Dunleavy looks at Pioneer Home rates climbing by thousands a year

Old people might have to pay tens of thousands more a year to live in the six Alaska Pioneer Homes starting this summer, according to one element in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget debacle.

Current rates range from $2,588 a month to $6,795 a month, depending upon the level of care necessary. Rates for those on the upper end, those residents who require the most care, could double under the plan, to about $180,000 a year.

The budget doesn’t say exactly what the new rates would be, but they would increase enough in July to “fully close the gap between the actual cost of services and current rates.”

But the state says it will not toss any of the estimated 500 current residents out on the street. Those who can’t afford the higher rates could apply for grants.

But before we get too far with this, I think there is zero chance the Legislature will approve this element of the Dunleavy Debacle.

It appears that new entrants would not qualify for the grants, however, which means that future residents will have to be more well-to-do if they want to live out their golden years in the state homes.

Or it could be that the Pioneer Homes will soon be extinct as there won’t be enough paying customers. Perhaps that is what Dunleavy has in mind.

The average Pioneer Home resident is 87 year old and many have to deal with dementia. More than half of the residents require 24-hour care. The first home opened in Sitka in 1913.

“As a result of Alaska Pioneer Home rate increases that will go into effect in FY2020, an Alaska Pioneer Homes safety net grant program will be established to ensure current residents who cannot afford to pay the increased rates can remain in the homes. The division will conduct a needs-based assessment for each resident and provide assistance through grant services,” a backup document for the proposed state budget says.

The grants would be paid for out of a $15 million fund, which suggests that most of the 500 residents would need financial help.

Raising Pioneer Home rates by an extreme amount is an important policy call, one that Dunleavy forgot to mention during his campaign. It is among those that should be stopped by the Legislature.

We need a real fiscal plan, one that includes taxes, a cap on Permanent Fund Dividends and a recognition of the value of certain services, such as the Pioneer Homes, which are an important part of life in Alaska.

Dermot Cole14 Comments