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Is Assisted Living in Peril for Seniors and Disabled?
Lawmakers implore Murkowski to investigate possible "damaging blow"


August 11, 2004

Alaska - A bipartisan group of eleven State Legislators say recent carte blanche regulation rewrites at the Department of Health & Social Services so negatively restrict health care delivery to some of the state's most frail citizens - senior citizens and disabled Alaskans - that this bipartisan group of eleven State Legislators were compelled to strongly advise Governor Frank Murkowski to cease implementation of his Home & Community Based Waiver Regulations.

The goal of Alaska's waiver program is to keep the elderly and individuals with disabilities in their home communities and out of institutions, hospitals, and nursing facilities. This group says the Murkowski administration is in the process of scaling back these assisted living and respite care waiver programs. Touted as cost containment measures, the changes, ironically, may force more people into higher cost nursing homes, the seven lawmakers say.

"Programs for Alaska's seniors have suffered numerous recent shocks," said Senator Bettye Davis. "Health care agency rates have been frozen for a decade. The Longevity Bonus was cut. Workers Comp, Medicaid costs and liability insurance have sharply increased. Now the Governor aims to direct fewer resources to needy seniors. This trend is unacceptable."

In a letter delivered this week to Governor Murkowski, the lawmakers acknowledge the pinch of sharply rising health care costs, but insist that the safety net for seniors and the disabled is too weak to suffer further erosion without Legislative oversight.

The letter states: "Information we have gathered demonstrates that these changes, added to the many other challenges facing senior care services, strikes a damaging blow to our residents... Our offices are working on recommendations to the Department, an we would be happy to work with you to find a solution that does not remove needed care and housing options for vulnerable Alaskans."

Co-signing the letter were Senators Bettye Davis, Johnny Ellis, Hollis French, and Gretchen Guess; and Representatives Ethan Berkowitz, Sharon Cissna, Harry Crawford, Eric Croft, Les Gara, Max Gruenberg, and Lesil McGuire.

"It makes more sense to maintain efforts to keep Alaskans out of costly institutions," said Representative Cissna. "The new regulations ignore our state's pioneering programs that give 'least restrictive care', and which build self-reliance and responsibility. The regulations also imperil jobs that help seniors remain self-sufficient at home and in their communities."


Source of News:

Alaska Democrats
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