Legislature(2003 - 2004)
2004-01-12 House JournalFull Journal pdf
2004-01-12 House Journal Page 2295 HB 374 HOUSE BILL NO. 374 by the House Rules Committee by request of the Governor, entitled: "An Act establishing the SeniorCare program and relating to that program; and providing for an effective date." was read the first time and referred to the Health, Education & Social Services and Finance Committees. The following fiscal note(s) apply: 1. Fiscal, Dept. of Health & Social Services 2. Fiscal, Dept. of Health & Social Services 3. Fiscal, Dept. of Health & Social Services 4. Fiscal, Dept. of Health & Social Services 5. Fiscal, Dept. of Health & Social Services The Governor's transmittal letter dated January 9, 2004, follows: "Dear Speaker Kott: Under the authority of article III, section 18 of the Alaska Constitution, I am transmitting a bill establishing the "SeniorCare" program. Prescription drug prices have spiraled upwards for years, placing a heavy financial burden on Alaska's seniors. This past year my administration has initiated a number of reforms to our Medicaid program that will help assure that seniors receive the safest and most clinically appropriate prescription drugs they need at a reasonable cost. Among these reforms is the development of a preferred drug list, 2004-01-12 House Journal Page 2296 requiring prior authorization for certain drugs, and expanding case management of high-cost clients; often persons with chronic conditions that require a large number of medications. This fall, Congress approved a comprehensive package of Medicare prescription drug subsidies. However, these subsidies are not fully effective until 2006. This creates a gap for seniors who need immediate assistance. SeniorCare is an innovative program, which bridges that gap for Alaska's seniors. The Senior Assistance Program, which I established this year to help Alaska's neediest seniors, has been brought under SeniorCare. The SeniorCare program would provide two levels of subsidies, based on income. An individual who has an annual income of up to 135 percent of the federal poverty level for Alaska, and who is not already receiving a prescription drug benefit through Medicaid, may choose to receive up to $1,600 a year in prescription drug subsidies or to receive a monthly cash payment of $120. An individual who has an annual income of more than 135 percent but no more than 150 percent of the federal poverty level for Alaska may receive up to $1,000 a year in prescription drug subsidies, but would not be eligible for the alternative cash payment. In addition, under federal law separate from this bill, the temporary Medicare prescription drug subsidy would add an extra $600 per year of prescription drug coverage to the first group. Eligibility for the program would be limited to Alaska's most needy seniors. The program would not pay for prescription drug subsidies for seniors who already receive coverage under Medicaid or certain similar prescription drug subsidy programs. Eligibility for the program would be further defined by regulations developed by the Department of Health and Social Services under authority granted in this bill. Until those regulations are in effect, the eligibility requirements that govern the Alaska Senior Assistance Program (established by regulation in 2003) would govern the SeniorCare program. This would ensure that the SeniorCare program could go into operation without delay. Prescription drug subsidies under the program would cover almost all prescription drugs, insulin and insulin syringes, and would require that, if available, cheaper and therapeutically equivalent generic drugs 2004-01-12 House Journal Page 2297 must be used unless a medical professional indicates that a brand name is medically necessary. This requirement would ensure that the subsidies would cover the maximum amount possible of each recipient's prescription drug costs. The SeniorCare program is designed to help Alaska's seniors meet their financial and prescription drug needs. When the new Medicare prescription drug subsidy administered by the federal government begins, SeniorCare would be discontinued. I urge your prompt and favorable action on this measure. Sincerely yours, /s/ Frank H. Murkowski Governor"