Opinion

We can’t afford to cut back on long-term care

I am the spouse of an employee working for a retirement facility in Port Orchard.

For the past 10 years my family has been actively involved in supporting the long-term care community. While many people do not choose this environment, our presence in long-term care is a choice rather than a necessity.

Recently, our governor proposed healthcare cuts that will cripple the long-term care community. My spouse has spoken with both State Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) and Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor) on numerous occassions to address the impact of these cuts with little more than a nod of understanding and an explanation that falls far short of any understanding of the real impact that will result from these cuts.

“These cuts are hard for everyone” is essentially what Kilmer told us.

Seaquist told us, “We will leave it up to the public through a tax referendum.”

Are these statements of understanding?

Kilmer and Seaquist have both conceded that the public is more concerned with our state parks and funding to ensure their continued existance.

Does this suggest that the cuts proposed are focused in an area where there will be minimal impact from the voting public?

It is reasonable (though neither ethical nor moral) to conclude that those persons residing in nursing homes are less likely to vote by virtue of their circmustances.

It is also reasonable to conclude that there is an assumption that Medicaid recipients and their families are less likely to vote because they are presumably less educated and therefore less involved in politics.

I want to prove them wrong.

Underfunding by the state in Washington has been a problem for years, but it will get even worse under budgets proposed by the state House and Senate.

They want to cut nearly $40 millon of Medicaid funding annually, which would mean a loss of $100 million when federal matching funds are considered.

The cuts proposed by our governor and the state’s legislators have already been implemented, resulting in cuts at the facility level.

Currently the average cost of care per resident in my husband’s facility is $254 per day, with a reimbursement rate of $148 per day.

This creates a shortfall of more than $250,000 per month.

The cuts sound staggering — and they are.

They will no doubt impact this faclitiy and so many others across the state.

A temporary restraining order (TRO) was recently awarded to nursing homes across the state in an effort to block these ill-advised cuts in reimbursement.

While this was encouraging, our fight is not over.

In September, the state of Washington appealed the TRO. One lawyer for the state indicated, “Washington nursing homes have been underfunded for years. The cuts we are proposing will not affect the quality of care they are providing because we will continue to hold them accountable to quality.”

Do more with less is the tone of the argument.

The judge wisely upheld the TRO.

These rate cuts will continue to be debated until a public outcry for humanity becomes more important than energy efficiency and a walk in the park.

The holidays are coming up soon. This is a time when families gather and share stories of times past and present. Memories are shared and created.

As you sit down with your family at home this holiday season, remember this letter.

Hug your mom and dad, your grandparents and great-grandparents.

I ask you to do this, because we will do the same for those not able to visit a child or grandchild in their home.

We may have to do more with less, but our commitment and compassion will not affect how we love those who have been forgotten.

Tell your legislators not to let that happen and to avoid funding cuts to long-term care.

We just can’t afford them!

Angela Thompson is a Port Orchard resident. Her husband, Raymond Thompson, is executive director of Life Care Center of Port Orchard.

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