Legislation passed unanimously today by the Senate would help stem closures of nursing homes by accelerating the schedule for increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates.

“The rate of Medicaid reimbursements has not kept up with actual costs in nursing homes,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), the bill’s sponsor. “This short-term action should help prevent nursing home closures and the resulting relocation of those homes’ residents to facilities outside their communities.”

Senate Bill 6515 would require rate adjustments annually, instead of every other year, and adjust the methodology to factor in inflation using the most recent calendar year’s nursing consumer price index. In addition, the bill would provide immediate help in the form of a one-time rate adjustment based on the most recent data available.

Nursing homes have been closing at an escalating rate, Van De Wege noted, as more than 960 out of 20,535 skilled nursing beds statewide have gone offline and the number of licensed skilled nursing facilities in Washington has dropped to 215.

“We know the closings are due to multiple factors, and the factors can vary from facility to facility,” Van De Wege said. “This addresses a clear, immediate need and should ensure stability for some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.”

Having passed the Senate, SB 6515 now goes to the House for consideration.