Thanks to Rep. Laura Ruderman and other Jewish legislators who consider the Kline Galland Home part of their constituency, the Legislature pulled a rabbit out of its hat for the Jewish community as it packed its bags to leave Olympia two weeks ago.
The last act of the Legislature before adjourning its first special session (a second special section began this week) was approval of House Bill 2242, which eliminated expected cuts in Medicaid reimbursement. The Kline Galland’s Medicaid reimbursement was scheduled to decrease by about $750,000 each year starting in 2002.
But Remy Trupin, government affairs associate for the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, says the community can thank Ruderman for her “amazing leadership” on this issue. She was one of four legislators who negotiated the legislation that not only eliminates the reimbursement cuts but actually gives additional funds to the nursing home (and others like it) to cover increasing wage pressures.
Trupin said Kline Galland will receive an additional $237,000 in funds over the next two years, under the new system outlined in HB 2242 — an increase of 3.4 percent in 2002 and 5.4 percent in 2003. The new system will account for the pressures of the wage market, increasing reimbursements as necessary in the future.
The bill also eliminated the “hold harmless” provision, which would led to the cut in Medicaid reimbursements because care at Kline Galland — and other top-quality nursing homes in parts of the state where agencies pay higher salaries — costs more and requires higher Medicaid reimbursement. “By recognizing the wage markets, the new system treats Kline Galland and other ‘higher wage cost’ facilities equitably — and not as inefficient,” Trupin added. In addition to Ruderman, he thanked Jewish legislators Rep. Shay Schual-Berke, a sponsor of the original nursing home reimbursement bill, and Sen. Adam Kline, who represents the district where Kline Galland is located, for their support in this effort.
He also gave credit to the citizen lobbyists who kept the pressure on their senators and representatives through phone calls and e-mail. Trupin said legislators told him they were hearing from their constituents on the nursing home bill and some were even a little overwhelmed by the citizen advocacy.
Trupin said the success on the nursing home bill will have a ripple effect in the greater Seattle Jewish community because the Kline Galland Home will not be required to raise money to make up for cuts in Medicaid reimbursements. “It would be such a strain on our whole community to come up with that money, but it’s definitely one of the priorities in our community to make sure our parents and grandparents are taken care of,” he said.
Legislators returned to work on Monday to a second special session that may bring more good news to the Jewish community. Still up for debate is the state’s Operating Budget, which funds everything from education to health care. Both Trupin and Sherry Appleton, lobbyist for the Coalition for a Jewish Voice, have been watching this budget carefully during the five months the Legislature has met in Olympia so far this year.
Although cuts have been proposed in a number of social service programs — from the Basic Health Plan that sells inexpensive health insurance to low-income families to dental and health care for adults and families who are disabled or working their way off welfare — Trupin is cautiously optimistic the Legislature will choose to fund many of the programs before adjourning.
This is the first time in the past five months he and Appleton have had any reason for optimism, thanks to two pools of “found money” the Legislature is debating. Two weeks ago, the Legislature “found” some pension funds they could consider spending to overcome a shortfall of funds for the next biennium. And since then, the Legislature has discovered a “huge loophole” in the federal law concerning nursing home funding that will bring $200–450 million in new funds from the federal government to the state of Washington.
Now all the legislators have to do is figure out what money they can spend right away and what must be put into state reserves. “It seems to me that they are getting closer to agreement to use some of the pension money and supplement it with the federal Medicaid money,” Trupin said. “I’m very positive that they’re going to come to a conclusion on the operating budget very quickly and it’s going to be something that is way better than has been discussed — only because they found tons of extra money they didn’t think they had.”