Notorious blogger/attorney Libby Bakalar has asked a Ketchikan judge to certify a class-action lawsuit and stop the state Department of Health and Social Services from raising the rates at the Alaska Pioneer Homes.
Bakalar is the attorney who last year was released by the Dunleavy Administration and who is suing the governor and his former chief of staff Tuckerman Babcock over her separation of employment. She was an at-will employee, as most attorneys are at the Department of Law. Her own case is pending.
In her latest suit, she name three plaintiffs: Marion and Howard Rider and Eileen Casey. She names Commissioner Adam Crum and Pioneer Homes Director Clinton Lasley as defendants, along with Gov. Michael Dunleavy.
Bakalar and her co-attorney Vance Sanders of Juneau ask for an injunction and say the rate increases, which occurred in the same year as a $12.3 million cut to the Pioneers’ Homes, are adverse for the 497 residents of the elder-care facilities across the state.
Similar to the case going forward on the budget cuts to the courts system, this case asks the court system to override the role of the appropriators in the Legislature and the Executive Branch in running the State of Alaska. The lawsuit puts the courts in the driver’s seat for both appropriations and rates and fee schedules.
Rates at the Pioneer Homes are variable, depending on the level of care needed. They range from $3,600 per month to $15,000 per month; financial assistance is available for those residents who cannot pay those fees.
But many residents actually have the means to pay more than they are paying; they simply don’t because they are trying to preserve their estate for their heirs. The Pioneer Homes are setting new rules that ask their clients to be more forthcoming about their actual finances.
Without the new rates the State of Alaska is paying for most of the care of elders, rather than families helping out by liquidating their elderly residents’ assets to assist with their care, and then turning to Medicaid for help when their funds run low.
The State Department of Health and Social Services has already said existing residents won’t be forced to move out under the new rates.
If the injunction is approved by the judge, the State would have to return to the old fee schedule while the class action lawsuit got organized. Right now it has but three plaintiffs, but Bakalar says she could be representing as many as all 497 of the residents of Pioneer Homes.
It’s not uncommon to judge shop, but it’s just as likely that Bakalar filed in Ketchikan for other reasons, such as knowing that her reputation in Juneau is associated with her foul-tempered, man-hating blog, as well as her pending lawsuit to force the governor to rehire her as an assistant attorney general.