Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/30/1993 08:00 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 208: ELIGIBILITY FOR LONGEVITY BONUS Number 226 CHAIRMAN VEZEY concurred and read the title to HB 208, then invited its sponsor to deliver his statement. Number 237 REPRESENTATIVE MIKE NAVARRE, PRIME SPONSOR OF HB 208, advised the bill was designed to clarify the intent to prevent non-state funds from keeping seniors from getting a longevity bonus check. He stated there was concern non- state funds, such as Medicare and the veterans' insurance program, are causing seniors to lose their rightful longevity bonus checks when they needed them most, possibly during temporary illnesses. Number 262 REPRESENTATIVE ULMER asked if under the provisions of HB 208, every person in a nursing home would be allowed to keep their longevity bonus check. Number 266 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE replied in the negative. He stated a person would only get to keep the check if their care was being paid for by all federal funds, without state monies. He stated many of those eligible for the longevity bonus are penalized because of the flaw in the current law. Number 273 CHAIRMAN VEZEY asked why it was wrong to reduce the benefit from one social service program when the same people might be getting a larger payment from another social program. Number 290 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE stated if someone was temporarily disabled, and placed in a nursing home for a short period, their care is paid for by Medicare, which does not cover all costs. He stated the longevity bonus money could be used to cover the remainder. He also said several people trying to maintain their independence from social programs would be penalized, and possibly forced into joining such programs. He stated the hardships put upon people trying to maintain their homes while recovering from a temporary illness would be unreasonable. Number 342 CHAIRMAN VEZEY stated it would be no different from receiving the care from the state, and it would not cover mortgage or utility payments. He stated there was an iniquity in allowing people to benefit from a federal program and still receive a bonus check, but not those who are helped under a state program. Number 354 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE gave an example: If one member of a married couple broke a hip and was placed in a nursing home for a temporary period, the $250 dollar check would aid the other member of the couple in maintaining and keeping their home while the first person recovered. Number 361 CHAIRMAN VEZEY replied even under that scenario, the state would be giving those people special treatment. Number 366 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE replied the state would not be harmed by allowing the checks to be delivered during a temporary stay in the hospital or nursing home, and may actually help keep seniors off public assistance. Number 354 REPRESENTATIVE B. DAVIS stated a $250 dollar check would make a big difference to many people living on fixed incomes who may be trying to keep a home. Number 382 CHAIRMAN VEZEY stated the money could be used much more equitably if the amount was applied to those people who may not be getting any benefits at all. Number 403 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE stated if the bonus was taken away from the people who might be in the position of losing a home during a temporary illness, it might backfire on the state. He stated there was a possibility seniors might end up on some type of public assistance which could cost far more than the bonus itself. Number 442 CHAIRMAN VEZEY thanked Representative Navarre for his testimony and called for other witnesses. Number 447 DENNY DEWITT, DIRECTOR OF THE DIVISION OF PIONEER BENEFITS, DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATION, stated there was a need for HB 208. He believed most recipients who might benefit from HB 208 are those affected by a short-term disability as described previously. He stated the difference between Medicaid and Medicare is that Medicare is designed for temporary use, and contains no state money in the payments. Medicaid is a combination 50-50 split between the state and federal government. He said Medicare patients are the ones who lose the bonus when they should not under the intent of the original law. Number 500 CHAIRMAN VEZEY asked if there was a danger seniors might get on a federal program, stay long term, and then transition to the combination federal/state program, which could cost the state money. Number 518 MR. DEWITT stated a number of seniors are economically vulnerable during illnesses, and taking the bonus away from them increased the chances they would lose the ability to pay for a home, and consequently go on public assistance. Number 528 CHAIRMAN VEZEY asked if it was a disservice to allow the longevity bonus to people who might otherwise get twice as much on adult public assistance. Number 540 MR. DEWITT said in spite of the difference between the amounts paid, most seniors did not want to go on public assistance, and the key for most people was trying to remain financially independent. Number 565 REPRESENTATIVE B. DAVIS MOVED PASSAGE of HB 208 and asked for unanimous consent; there were no objections, and IT SO MOVED.