ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – Some Residents of Alaska Pioneer Homes who rely on Medicaid to pay monthly dues are shopping around for new care facilities. This comes after Gov. Dunleavy line-item vetoed an additional $50 million funding reduction to the program, bringing total reductions to over $120 million.

Residents have also been waiting on an update after the governor’s initial budget proposal included significant rate increases and funding cuts to Pioneer Homes.

“Everybody is still on edge. We still have no answers,” Pioneer Home resident Jack Tessier said Monday. “So we’re waiting for the next shoe to drop.”

The Department of Health and Social Services has not yet determined the distribution of cuts to Medicaid services. However, according to their research from Feb. 2019, 20 percent (88 people) of Pioneer Home residents rely solely on Medicaid Waivers; 29 percent (133 people) pay what they can, and the state covers the rest; the remaining 51 percent (230 people) pay out-of-pocket.

The administration maintains that if rate increases are implemented and Medicaid cuts impact residents’ abilities to pay, the state has a “needs-based” assistance fund to subsidize those residents. Spokesperson Matt Shuckerow says residents cannot be turned away based on their ability to pay for services — but Pioneer Home resident Carol Scott remains concerned.

“We always wonder if we’re going to be able to pay that amount or not,” Scott said.

Rep. Zack Fields, D – Anchorage, says rate increases would drive residents out of Pioneer Homes in search of more affordable care, without generating additional revenue for the state. He emphasizes the irony that the state would still end up subsidizing those residents who can’t afford rate increases through the needs-based assistance fund.

Fields says the governor could pass the rate increases in time for them to take effect this summer. He says the only way to prevent this is if the Senate passes legislation to stop it.

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