Legislature(2003 - 2004)

2004-01-12 House Journal

Full 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"                                
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                            

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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,                                                     
                               Frank H. Murkowski