Nursing home cuts hurt many

Nursing homes provide 24-hour care with licensed nurses for people with disabilities and the elderly, who represent the most vulnerable adults in our communities. The needs of these people cannot be met in other types of settings such as adult homes, assisted living or boarding homes because of the clinical complexity of their medical conditions which necessitate 24-hour care.

Earlier this week, Washington legislators initiated nursing home cuts, effective April 1, that will reduce Medicaid reimbursement. In July, proposed additional cuts of will be taken away from nursing homes on top of the original cuts that recently went into effect. This will result in approximately 8 percent for all nursing homes and up to 10 to 15 percent in rural facilities. The state of Washington has made a commitment in improving the quality in nursing homes over the last several years; this is a significant step back. The needs of residents in nursing homes are once again in jeopardy.

These rate cuts affect each aspect of providing care including staffing, dietary needs, supplies, activities, etc. Staff reduction, resultant of these cuts, will take jobs away from many community members who are struggling in this economy to support their families. Reducing staff also adversely affects resident care both in the quantity of caregivers available for each resident and losing staff that have come to know the residents’ needs and preferences.

The rate cuts are catastrophic to our communities as family members, residents, providers and citizens of the community who may need the assistance of skilled nursing care in the future. Long-term care nursing facilities are being forced into impossible circumstances to continue providing valuable services for their communities.

Rural facilities in particular may be forced to close, causing residents to leave their homes and communities and be distanced from the support of family and friends, significantly decreasing the quality of life for both residents and family members. This will inflict hardship on family members to either provide the necessary care or find alternate placement in other types of care settings which cannot provide the necessary twenty-four hour licensed nursing care. This solution is neither safe for the resident nor helpful to the family.

The residents who reside in these facilities are the same men and women who have built our country, fought our wars and raised many of us to who we are today. Many of them represent the most vulnerable and frail members of our community. These people do not deserve the horrible affects these rate reductions will bring.

Baby Boomers beware! The recent decision to cut Medicaid rates in the state of Washington is a decision that will affect all of us in the future, whether first-hand or through a family member or loved one, if medically necessary. The low priority which has been given to looking after our state’s rapidly aging population should alarm and frustrate you! Nursing facilities have made great strides in the past thirty years in becoming active and home-like environments where special medical attention can be received. We deserve better both for our current and future nursing home residents.

Bryan Lindsay

Federal Way