By James Brooks
Alaska Beacon 

Legislation could expand availability of at-home care for seniors and disabled


Senior citizens and people with disabilities who need extra care would be able to get help at home under a bill passed by the Alaska Legislature and on its way to the governor for signature into law.

The state House voted 39-1 to approve Senate Bill 57 on May 8, followed by unanimous Senate concurrence on May 10 with the House changes.

The legislation would allow the state to license individual homes as the equivalent of assisted-living centers. A home would be permitted for up to two residents under normal circumstances, three with special permission.

Medicaid would pay for the services.

“One of the hallmarks of a society is the way that we care for those who may have a disability or who are in need of extra care,” said Soldotna Rep. Justin Ruffridge, an advocate for the bill, which was introduced by Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration.

Anchorage resident Laura Bonner testified in support of the bill, saying that she cares for an adoptive daughter who needs 24/7 care.

“She lives with me, but I’m in my seventies and eventually she will have to move to an assisted-living or group home setting. SB 57 will give us more options for her future,” she said in a letter.

“It would help many families to care for their loved ones who struggle with dementia, complex medical needs for minor children or a disabled adult who can’t function on their own,” she said. “Trained direct care workers are difficult to find due to a shortage of them.”

Earlier in the process, senators also rolled Senate Bill 106 from Anchorage Sen. Cathy Giessel into the home-care measure.

Giessel’s proposal makes permanent a COVID pandemic-era measure that allows Medicaid to pay for personal care assistants, even if those assistants are the recipient’s spouse or parent.

Anchorage Rep. Genevieve Mina spoke in favor of that change, saying legislators had heard from people who put off marriage in order to stay eligible for Medicaid assistance. If they got married, they would no longer be eligible for financial help.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization.


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