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Governor Signs Bill to Maintain Federal Prescription Benefits in Pioneer Homes


Senator Wielechowski's bill protects Veterans and other Pioneer Homes residents for years to come

(PALMER) - Today at the Palmer Pioneer Home, Governor Parnell signed into law legislation introduced by Senator Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, ensuring that residents of the Alaska Pioneer Homes who are eligible for free and low-cost medications will continue to receive them for years to come. A companion bill was carried by Representatives Nancy Dahlstrom, R-Eagle River and Les Gara, D-Anchorage. Gara, Wielechowski and Dahlstrom worked last summer and fall with veterans and the Pioneer Homes to craft this solution.

"The signing of SB 215 into law today will allow veterans to continue to receive their much needed benefits which were earned through their dedicated service to our country," said Sen. Wielechowski.

In April of 2009, Veterans living in the Pioneer Homes who were unable to administer their own medications stopped receiving the free or low cost medications, which they are entitled through the Veterans Administration. These Veterans were caught in the middle of a bureaucratic mix-up between state and federal policies and forced to purchase the same medications from the Pioneer Homes pharmacy.

The problem arose because of packaging issues between the Pioneer Homes and the Veterans Administration.

"This was a complicated problem which required the coordination of many parties and took over 6 months to come to a solution. Meanwhile, residents who earned their free prescription benefits had to pay the Pioneer Homes for these same medications until this bureaucratic mess was resolved and residents were paid back. The passage of this bill ensures that no one ever has to go through this again," said Senator Wielechowski.

The Pioneer Homes worked for months with the Dept. of Health and Social Services, the Veterans Administration, Veterans advocates and members of the Legislature to seek a solution to the problem. By November, 2009 the Pioneer Homes came to a solution. The passage today of Senate Bill 215 puts that solution into statute.

"We have worked hard to fix the Pioneer Homes policy towards our veterans. The signing of this bill will assure they don't re-institute their former practice to charge Veterans for medicine they are entitled to for free," said Rep. Les Gara, a Prime Sponsor of parallel House legislation, HB 284.

(For more information, contact Senator Wielechowski or Shelly Morgan at 907-269-0183.)
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