OLYMPIA – While the initial supplemental budget released by the Washington State Senate last week did not include funding that Gov. Jay Inslee had put aside to help reimburse nursing homes for Medicaid payments, an amendment added the targeted monies before the budget was passed.
According to Sen. Jim Honeyford’s office, the state House version of the bill also includes the funding, and the amounts are not far apart, meaning the funds will likely be included in the final budget that the legislature sends to the governor.
The funding leverages a nursing home assessment fee against federal funds to provide higher reimbursement rates for Medicaid patients.
The Senate budget amendment would increase the fee from its current 4 percent to 5.82 percent, which in turn would increase Medicaid reimbursements by about $7 per day. Of that amount, more than $1.50 is directed to go toward wages of nursing home workers.
Washington state nursing home workers have been rallying in Olympia to ask for better wages and working conditions. According to SEIU Healthcare 775NW, about two-thirds of nursing home workers live in poverty.
The governor’s original plan, which would have put about $29 million into Medicaid reimbursements, was met with approval by nursing home advocates, including the Washington Health Care Association, which called it a “down payment on quality care” in Washington.
However, advocates warn that there is still a major shortfall in Medicaid spending that has led to high turnover among nursing home employees, resulting in lower quality care.