Liberty Shores sticks with Medicaid program

POULSBO — Liberty Shores Assisted Living Retirement Community has withdrawn its cancelation from the Medicaid program, meaning 11 residents formerly notified of eviction will not have to move.

The home previously attempted to cancel its contract in response to heightened regulations for boarding facilities offering the program set forth in Senate Bill 6807. The bill was signed into immediate effect by Gov. Christine Gregoire March 28.

Despite Liberty Shores’ March 27 notification of Medicaid cancelation, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) deemed the facility still under the law’s hand, as a period of notice must be given before withdrawal can take effect.

“As a result of the department’s (DSHS) interpretation of this new law, Liberty Shores has decided to remain in the Medicaid program,” reads an April 14 letter from Northwest Care Management President Tom Johnston to Liberty Shores residents and families.

Johnston did not return several phone calls for comment.

On Thursday several family members of residents met with area legislative representatives to discuss the issue, as well as ways to improve Medicaid reimbursement so facilities faced with the new regulations do not suffer financially.

“The real issue here is funding,” said Christine Rolfes, 23rd district representative (D-Bainbridge). “This issue of Medicaid is really about reimbursing for expenses.”

Funding for the program is competed for by school, transportation, mental health and jail service needs. The increasing shortage of assisted living facilities that offer Medicaid beds is occurring because the state’s reimbursement is not high enough, she said.

More than $5 million was devoted by the legislature to long term care this year, said David Knutson, state Health Care Committee senior research analyst.

But without offering a better rate of reimbursement, a cost shift will continue to occur, driving up private pay rates and decreasing the number of care providers willing to pursue Medicaid services for residents.

Most family members in attendance concurred Liberty Shores has provided their relatives with high quality care and service, and they understood the difficult situation the new law created.

Pat VanDiest, who’s mother is a Liberty Shores resident, said because of the inadequate reimbursement a wide spectrum in facilities between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ is becoming prevalent. A number in attendance said in looking at other boarding homes they were concerned about their lacking state. VanDiest said her mother had previously been in a facility with diminishing services, but once brought to Liberty Shores, she went from “hardly verbal” to laughing, joking and smiling once again.

“Really what needs to be done is some better assessment of the poor quality that’s out there,” said Elaine Vaughn, daughter of a Liberty Shores resident.

Also noted with importance was public education on the issue.

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