Online benefits filing bill passes Alaska Senate committee

A bill designed to allow Alaskans to apply for benefits online has been passed out of the Senate Health and Social Services Committee. 

The bill, HB 168, cleared the House last session, but was awaiting a hearing in the Senate committee, which approved it 4-1 during a Jan. 1 meeting. The bill would allow Alaskans to apply for benefits online. Currently, benefits forms are available online, but must be mailed, faxed or emailed. 

 

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In previous coverage, Rep. Liz Snyder, the bill’s primary sponsor and co-chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee, told State of Reform that in a state as large as Alaska, this makes it difficult for people to actually use benefits they’re eligible for. Additionally, the forms are complex and often require back and forth communication, and mail creates long delays. 

The bill passed unanimously in the House last year. During yesterday’s committee meeting, the bill was amended to include a warning against submitting for benefits with fraudulent information. 

The sole vote against the bill passing committee came from Sen. Lora Reinbold, who said she would be voting no over security concerns. In September, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services suffered a security breach due to a cyberattack which resulted in HIPAA and APIPA information being violated. 

On the House side, Snyder said in previous coverage that she will be focusing on bills that promote prevention measures which can lead to better health outcomes.