accompaniment                                                                    
of  an individual's  family member  while receiving  medical                                                                    
treatment  outside of  the state,  and the  ability for  the                                                                    
department to make exceptions on a case by case basis.                                                                          
10:28:27 AM                                                                                                                   
HB  16  was   HEARD  and  HELD  in   Committee  for  further                                                                    

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 3 Explanation of Changes.docx SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
SB 3 Sponsor Statement.docx SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
SB3 Fact Sheet Need.docx SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
SB3 Federal Payment Chart.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
SB3 District Cost Factors.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
SB0003-1-8-013111-EED-Y.PDF SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
HB 16 Fact Sheet-DHSS.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB 16 Background-Related Statutes.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB 16 Sponsor Statement.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB 16 Support-AARP.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB 16 Support-Alaska Food Coalition.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB 16 Support Letter.doc SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB 16 DPA SB Projections FN Back up 2-4-11 (2).xlsx SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
NEW SB3-EED-TLS-2-4-11.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
SenFin Slide Show Funding For Alaska’s School Meals.pptx SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
HB16 Support-Alaska Commission on Aging.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB16 Support-Public letters.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB 16 Senate Committee Response.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16