Imposing a Pioneer home wait list fee would hurt low income Alaskan seniors
This letter, abbreviated here, was sent by the Alaska Commission on Aging to the Alaska Senate and House chairs on April 6, 2016, in regard to SB 139 and HB 256, which impose a $100 annual fee to be placed on the Pioneer Homes wait list. The letter is available in its entirety on the commission’s website at http://www.alaskaaging.org.
Dear Sen. Pete Micciche and Representative Dan Sadler:
The Alaska Commission on Aging is a Governor-appointed body within the Dept. of Health and Social Services that serves to ensure the dignity and independence of all older Alaskans by addressing their needs through planning, advocacy and education through interagency coordination efforts.
Although we recognize that the operating budget, with the exception of conference-able items, has been approved by the legislature, the commission would like to take this opportunity to inform you about the considerable public input we have recently received regarding the proposed $100 annual fee for seniors (persons age 65 and older) to reserve a place on the Pioneer Home wait list. This requirement is a budget item identified in the close-out documents for SB 193 (item 85, line 451) and HB 256 (page 1, Pioneer Homes).
The commission is concerned that the proposed annual $100 fee could impose a significant financial hardship on seniors with limited incomes at/below poverty level. While seniors with moderate and higher incomes may be able to afford the $100 annual fee, those who are low-income are often hard-pressed to pay for life essentials such as food, housing, heat/utilities, and prescription medications. These vulnerable seniors are the ones who are most in need of the care provided by the Pioneer Homes and will most likely be least able to afford the fee and as a result, drop off the wait list.
The commission respectfully proposes the following recommendations for your consideration regarding the proposed Pioneer Home annual wait list fee:
• Waive the $100 annual fee for seniors who income-qualify for Public Assistance or Medicaid programs, as these older people are financially vulnerable and least able to afford an extra expense.
• Hold harmless seniors who are already on the wait list and impose the annual fee only on those who are new to the wait list and have the means to make the annual payment.
• Implement a voluntary $100 deduction from the seniors’ Permanent Fund Dividend to cover the annual wait list fee to ensure that the fee is paid on time; this is especially important for individuals with memory loss. In addition, this voluntary deduction would help to reduce the administrative burden on the Pioneer Homes as there is no added funding to hire new staff in the operating budget for the Homes to collect the wait list fees.
Mary E. Shields,
ACoA Executive Director