Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205

02/08/2010 01:30 PM Senate HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SCR 12 Out of Committee
Moved SB 215 Out of Committee
              SB 215-PIONEERS HOME RX DRUG BENEFIT                                                                          
CHAIR DAVIS announced consideration of SB 215.                                                                                  
2:00:15 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI, sponsor  of  SB 215,  said  this bill  came                                                              
about  after  months  of discussions  between  state  and  federal                                                              
agencies,  veterans' advocates,  and members  of the  legislature,                                                              
who sought  to reinstate federal  prescription benefits  for about                                                              
a  dozen of  the  Alaska  Pioneer  Home residents.  Although  only                                                              
about  a dozen  veterans  were  impacted  last year,  the  veteran                                                              
population grows  each year,  and this bill  will ensure  that the                                                              
residents of  the Alaska  Pioneer Homes  will continue  to receive                                                              
their federal prescription drug benefits for years to come.                                                                     
He explained  that in  April 2009, veterans  who were  residing in                                                              
Alaska  Pioneer Homes  and  were unable  to  administer their  own                                                              
medications  stopped receiving  the free  or low-cost  medications                                                              
to which  they were entitled  through the Veterans  Administration                                                              
(VA).  These  veterans  were  then forced  to  purchase  the  same                                                              
medications from  the Pioneer Home's pharmacy. The  Pioneer Home's                                                              
pharmacy  prepares medications  in  blister-packs  so nurse  aides                                                              
can administer  them to  the patients  safely and accurately;  the                                                              
VA   prepares   medications   in  bottles   and   cannot   provide                                                              
medications   in   blister-packs.    VA   doctors   cannot   write                                                              
prescriptions  to Pioneer Homes'  pharmacies, because  the Pioneer                                                              
Homes  are outside  the VA system,  and the  Pioneer Homes  cannot                                                              
repackage VA  medications because  the lot numbers  and expiration                                                              
would  change upon  repackaging,  which is  currently not  allowed                                                              
under  state  law.  The  Pioneer  Homes  were  previously  placing                                                              
veteran medications  in Monday through  Sunday Medisets,  but that                                                              
was determined to  be unsafe; the concern was that  pills from the                                                              
VA  often look  different  from  those sold  by  the Pioneer  Home                                                              
pharmacies, and  it would be difficult  to determine if  the pills                                                              
had been taken or removed from the set due to a dosage change.                                                                  
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI continued  that these  veterans were  caught                                                              
up  in the  middle  of a  bureaucratic  mix-up  between state  and                                                              
federal policies.  This resulted in a combined  effort between the                                                              
Department  of Health  and  Social  Services (DHSS),  the  Pioneer                                                              
Homes,  the   Veterans  Administration.  Veteran   Advocates,  and                                                              
several   members  of   the   legislature   who  were   previously                                                              
mentioned. A  solution was found.  The Pioneer Homes  involved all                                                              
interested  parties  to  determine the  appropriate  protocol  for                                                              
ordering,  receiving,  storing,  administering, and  disposing  of                                                              
medications.  The Alaska VA  health care  system and the  regional                                                              
office chief  pharmacist and chief  of staff conducted  in-service                                                              
visits  to  the  Pioneer  Homes  to  ensure  nurses  are  properly                                                              
administering medications directly from original VA bottles.                                                                    
What this  bill does, he said,  is ensure that the  struggles many                                                              
people went  through last  summer to  resolve the problems,  don't                                                              
have  to be  repeated  in the  future. It  says  that the  Pioneer                                                              
Homes should  continue to do  things the  way they are  doing them                                                              
now;  if the  Pioneer  Homes  identify  a safety  precaution  that                                                              
prevents  them  from  disbursing  medications as  they  are  doing                                                              
currently,  the state-run  Pioneer Homes  will cover  the cost  of                                                              
the  medications.  It  is  his  understanding  however,  that  the                                                              
Pioneer  Homes do  not anticipate  any  changes to  what they  are                                                              
currently doing,  and thus  this bill has  a zero fiscal  note. SB
215  prevents the  need to  recreate  the wheel  and ensures  that                                                              
individuals  who have  earned federal  prescription benefits  will                                                              
continue  to receive  their benefits  even in  the face of  future                                                              
administrative staffing changes.                                                                                                
2:04:26 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI  said this bill  is supported by  the Vietnam                                                              
Veterans  of America,  who made  it one of  their top  legislative                                                              
priorities in Alaska  for 2010, and by the Director  of the Office                                                              
of Veterans Affairs.                                                                                                            
2:05:11 PM                                                                                                                    
DAVE COTE,  Director, Alaska  Division of  Pioneer Homes,  Juneau,                                                              
Alaska,  said they  are neutral  on this  bill. SB215  has a  zero                                                              
fiscal note  and should have no  impact because they  are allowing                                                              
veterans who are  eligible to receive medications from  the VA, or                                                              
residents   of  Pioneer   Homes  who  are   eligible  to   receive                                                              
medications  through  Indian  Health   Service,  to  obtain  those                                                              
medications  and bring  them  into the  Pioneer  Homes, where  the                                                              
medications will be administered by their staff.                                                                                
2:05:52 PM                                                                                                                    
RIC  DAVIDGE,  President,  Vietnam   Veterans  of  America  (VVA);                                                              
Chair,  Municipal Commission  on  Military  and Veterans  Affairs,                                                              
Anchorage, Alaska,  said he was delighted when the  members of the                                                              
legislature of  both the  House and the  Senate came  together and                                                              
called meetings  to find a way  out of this maze.  He specifically                                                              
thanked   Senator  Wielechowski,   Representative  Dahlstrom   and                                                              
Representative  Gara   and  their  staffs  for  stepping   up  and                                                              
following through with  this. SB 215 has the total  support of the                                                              
Vietnam Veterans  of America; they have  sent a copy of  this bill                                                              
and the House bill  to their national office, as  other states are                                                              
facing the  same kind  of problem and  are interested  in Alaska's                                                              
2:07:14 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  ELLIS thanked  Mr. Davidge  for his  involvement in  this                                                              
bill and for his work on behalf of Alaska's veterans.                                                                           
2:07:33 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DAVIS closed public testimony.                                                                                            
2:07:55 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DYSON  commented that only  government can be  so foolish,                                                              
and  he appreciates  his colleagues  for working  to resolve  this                                                              
2:08:38 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  PASKVAN  moved  to  report SB  215  from  committee  with                                                              
individual  recommendation(s) and  attached  zero fiscal  note(s).                                                              
There being no objection, SB 215 moved from the committee.                                                                      
2:09:26 PM                                                                                                                    
There  being no  further business  to come  before the  committee,                                                              
Chair Davis adjourned the meeting at 2:09 p.m.                                                                                  

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