Lawyers file suit over Pioneer Home rates - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, November 22, 2019
HomeThe 907Lawyers file suit over Pioneer Home rates

Lawyers file suit over Pioneer Home rates

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.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Interesting why Ms. Bakalar went south for her representation. The First City (KTKN) is one of the last bastions of conservative thought left in SE Alaska. But, if it’s legal assistance and they are supposed to follow the law….it should matter not, right? Oh ya! How quickly I forget…laws are only followed when it matches your left agenda, and always broken when they don’t.

  • Excellent article, Suzanne. Pioneer Homes needs to do a better job checking the status of residency of their customers. Some elderly come up from the Lower 48 to be with their children, who are already residents,…..and get a bed in the Pioneer Home by jumping the wait-list.

  • Foul tempered and a man hater? What an attractive combination!

  • This is why some people should not be allowed to have a law license. She is a complete lost cause looking for her 15 minutes of fame. Let’s tax her — say 75% — to help pay for the Pioneer Homes.

  • What? Judge shopping? Tell me it can’t be. Surely all judges would rule the same way regardless of which governor appointed them or what the judge’s political leanings are.
    Oh! Wait! I forgot that judges have to stand for election in Alaska. So another consideration besides what the law and equities are in any lawsuit is whether the judges will become unpopular because of a proper ruling and perhaps even be voted out of office. Can’t have that, can we? So the heck with the law. Rule based on what the public wants. Right!

  • This is basically how the rest of the U.S. works. You pay down the residents finances till you hit $2000.00, then you apply for Medicaid. There may be provisions for the home if one spouse is living in it.

  • I believe most residents that are in the most expensive PH care category are covered by Medicaid. Those that don’t qualify will quickly erode their savings and then qualify.
    My father’s Pioneer Home cost several years ago was $80,000/year. Even at that price, we are very grateful that that level of care was available to him. The new cost rate of $180,000/year would have forced us to seek other options. When the Pioneer Homes were built, I don’t think there were any other private or non-profit facilities in Alaska that could provide the highest level of care. I’m not sure what services are available today.
    A State that hands out $1 billion a year in Dividends sure seems like a Scrooge by not funding (yes it is a subsidy) the Pioneer Homes at the historic amount.

  • The rate increase will only affect those residents who have the means to pay. If they spend down their resources, they will then receive assistance. That’s just common sense. Government assistance should always be the last resort.

  • Pioneer rates are extremely low compared to lower 48 rates. My father-in-law was here my mom was in Oregon. We paid as much for my mom in Oregon as we did for my father-in-law up here even though he required MUCH more services than did my mom in Oregon. And the care here was much better better and than what my mom received. Just sayin

  • Funding for the Pioneer’s Home is one subsidy I’m willing to support in this state wholeheartedly. However, the 100% rate increases were not well thought out and are proving detrimental to some families. You say “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”, though you did not address the situation of one spouse being in the home, and the other still trying to live independently.

    I have just such family friends. With his wife in advanced stages of Alzheimers (in the Anchorage Pioneer’s home) and he with some assets, allowing him to live independently, the State’s new bump in rates is now costing him the max, $15,000 a month! A month! This man has already sold off the vast majority of his assets and now lives quite modestly. He’s a man of integrity and refuses to divorce his wife, though she knows him no longer. How is it okay that we are moving forward with this change, without addressing these situations? I agree we need to encourage long-term care insurance, and seek private business solutions when possible, but c’mon folks. Is there any room for compromise here for current Pioneer Home residents?

    The Fairbanks Pioneer’s offered great care for my grandma through the end of her life, and once down to $2000 in the bank, she was on Medicaid. The process worked well, but I recognize her care was costing the state upwards of $6500/year at the end (~7 years ago). I also recently lost another grandma who lived in a private Florida Assisted Living home. She had long-term care insurance, and while she also resided in the intensive care unit, her costs towards the end were ~$7500 I believe. How is it that Alaskans now need $15,000 to do the same thing? Something is awry here folks. I’m all for private business and fiscal conservatism, but somewhere along the way we have to employ some step-wise logic and empathy.

    • I don’t really disagree with much of your posting, however, Suzanne does get the facts correct. Look at the situation of one senator. Her mother is in the PH in Anchorage receiving maximum care at the maximum rate. The senator is her mother’s POA. The senator is a nurse practitioner with 30 years of practice. Now, she has little time to nurse her own mother, and probably abhores Dunleavy for sticking her with a bill of $15K/month. The subsidies by the state for PH residents is gone. The children of the elderly with Alzheimer’s watch their inheritances fade away. These kind of personal situations involving money are the reasons some conservatives turn against Dunleavy.

      • A Republican senator who believes in free lunches when it hits her own pocketbook? Well, now we know!

  • Thomas, thanks for the additional insights here. I agree this is a difficult issue, but as Alaskans, we should be able to find middle ground on this one.

    I will say this, I have never and will never look at my parents’ money as my future inheritance. It’s their money and it should be spent in their best interest.

    What are we exactly if we think otherwise?

    • Rebecca, you are a shining light in the dark tunnel. Your integrity is sterling. Unfortunately, some of the nastiest family fights occur over inheritances. Ask any wills, trusts, and estates attorney.

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