Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205
02/08/2010 01:30 PM HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES
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SB 215-PIONEERS HOME RX DRUG BENEFIT CHAIR DAVIS announced consideration of SB 215. 2:00:15 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI, sponsor of SB 215, said this bill came about after months of discussions between state and federal agencies, veterans' advocates, and members of the legislature, who sought to reinstate federal prescription benefits for about a dozen of the Alaska Pioneer Home residents. Although only about a dozen veterans were impacted last year, the veteran population grows each year, and this bill will ensure that the residents of the Alaska Pioneer Homes will continue to receive their federal prescription drug benefits for years to come. He explained that in April 2009, veterans who were residing in Alaska Pioneer Homes and were unable to administer their own medications stopped receiving the free or low-cost medications to which they were entitled through the Veterans Administration (VA). These veterans were then forced to purchase the same medications from the Pioneer Home's pharmacy. The Pioneer Home's pharmacy prepares medications in blister-packs so nurse aides can administer them to the patients safely and accurately; the VA prepares medications in bottles and cannot provide medications in blister-packs. VA doctors cannot write prescriptions to Pioneer Homes' pharmacies, because the Pioneer Homes are outside the VA system, and the Pioneer Homes cannot repackage VA medications because the lot numbers and expiration would change upon repackaging, which is currently not allowed under state law. The Pioneer Homes were previously placing veteran medications in Monday through Sunday Medisets, but that was determined to be unsafe; the concern was that pills from the VA often look different from those sold by the Pioneer Home pharmacies, and it would be difficult to determine if the pills had been taken or removed from the set due to a dosage change. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI continued that these veterans were caught up in the middle of a bureaucratic mix-up between state and federal policies. This resulted in a combined effort between the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), the Pioneer Homes, the Veterans Administration. Veteran Advocates, and several members of the legislature who were previously mentioned. A solution was found. The Pioneer Homes involved all interested parties to determine the appropriate protocol for ordering, receiving, storing, administering, and disposing of medications. The Alaska VA health care system and the regional office chief pharmacist and chief of staff conducted in-service visits to the Pioneer Homes to ensure nurses are properly administering medications directly from original VA bottles. What this bill does, he said, is ensure that the struggles many people went through last summer to resolve the problems, don't have to be repeated in the future. It says that the Pioneer Homes should continue to do things the way they are doing them now; if the Pioneer Homes identify a safety precaution that prevents them from disbursing medications as they are doing currently, the state-run Pioneer Homes will cover the cost of the medications. It is his understanding however, that the Pioneer Homes do not anticipate any changes to what they are currently doing, and thus this bill has a zero fiscal note. SB 215 prevents the need to recreate the wheel and ensures that individuals who have earned federal prescription benefits will continue to receive their benefits even in the face of future administrative staffing changes. 2:04:26 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said this bill is supported by the Vietnam Veterans of America, who made it one of their top legislative priorities in Alaska for 2010, and by the Director of the Office of Veterans Affairs. 2:05:11 PM DAVE COTE, Director, Alaska Division of Pioneer Homes, Juneau, Alaska, said they are neutral on this bill. SB215 has a zero fiscal note and should have no impact because they are allowing veterans who are eligible to receive medications from the VA, or residents of Pioneer Homes who are eligible to receive medications through Indian Health Service, to obtain those medications and bring them into the Pioneer Homes, where the medications will be administered by their staff. 2:05:52 PM RIC DAVIDGE, President, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA); Chair, Municipal Commission on Military and Veterans Affairs, Anchorage, Alaska, said he was delighted when the members of the legislature of both the House and the Senate came together and called meetings to find a way out of this maze. He specifically thanked Senator Wielechowski, Representative Dahlstrom and Representative Gara and their staffs for stepping up and following through with this. SB 215 has the total support of the Vietnam Veterans of America; they have sent a copy of this bill and the House bill to their national office, as other states are facing the same kind of problem and are interested in Alaska's solution. 2:07:14 PM SENATOR ELLIS thanked Mr. Davidge for his involvement in this bill and for his work on behalf of Alaska's veterans. 2:07:33 PM CHAIR DAVIS closed public testimony. 2:07:55 PM SENATOR DYSON commented that only government can be so foolish, and he appreciates his colleagues for working to resolve this problem. 2:08:38 PM SENATOR PASKVAN moved to report SB 215 from committee with individual recommendation(s) and attached zero fiscal note(s). There being no objection, SB 215 moved from the committee. 2:09:26 PM There being no further business to come before the committee, Chair Davis adjourned the meeting at 2:09 p.m.