O’Ban: Senate budget leaves skilled nursing facilities with dangerous shortfall

OLYMPIA…Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, released the following statement in response to the budget proposal presented Monday by Senate Democrats.

The Senate budget plan would increase state spending by $1.1 billion. It could have used part of the $1.5 billion revenue surplus announced last week to cover a huge shortfall in Medicaid reimbursement rates to facilities. Twenty have closed because of inadequate reimbursements from the state. The budget allocates only $24 million per biennia. Medicaid rates underfund nursing facilities by $116 million per year, according to the Aging and Long-Term Support Division of DSHS. This means the proposed budget would still leave an annual shortfall of nearly $95 million annually.

This legislative session, O’Ban sponsored Senate Bill 6396 to increase reimbursements and to require that rates be updated annually on the most current information available.

“While I’m glad to see that the essence of my bill to increase Medicaid payments to skilled nursing facilities is included in the budget, I’m disappointed that it falls so far short. We simply can’t afford to lose any more of these needed facilities for our elderly population, especially as that population grows. This budget may do nothing more than postpone more closures by a few months.

“Skilled nursing facilities in Washington, and the seniors they care for, would have been a lot better off under my bill. We already see that there aren’t enough facilities left to provide the level of care many of our elderly need. Only 6 percent of those in nursing homes are considered ‘low-care.’ And, we expect we will need to double the number of beds by 2035. We won’t be able to keep up.”

In the past nine years, more than 30 Washington nursing homes have closed, two-thirds of which have been in the last three years alone. This translates into the closure of 10 percent of Washington’s skilled nursing facilities and a loss of nearly 1,100 beds.