Legislature(2001 - 2002)

05/05/2001 01:35 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SJR 28 - LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE                                                                                             
Number 0040                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  COGHILL announced  that the  committee would  hear CS  FOR                                                               
SENATE  JOINT RESOLUTION  NO.  28(HES),  Urging dissemination  of                                                               
information about  the costs of  long-term care services  and the                                                               
availability of long-term care insurance for individuals.                                                                       
Number 0075                                                                                                                     
SENATOR   GARY  WILKEN,   Alaska   State  Legislature,   sponsor,                                                               
explained that  the Long-Term  Care (LTC)  Task Force  created by                                                               
the  legislature   recommends  that  information  about   LTC  be                                                               
disseminated to the public.  Two  of the things that the LTC Task                                                               
Force learned during its public  hearing process is that "if your                                                               
fortunate to live  long enough to ... need  long-term care," it's                                                               
very, very expensive;  and that the time to "get  people" is when                                                               
they're  planning  their  lives  -  when  they're  getting  their                                                               
medical insurance in  order - so that when they  do reach the age                                                               
when they  need help, they don't  have to spend their  savings or                                                               
their family's  savings.  He  noted that  the good news  today is                                                               
that over  the last three  years, private industry has  picked up                                                               
on  the  fact  that  this  is a  marketable  product.    He  then                                                               
recounted  how, "When  we had  our Task  Force, a  lot of  people                                                               
looked to  the state and said,  'Well why doesn't the  state just                                                               
pay  for this  out of  perhaps a  permanent fund  deduction,' or,                                                               
'we'll just  have what  amounts to  socialized long-term  care in                                                               
Alaska,' and people were really serious about that."                                                                            
SENATOR WILKEN  explained that SJR  28 simply says to  the state,                                                               
to municipalities,  to Congress, and  to the President  to spread                                                               
the word  about long-term care.   He opined that it  is important                                                               
to keep  this issue  in front of  every legislature,  every year,                                                               
because by  the year 2020, one  out of eight Alaskans  will be 80                                                               
years old  or older.   He  noted that the  issue is  so important                                                               
that he  did a campaign commercial  on it in order  to get people                                                               
to start  thinking about  this issue; people  need to  make plans                                                               
early in their lives for what will happen when they get older.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON commented that  Senator Wilken is "right on                                                               
here," and  that SJR 28  is very appropriate.   In her  town, she                                                               
noted, the cost of LTC is  over $10,000 per month, and added that                                                               
the issue  of LTC and  its cost  can be overwhelming  when people                                                               
are faced with making choices without having any prior plans.                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES remarked  that she  really appreciates  the                                                               
work that  Senator Wilken has  done with  regard to the  issue of                                                               
LTC.   Long-term care is  an up-and-coming  issue that has  to be                                                               
dealt with, she  opined; not only the aspect  of having insurance                                                               
available  that  covers  LTC,  but  also  the  aspect  of  having                                                               
facilities available for  people to receive LTC.   She added that                                                               
she is a  supporter of assisted living homes,  which provide very                                                               
good care and which should be considered further.                                                                               
Number 0477                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HAYES mentioned  that he might have  a conflict of                                                               
interest because  the company he  works for  sells long-term-care                                                               
CHAIR   COGHILL  said   that  Representative   Hayes's  potential                                                               
conflict  is "duly  noted but  objected to";  thus Representative                                                               
Hayes would be required to vote if called upon to do so.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS  said that  he is really  glad to  see SJR
28; it is  essential that people become aware of  this topic.  He                                                               
then  mentioned that  sometimes it  appears that  the message  to                                                               
people  is  that  they  should transfer  their  wealth  to  their                                                               
families so that the state can pick up the cost of LTC.                                                                         
SENATOR  WILKEN noted  that Representative  Stevens has  a point;                                                               
people think, erroneously, that social  security is going to take                                                               
care of them  when they get old, and that  everything is going to                                                               
be  fine.   Long-term care  is so  expensive, however,  that many                                                               
people have to  spend their assets down to the  limit allowed and                                                               
then live  off the state.   He opined  that SJR will  make people                                                               
aware that  they need to start  planning early so that  they will                                                               
not have to give away all their assets when they get older.                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD said that he  supports the concept of SJR
28 but  noted that in his  industry, possible only 25  percent of                                                               
the  people even  have healthcare  coverage  for their  families.                                                               
Coverage  is so  expensive  that people  have  to decide  between                                                               
paying the  rent or  paying for  healthcare coverage;  thus these                                                               
people hope  and bet on  staying healthy.   He surmised  that LTC                                                               
coverage would have even less  priority than healthcare coverage.                                                               
He asked, "How  do we get around to getting  people [who] ... are                                                               
in  that sort  of  predicament to  look  ahead to  long-term-care                                                               
facilities and insurance?"                                                                                                      
SENATOR WILKEN said that he sees it as two tracks:                                                                              
     We need  to continue to push  to get people to  be able                                                                    
     to afford major  medical [coverage] - we  can barely go                                                                    
     without it  in our  world today; at  the same  time, on                                                                    
     another track,  we [need to] encourage  those that have                                                                    
     the  ability -  those that  perhaps have  that part  of                                                                    
     their  lives taken  care of  - to  avail themselves  of                                                                    
     long-term  care  [coverage].    But  we  need  to  keep                                                                    
     pushing on both fronts to keep them both moving ahead.                                                                     
CHAIR COGHILL said that he agrees  with Senator Wilken.  He noted                                                               
that the  last resolve in  SJR 28 requests that  Congress address                                                               
to what  extent tax rules  may discriminate against  consumers of                                                               
long-term care insurance policies.                                                                                              
SENATOR WILKEN  noted that Congress  currently has before  it the                                                               
"Long-term Care and Retirement Security  Act of 2001," which will                                                               
address the  topic of  how to get  tax relief  for long-term-care                                                               
Number 0927                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES  moved  to  report  CSSJR  28(HES)  out  of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
zero fiscal  note.  There  being no objection, CSSJR  28(HES) was                                                               
reported from the House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                       

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