Senior bill update from state legislature

Bill proposes Medicaid pay for drug 'medisets'

In the past few weeks more than 170 house bills and 82 senate bills have been introduced to the Alaska State Legislature. Here are some bills that have been discussed on the floor recently.

Medicaid payment for prescription management

House Bill 134, sponsored by Mia Costello (R-Anchorage), deals with the large number of individuals in Alaska that have complex medical needs and are required to take a dozen or more medications daily. In a sponsor statement, Costello noted that these persons are often frail, elderly and experiencing a wide range of mental, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and for these most vulnerable persons, medication management services offer a way to simplify difficult dosing regimens. The bill would require that Medicaid pay for scheduled unit dose prescription drug packaging and dispensing services, often referred to as “medisets,” for some Medicaid recipients.

The state of Alaska has a mandate to pay for the care of Medicaid patients, including indigent and disabled people, and many studies have shown that mediset medication management programs keep patients compliant to their medication, resulting in fewer visits to the hospital and emergency room, according to the sponsor statement.

It notes that in 1997 Alaska became an institution-free state with the closure of Harborview Medical Center and has moved to a “home based” health care for its indigent population. Medication management is an integral part to this home based care system. It improves patient adherence to prescriptions and allows people to remain in their home communities rather than move to much more costly institutions or homes, according to the sponsor statement.

Charles Guinchard, with Rep. Costello’s office, explained that the mediset medication management service would help to improve the lives of Alaskans, keeping them on them on their medications and safe and healthier.

Medication management includes precise medication packaging, as well as oversight from the pharmacy in checking for medication conflicts.

“(It) greatly simplifies work for caregivers,” Guinchard said.

“Medication management services in medication compliance packaging has shown to greatly increase patient compliance. This means that people take the medications that were prescribed to them in the manner prescribed to them. This is not an easy task for those experiencing disabilities, the frail or the elderly. Medication management services improve the health of the patient therefore keeping them healthier, in their homes and out of the hospital,” he said.

Under HB 134, Guinchard said individuals, as well as physicians, pharmacists and caregivers will benefit from the bill.

“Patients who take their medication as prescribed are healthier. With the assistance of a Mediset, families can take care of elderly or disabled relatives without needing the help of a nurse to handle medication.”

“Small assisted living homes can keep costs down in a similar fashion by only needing to staff caregivers rather than nurses or pharmacists,” he added.

For those not covered under state or federal medical programs, Guinchard said the bill does not restrict any person from paying for medication compliance packaging on their own.

Public multi-use housing

Costello is also sponsoring, HB 50, a bill that would give The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation the ability to finance housing with some commercial use.

The bill’s sponsor statement explains that all Alaskans desire to live in vibrant neighborhoods with easy access to needed services, including shopping, restaurants, child care facilities and other amenities. Many municipalities across the nation have recognized the value of multi-use housing as a way to create a stronger economy and neighborhoods.

The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation has identified a needed fix in current law which impacts the larger-scale housing complexes it builds or finances. HB 50 intends to fix the problem and enhance feasibility of these developments, according to the sponsor statement. Currently AHFC is not allowed to finance or permit commercial enterprise in multi-unit residential housing developments.

Guinchard said the HB 50 passed the house unanimously and it provides more diverse neighborhoods for individuals and businesses. It could also help ease Alaska’s housing shortage.

“(HB 50) offers more flexibility for those looking to start a business and those seeking affordable housing,” he said.

Guinchard also explained that HB 50 would not allow establishments that involve charitable gaming or adult entertainment to be permitted under the bill, and only establishments selling alcohol that have been designated as a restaurant by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board could be permitted.

Voter identification

Another bill making waves is HB 3, a bill requiring Alaskans to present photo identification before casting a ballot at their polling place. Bob Lynn, (R-Anchorage) said in his sponsor statement that the issue is a proactive measure against voter fraud.

Currently, all voters are required to present something as simple as a current utility bill, bank statement or paycheck, which Lynn said is an inadequate protection of the voting process and is an invitation for voter fraud.

For those without photo identification, Lynn said that HB 3 provides accommodations: the person may still vote if they can provide two forms of official non-photo identification such as a birth certificate, Social Security card, hunting/fishing license or a tribal identification. Also, if the person cannot provide forms of identification, the person may still cast a vote if two polling place workers know the person or if that person is a registered voters in that district.

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