Lawmakers approve changes to Alaska bill that would help seniors acquire in-home health care

Alaska lawmakers approved changes to an in-progress bill that aims to help seniors and people with disabilities acquire in-home health care services Thursday. 

 

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The Senate Health & Social Services Committee reviewed Senate Bill 183, which would allow the Department of Health & Human Services (DHSS) to provide home and community-based services under a Medicaid waiver with approval from the federal government.  

Committee members approved the removal of language from the bill that would have required DHSS to do individual assessments for any individual receiving Medicaid HCBS care if rates changed within a given year. Payment for services is determined through a rate-setting process.

DHSS Division of Senior and Disabilities Services Director John Lee said changes to the bill were made in order to separate the rate-setting process from the process of providing services. 

“The reason this was removed was because the way it was originally written is that we would need to do an assessment of the approximate 8,000 individuals we serve, and have them go through this process before a rate process that would envision a rate reduction would be able to take effect,” Lee said. “This is not about rates; it’s about services that are provided to individuals.”

Committee members also changed language in the bill to ensure the assessment process for reduced services only applies to personal care services instead of all home and community-based waiver services.

Lee said home and community-based waiver services are for people who meet institutional level-of-care needs, whereas personal care services don’t require that level of care.

“A personal care type of service is something where it’s typically in the home,” Lee said. “It doesn’t have to be, but it’s typically in the home; bathing, eating, toileting, chores. Those are examples of what personal care services include. Home and community-based waiver services can be residential services, such as allowing people to live in a group home. It could provide support for employment services, which is assistance on the job.”

Sen. David Wilson (R-Wasilla) said changes to the bill were made to align it with the House’s version of the legislation. Bill sponsor Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson (D-Anchorage) attended the meeting and voiced her support for the changes made.