Administrators at the Kline Galland Home can stop holding their breath and get ready for a sigh of relief. It appears this week that the Legislature will be giving the nursing home at least a one-year reprieve on plans to cut Medicaid reimbursement rates.
Remy Trupin, the Jewish Federation’s government affairs associate, reported on Tuesday that the House of Representatives approved unanimously a bill that would establish a task force to re-examine the way the state of Washington gives Medicaid reimbursements to nursing homes. If the Senate agrees to the House plan in conference committee and the governor signs the bill, the current system, which would have cut Medicaid reimbursements to Kline Galland by an estimated $750,000 a year, will be replaced during the next year.
Trupin says the fight over this bill has been both educational and encouraging. He believes the legislators involved really listened to nursing-home-industry advocates and eventually understood why the current system is not fair to facilities in cities like Seattle, where wages and other expenses are higher than average.
This bill does not resolve the issue, but it gives Trupin and other advocates hope that the new system will be better. He hopes it will take into account wage requirements and other costs of operating in certain parts of the state. “There are parts of the industry that are unhappy because they are afraid of the unknown,” he adds.
Unfortunately, according to Trupin and Sherry Appleton, lobbyist for the Coalition for a Jewish Voice, the nursing-home bill is about the only ray of sunshine in Olympia this week.
“I think it’s all politics right now, and it’s all tied up with transportation, and it’s tied up with the budget and nobody is moving at this moment,” Appleton said on Monday. She said transportation and the state budget affect nearly every other decision of the legislature because almost every bill has a financial impact.
Legislators, now meeting in a special session, are looking for creative ways to dig themselves out of a budget problem — not enough money to fund every necessary program.
Appleton said some House members would like to take funding away from the state’s Basic Health Plan, which offers health insurance to people who cannot afford to buy it any other way, and use those funds to pay for other programs. She said one proposal would take $100 million away from the Basic Health Plan, which would mean cutting about 30,000 people out of the system. Another proposal would put a ceiling on the children’s health insurance program, which would put more children on the waiting list. There’s also a plan to drastically cut adult dental coverage for the needy and disabled. All three plans would have a dramatic impact on the clients of Jewish Family Service and other members of the community who live on the edge of poverty.
Trupin said these health programs also provide the support for people moving from welfare to work that the Legislature and the governor promised to provide. He predicted the final decision would include some cuts to the health plan but nothing as drastic as House members have proposed. “It all depends on how much they’re willing to give on each side,” Trupin said. The 49–49 split between Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives is not going away until at least the next election, so unless the legislators want to spend all year in Olympia, they’ll have to come up with some kind of compromise.
Appleton adds, “Somebody needs to be in control. Without someone in control, we’re not going to get anywhere.”