February 06, 2004
The Governor has endorsed the selection of the Palmer Pioneers Home for conversion to a state Veterans Home. Today, he introduced legislation to address the legal requirements to establish an Alaska Veterans Home that meets the requirements of the federal Veterans Administration.
"The Department of Health & Social Services has already begun the process that will ultimately permit residents of the Pioneer Homes to use their federal benefits while living in a Pioneer Home," Health and Social Services Commissioner Joel Gilbertson said.
"For over 20 years the state has sought a viable way to provide a state Veterans Home," Murkowski said. "Alaska remains one of just two states that do not have a State Veterans Home." In May 2002, the Alaska Legislature passed a bill that was intended to qualify the Pioneer Homes for payment of veterans' benefits. A pilot program to do this was scheduled. However, the state did not reach an agreement with the federal Veterans Administration regarding use of benefits within the full Pioneer Homes system. The studies and discussions resulted in an application to the federal Veterans Administration to designate one Pioneer Home as a state Veterans Home.
Representatives of the federal Veterans Administration visited several of the Alaska Pioneer Homes and agreed that Palmer is the right size and location to serve veterans. The state's application to the federal Veterans Administration proposed a 1-1/2 year project to renovate the Palmer Pioneers' Home, at 65% federal expense, to complete deferred maintenance and modernize the facility. Following the renovation, the federal Veterans Administration will pay the state $26.95 per day for each veteran served.
The Alaska Veterans Home will eventually serve between 62 and 82 veterans. "No current resident will be asked to move from the Palmer Pioneers Home, and no veteran will be forced to move to the Home," Gilbertson said. "During a transition period, veterans who are in other Pioneer Homes may request a transfer to the Palmer Home. When a bed is available with the level of service they require, the veteran's request for transfer will be accommodated."
The per diem payments will be a new source of funding for the Alaska Pioneer Homes, and will help the state Veterans Home become a reality for the veterans and for our state, Gilbertson said.
Provisions in the bill help assure the long-term sustainability of the Alaska Pioneer Home system, by identifying and securing third-party payments from federal sources. In most of the 239 assisted living facilities in Alaska, many residents pay the cost of services through insurance, Medicaid, self-payments and other health care plans. Until recently, residents could not use Medicaid and veterans benefits to pay for Pioneer Homes. Veterans' benefits were only available at certified veterans' homes, and persons living in "public institutions" could not use Medicaid.
"We are changing that so veterans' benefits and Medicaid can be used in Alaska Pioneer Homes," Gilbertson said.
Alaska Pioneer Homes -- as licensed assisted living facilities that offer professional nursing services, personal care services, social services, and other support services -- will soon be reimbursed by Medicaid for eligible residents. Those services are defined as residential supported living services under the Older Alaskan's Home and Community-based Services wavier granted by the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.
Under the Older Alaskans Waiver,
assisted living facilities may be paid for providing services
to Medicaid eligible persons. Although the Pioneer Homes have
been licensed as assisted living facilities for several years,
the prohibition has remained in effect until questioned late
in 2003. State regulations lifting the ban on Medicaid payments
will be effective in the spring of 2004.
Source of News Release: