Rate increases at Pioneer Homes scrutinized

Rate increases at Pioneer Homes scrutinized

Will $15 million assistance fund be enough?

Some representatives are concerned with the Alaska Division of Pioneer Homes’ proposal to split into five levels of care and implement dramatic price increases in fiscal 2020.

The Dunleavy administration is trying to implement budget policies in which costs equal revenue.

“I’m concerned we’re creating a lot of fear,” Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, said, during a House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Social Services meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

There are about 450 seniors receiving care in Pioneer Homes in Juneau, Fairbanks, Palmer, Sitka, Ketchikan and Anchorage. Under the proposed budget, the lowest-cost option at the Pioneer Homes would jump from $2,588 to $3,623 monthly. The most comprehensive level of care costs $6,795 per month. Under the this proposal it would rise to $15,000 per month.

There is also a $15 million assistance fund set up for seniors who cannot afford payments.

Pioneer Homes director Clinton Lasely explained some reasons behind the funding increase, and he has been traveling to each city with a Pioneer Home to provide informational Town Hall meetings.

“I don’t think we ever charged what it costs to provide services,” Lasely said, and even though there have been price increases, they “weren’t keeping up with the standard inflation.”

Lasely said division administrators have worked to cut costs in the department. For example, right now he is exploring the privatization of dining services.

Spohnholz said said it makes sense to keep up with inflation. However, she was “concerned about the speed at which these rate changes are being proposed.” She asked how realistic it is to implement this dramatic change.

“We know they won’t be able to afford those rates,” said Sana Efird, Administrative Services director for the Office of Management and Budget. “The intention is not to stop taking low-income Alaskans into our homes or evict anyone. It’s to show the true cost of services we’re providing.”

Efird pointed to the assistance fund being able to help seniors afford their stay in the Pioneer Homes.

However, it remains unclear if assistance fund would enough to keep every senior in the homes.

• Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2258 or kbaird@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alaska_kev.

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