Nursing industry applauds governor’s budget plan

Seniors would have better access to quality care in skilled nursing facilities under Governor Jay Inslee’s proposed supplemental budget proposal , according to an industry organization.

Inslee’s plan calls for allocating $29 million to provide an update to Medicaid daily rates for skilled nursing homes in Washington.

“We appreciate the governor’s understanding about the critical need to provide funding to those state Medicaid clients in nursing homes,” said Jeff Hyatt, chairman of the board of directors at the Washington Health Care Association. “Medicaid rates in nursing homes are already short by more than $33 per day, and that gap in payment has a significant impact on quality, particularly since the majority of care costs are labor-related.”

According to Hyatt, the supplemental budget plan reinforces Inslee’s desire to provide care for Washington seniors in nursing homes at a time when updating rates is critical. Skilled-nursing facility costs are based on 2007 costs, and fall short by more than $100 million annually, he said.

The governor’s plan aims resources toward providers serving the majority of Washington’s Medicaid clients. Nursing home operators have proposed an increase to a statewide provider assessment to fund rates. This funding mechanism is employed by a majority of states seeking to augment the federal match for services provided to Medicaid clients.

“While we appreciate this down payment on quality care, we are disappointed that there was no update for assisted living Medicaid rates,” said Hyatt. “Assisted living Medicaid rates average $65 per day—less than $3 per hour and are based on 2005 costs.”

Hyatt said the attention of Washington Health Care Association (WHCA) “must now turn to the Legislature,” which convened its 2014 session in January.

“We will be working to help policymakers understand the crucial need for funding this session,” Hyatt said. “Our seniors, who helped build this country and can’t afford to pay for care, should not be denied access. Assisted-living centers continue to reduce the number of Medicaid residents they care for based on the current rates being paid. This is creating access problems for our seniors that desperately need our help. The seniors of our great state deserve appropriate funding for appropriate care.”

According to WHCA, the 2013 Medicaid shortfall was projected at $100 million, more than 70 percent of long-term care costs is wage and labor-related, and more than half of the skilled-nursing facilities in the state lost money last year.

WHCA represents 400 assisted-living and skilled-nursing facilities with a combined workforce of 25,000 employees.