Kevin Henderson wants his mother-in-law’s care to cost 15% more than it used to.
That’s because under Pioneer Home rate changes that went into effect in September 2019, her care became 40% more costly. A bill that passed the House last year would mostly walk back those recent rate changes.
“This bill, if it passed, would be a 15% increase,” Henderson said after a Monday Senate committee meeting in which he gave testimony. “That’s a lot more understandable, palatable. It’s catching up with inflation.”
Henderson was part of a group of Juneau residents who spoke at a Senate Health and Social Services Committee meeting that was focused on the Pioneer Homes bill. Those who gave testimony, who have mostly have loved ones in the Juneau Pioneer Home, uniformly spoke in favor of the bill.
Others who gave testimony included Margie Beedle, Brad Rider, Luann McVey, Judy Crondahl, Laura Stats, Brien Daugherty and Doug Larsen. In light of the amount of in-person testimony that was received, Senate Health and Social Services Committee Chair Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, said testimony will be taken over the phone at a Wednesday meeting.
Each person who spoke shared the financial realities of the rate changes.
Rider said his mother’s care went from costing about $4,000 to $11,000.
“The Pioneer Homes were never designed to make money,” he said. “They were designed to take care of our elderly here in Alaska.”
McVey said the rate change means her parents, who receive federal pensions, cannot afford to move in to a Pioneer Home.
Pioneer Home rates, which became effective Aug. 30, 2019, are determined by the level of care a resident requires. There are currently five escalating levels of service, according to a letter detailing the rate changes from the the Division of Pioneer Homes, which is part of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
Level I includes housing, meals, emergency assistance, opportunities for recreation and required transportation for recreation, according to the letter. Level IV includes all those services, assistance with five or more activities of daily living, medication management and either behavior management or nursing services.
The enacted monthly rates are $3,623 for Level 1, $6,569 for Level 2, $11,185 for Level 3, $13,333 for Level 4 and $15,000 for Level 5.
If the bill passes as it currently is, those rates would change to $2,976 per month for Level I, $5,396 for II, $7,814 for III, $7,814 for IV and an uncapped fifth level.
“This bill provides stability for residents and department,” said Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, who gave invited testimony regarding the bill he sponsored. “It ensures timely and predictable rate increases.”
Fields said the bill would not undercut private assisted living and nursing care facilities.
“If you’re just looking for the cheapest assisted living, the Pioneer Homes are not the cheapest assisted living now, and they’re not going to be,” Fields said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt