Legislation signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Inslee will protect residents in nursing homes from being displaced in the middle of the coronavirus crisis by enacting measures to stem the closures of struggling homes.

“The rate of Medicaid reimbursements has not kept up with actual costs in nursing homes, and that’s a problem for a lot of nursing homes and the many people who live in them,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim). “It’s important we help keep homes from closing, and all the more so with the pandemic.

“We’re talking about the most vulnerable people in our community having to try to find a new place to live in a high-demand market while their health is at extreme risk. If ever these folks needed to be in a skilled nursing facility, this is the time.”

Senate Bill 6515, sponsored by Van De Wege, accelerates the schedule for rate adjustments to annually, instead of every other year, and updates the methodology to factor in inflation using the most recent calendar year’s nursing consumer price index. The bill also provides immediate help in the form of a one-time rate adjustment based on more recent data.

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.

“This isn’t the only problem nursing homes are facing, and factors vary from facility to facility, but this is one we can address immediately,” Van De Wege said. “The important thing is to ensure stability and safety for the most vulnerable members of our communities.”