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Hospitals ask Washington legislature to pay more to house low-income patients

Courtesy Providence Health

A bill to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates will get a hearing in the Washington state Senate on Tuesday.

A Washington state Senate committee tomorrow [Tuesday] will consider a proposal (SB 5103) designed to help hospitals pull out of their financial troubles.

Sen. Ron Muzzall (R-Whidbey Island) proposes to increase the government reimbursement rate for hospitals that care for patients with low incomes.

“This falls into the realm of Medicaid reimbursements that are terribly out of date. We have a number of Medicaid reimbursements that have not been addressed, some for as long as 20 years," he said.

This bill would apply to patients who are stuck in hospitals because the hospitals can’t find long-term care homes to discharge them. One hospital administrator in the Yakima area told us his facilities recover from the state only a quarter of their Medicaid-related costs.

Muzzall says it’s about time the legislature tackle a problem that has been ignored for years.

“I think that it’s easy to say all doctors are rich and all hospitals are making a lot of money and they can afford it," he said. "But as these roles have climbed and this reimbursement becomes less relevant all the time because of inflation and everything else, it’s now worked into a crescendo of problems financially for these. I think there were sexier things to put the money into.”

The Washington State Hospital Association says Medicaid reimbursement is just one of a group of measures that would help hospitals recover from the pandemic. Others are designed to make it easier to train, recruit and hire health care workers.

"I think people realize we need to do something and we need to do something now," he said. "Two of the hospital districts in my district are on the verge of collapse. We've got to do something and this just one of the things that we need to do when it comes to Medicaid reimbursement."

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.