Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration is moving forward with planned rate increases at Alaska Pioneers’ Homes, according to a Health and Social Services notice posted Thursday.
The administration announced its initial plan as part of the governor’s budget released in February. The next month, Alaska Pioneers’ Homes Director Clinton Lasley visited the Fairbanks Pioneers’ Home to discuss budget cuts and rising rates with concerned residents at the facility.
Alaska has six Pioneers’ Homes across the state, including in Fairbanks, that provide assisted-living care to some of Alaska’s older residents.
Now, it appears that by Sept. 1, residents will see rates increase from 40% to 140% with the lowest level of care spiking by more than $12,000 per year and increasing from there based of the level of care needed.
In addition to the rate increases, levels of care will be split into five sections rather than the previous three.
The first level is for those who are independent and need little to no care, costing $3,623 per month; the next level would pay $6,569 a month; level three will cost $11,185 a month; level four will cost $13,333 a month; and level five for residents who require round-the-clock nursing care will cost $15,000 a month.
Residents who are already part of the Pioneers’ Home system will qualify for some financial assistance if they are not able to pay for the increased costs. However, in a letter Lasley sent to current Pioneers’ Home residents Friday, “No resident will be required to move from the Alaska Pioneers’ Home if they do not have the ability to pay.”
A series of public testimony earlier this year brought hefty concern from members of the public over the rate hikes sparking a House bill from Anchorage Democratic Rep. Zack Fields that would have protected the facilities against larger scale rate hikes. House Bill 96 passed the House in May and was referred to two Senate committees but did not progress further.
During a meeting with Fairbanks Pioneers’ Home residents in March, Lasley heard concerns from a number of elderly residents who were worried about being able to afford basic necessities like clothes and prescriptions if their monthly rate increased.
While the governor has been firmly backing his original February budget proposal, when Dunleavy was a state senator just a few years back, he voiced concerns over budgetary threats against Pioneer Homes in 2017.
In an April 13, 2017, email response to a constituent criticizing possible cuts to Pioneers’ Homes in 2017 under then-Gov. Bill Walker, Dunleavy wrote the following:
“The budget that was passed out of the Senate gave the Governor’s administration broad leeway to reduce the Department of Health and Social Services budget. The administration is choosing to close Palmer Pioneer Home to achieve this reduction even before a finalized budget is adopted. I am troubled that the administration has unnecessarily caused tremendous anxiety to our most vulnerable Alaskans by prematurely informing residents and their families of the potential closure of the facility this coming summer. I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that the administration carries out the intent of the legislature and properly prioritizes services within the Department in a way that still provides for our most vulnerable Alaskans.”
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.
CORRECTION: New patients at the Alaska Pioneer Homes will not be required to pay increased rates in full if they are unable to afford, according to the Department of Health and Social Services. Rate increases are still set to go into effect Sept. 1.