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Legislation Would Provide Health Care for Dependents of State Retirees

In a bipartisan effort to counter a decision made by Governor Parnell in summer 2010, House Bill 29 and Senate Bill 81 were introduced in the Alaska legislature with bipartisan support.

See Also: Keep the Health Care Act
Sponsored by Rep. Charisse Millett, R, HB29 is cosponsored by Rep. Max Gruenberg, D, and Rep. Bob Lynn, R,. On the Senate side, Senator Bettye Davis’ legislation is co-sponsored by Senator Johnny Ellis.

In December 2010, AARP Alaska reported that thousands of Alaskans were up in arms over an executive decision made by Gov. Sean Parnell, R, not to apply a provision of the federal health care law to the state’s public retiree health plan.

The law requires most insurance plans to extend coverage for policyholders’ dependent children until they reach age 26. Citing a clause that exempts public plans, the governor announced in summer 2010 that Alaska’s state plan would allow coverage up to age 26 only for dependents of active employees.

While we know there are more than 35,000 retired state and municipal employees and retired public school teachers in Alaska, we don’t know how many current employees and teachers have had to make the decision to postpone retirement based on the Governor’s decision. Take for example, a 64-year old public employee who would like to retire, but cannot because they have a dependent child at home. That public employee has no choice but to continue working in order to provide health care to his or her dependent child until they turn 26 years old.

HB 29 and its companion bill SB81 – the Public Retiree Medical Benefits Coverage Bill -- is “An Act establishing as a standard for the procurement of group life and health insurance for retirement systems for certain public employees a requirement that preventive health services medical benefits provided to the systems' retiree members may not be less than preventive health services medical benefits provided to the systems' active members."

The bill has moved extremely slowly since it was introduced in January 2011. The legislation was referred to the Labor and Commerce Committee.