Letters to the Editor

The right thing for nursing homes

The nursing home payment system in Washington is failing, to the detriment of residents, employees and families.

I am a nursing home administrator who oversees care for people who need skilled long-term care. A significant number of our residents –– 70 percent -–– rely on Medicaid for funding. Our residents are critically ill and couldn’t cost-effectively be served at home.

Our Medicaid rates currently fall short by over $20 per resident day –– $500,000 annually. Ours is an administratively complex and inadequate payment system based on 1999 costs. The impact on our private payers is significant, and annual rate increases have been the rule, not the exception. The state’s cost-shifting means people spend down assets more rapidly and Medicaid pays sooner. It’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t contain the state budget.

Remember, there is little flexibility in operating costs. Vital but flexible expenses like labor must be sacrificed to pay fixed expenses like taxes, workers’ compensation premiums and liability insurance. When we don’t have enough staff, quality is at risk –– another vicious cycle and another set-up for failure.This year, the Legislature has the opportunity to do something. The economic windfall and $1.6 billion budget surplus give the the ability to update the nursing home payment system and invest a muchneeded $18 million. It’s the right thing to do for our residents, our employees and their families.

Roger Joice

Federal Way

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