Rep. Liz Snyder is the co-chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee. State of Reform spoke with her about several bills she’s hoping to see pass this session dealing with everything from compensating home caregivers to reigning in insulin costs.
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Aaron Kunkler: What are your health care priorities this session, and what bills are you hoping to see passed?
Rep. Liz Snyder: I’m fresh to the legislature, this is just my first term and second session, but I came to this job after working in the field of public health for 13 years, and my educational background is in public health and environmental health. In that realm, our lens is very much one of prevention. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s certainly something I’ve tried to carry with me here in the legislature, but it’s a tougher sell, right? Prevention is usually cheaper and more effective, but it’s delayed gratification, or in some instances, it’s almost invisible.
Of course, you’ve got to be ready to address the mitigation side, and address issues that are currently happening and affecting Alaskans. I know we look at things here in this office on both ends of the candle, and we’ve got some legislation that gets at it on both sides, and tries to inject lessons that I have learned through personal experiences. I always say I hope that legislators don’t need to have a personal experience with every single issue we address in order to feel empathy for those that we’re representing. We shouldn’t have to have experienced this. But I think in this context, I’ll also add this.
My father experienced a life threatening event a few years ago here in the States and as his oldest daughter living in the same town at the time, helping them navigate the VA system, helping him and my mom respond to and make decisions for five emergency surgeries that ultimately resulted in amputation and chronic pain and trying to navigate that health care system, it certainly opened my eyes to additional challenges that people face.
That was a long preamble to the background and the ways that we think, so we’ve got a couple pieces of legislation that are very much directly related to health care and Alaska. There’s one that we’ve got drafted but that doesn’t have a bill number just yet. I’m happy to be working with Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, over in the other body and with SEIU, to advocate for some changes to our statute as it relates to home health care. We have a long-running issue with home health care up here. And it’s not necessarily unique to Alaska, where it’s expensive, it’s difficult to fill positions, and turnover can be high. So we’re trying to get at some of those issues. But we have some concerns over the way it’s currently written.
We need to raise the bar a little bit in terms of what it takes to terminate care. We’ve seen individuals getting reviewed to see if they continue to meet eligibility requirements for services and waivers. And we’re working to set the bar a little higher so that they get adequate notice requirements, that that patients or the clientele receive notification of the assessment findings and making sure there’s a pathway for them to reverse the findings if they need to, and have a way to appeal and get those services restored if it’s found that indeed they still qualify for those services.
I think another piece incorporating this bill that we’re working on is a lot of home health care providers are those who are legally responsible for that person and family members, sometimes close family friends. The way it stands now, it’s difficult to impossible for them to receive compensation for providing services when in effect it is a full-time job. So we’re adjusting sections to make those individuals eligible…
We’ve got another bill that’s just now in the works, we’re kind of pulling it out of the archives so to speak, it’s something that didn’t move forward in the past, but it has got it’s legs elsewhere across the country. I won’t be able to speak too much in terms of the details, we’re still working on that, but we are looking at a piece of legislation addressing a price cap for insulin.
AK: That’s something that other states around the country are also considering. Do you have any additional information on an insulin bill?
LS: We might have more info, hopefully within the next week or two. We’ve got some calls out to folks who have been involved in earlier versions of the bill, we want to chat with them and make sure we understand their motivations, their rationale for how they worded it in the most recent version, and compared to what we’re seeing elsewhere. So we’d like to get this thing drafted before we get too much further down the road in this session.
AK: What are some other bills that may not directly relate to health care, but impact quality of life and health outcomes?
LS: We’re one of the only states left in the U.S. that does not have an online submission option for our public assistance programs. So we do have forms online, but you can’t submit them online. It still requires it to be mailed or faxed or scanned in and emailed, and particularly with a state as big as ours, that can be pretty problematic. Some of the forms are really, really complicated and require back and forth, and mail introduces very long delays and makes it much more likely that people don’t actually finish the process. So we’ve got it passed unanimously in the house — this is HB 168 — we’re currently trying to move it out of Senate Health and Social Services and make sure that people can hit the online submit button and access those services faster.