Callers oppose Alaska Pioneer Home rate increase during comment

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Voicing their concerns and dismay, a handful of people called into the Pioneer Homes Advisory Board meeting Thursday.

One of the callers was Representative Dan Ortiz who represents Alaska’s 36th District.

“A Level III resident nearly has the rate from approximately, under my understanding, from $6,000 a month, which is a rough estimate, to around $11,000 a month. And that’s just not doable for many residents,” Ortiz said, “It kind of goes against the spirit of the original pioneer home model.”

New, increased rates according to a letter sent to residents on Aug. 2

Callers expressed their opposition to the rate hike. Many said they are being forced to spend more money to take care of their loved ones, which is putting a bind on their pocketbooks.

“I’ll look around the pioneer home, I see people who worked and lived in Alaska and built the state,” a caller from Sitka said, “I think they deserve the assistance from the state to give back to them. I’m not asking for it to be free, obviously, but I think it needs to be subsidized to be affordable for people in the state for end of life.”

During the call, there was clear support for HB96which passed the state house in May 2019 and which still needs to be voted in the Senate. Supporters of the bill, including the sponsor Rep. Zack Fields (D-Anchorage) say that independent budget analysis by the Legislative Finance Division shows that the rate increases would potentially increase the costs running the pioneer home.

Rate increases at Alaska Pioneer Homes went into effect Sept. 1.

New regulations add two tiers to the pioneer homes care system, from three to five tiers based on the level of need.

Previously, the highest tier paid about $6,800 per month, that's jumped to $15,000.

The Office of the Governor has said residents will not be forced to leave, and that those unable to afford the increase would receive assistance through a state program.

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