Proposed legislation that would increase state reimbursements for Medicaid patients could help “stabilize” skilled nursing facilities throughout the state of Washington, according to providers. 

State Sen. Steven O’Ban (R) is planning to propose legislation that would increase state reimbursements and require the reimbursement rates to be rebased annually on industry data from the most recent calendar year. It’s unclear how much the rates would increase under the legislation, but if approved, O’Ban believes it could cost “tens-of-millions of dollars,” NW News Network reported

The legislation is an effort to address the state’s Medicaid shortfall and recent facility closures throughout the state. Washington currently spends an average of $216 per day per patient on Medicaid reimbursements to skilled nursing facilities. 

The state also has the fourth-lowest Medicaid rate in the country, said Deb Murphy, CEO of LeadingAge Washington. 

“(The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services) has acknowledged that skilled nursing facilities are underfunded by over $100 million based on 2018 cost-to-rate comparisons. The problem is worsening and relief is needed now,” Murphy told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. “Senator O’Ban’s legislation will help stabilize nursing facilities by ensuring that the rates paid, beginning as soon as this coming March, better reflect the current cost of caring for our elderly.”

Funding issues have led to the closure of 19 skilled nursing facilities over the last several years, Robin Dale, CEO of the Washington Health Care Association, noted. He called the legislation “a good start” toward addressing the funding issues. 

“All in all, we’re happy with it. There does need to be a better recognition of the cost increases that the sector is experiencing,” Dale told McKnight’s

“Moving to annual rebates is going to be very helpful. What we would really like to see, and it’s part of the bill, is moving the rebates up from July 1 to April 1, which would bring some much needed relief to the sector,” he added. 

Dale believes if the legislation isn’t successful that it’s “going to be very difficult for some facilities to stay open.” 

O’Ban plans to pre-file the bill in December. Washington’s 2020 legislative session begins Jan. 13. 

“We already see that there aren’t enough facilities left to provide the level of care many of our elderly need. And, we expect we will need to double the number of beds by 2035. We won’t be able to keep up unless we update our system of determining our rates and increase the payments to skilled nursing facilities,” O’Ban said in a statement. 

“We once had the highest reimbursement rates in the country. Having the fourth-highest Medicaid shortfall in the United States is unacceptable. We must do better,” O’Ban added.