Bill awaits governor’s signature; CBC estimates changes under new law will save $1.3 million of tribal funds at Convalescent Center

OLYMPIA – Washington Senate passed a bill, Monday, aimed at improving the Medicaid payment system in tribal rest homes within Washington state; once Governor Jay Inslee signs the bill into law, the change could save the Colville Confederated Tribes’ Convalescent Center between $1.3 and $2 million annually, according to Colville tribal leadership.

On Facebook, Colville Business Council’s Andy Joseph Jr., chair of CBC’s Health and Human Services’ Committee, announced the passage of the new law, writing, “Today is one of my happiest days ever. The Washington State Legislators Senate passed HB1564 the Nursing Home Bill. The House already passed it 96 - 0. So now we wait for the Governor to sign the bill! Then the time clock starts for our tribe and the state to negotiate what we want our encounter rate to be sat at by CMS (Medicaid/Medicare) for the expenses it costs to operate our Convalescent Center.”

Joseph and CBC member Janet Nicholson lobbied in support of the bill through the spring in the state legislature.

“The families that have this need, this will bring betterment. The revenue support [at the Convalescent Center] will go up,” said Nicholson. “Also, overall for the entire membership…now we will have the $2 million that we use from the general fund to supplement the Convalescent Center. It will now be available for something else, education, youth, something else for the elders.”

The bill builds off a change to the Medicaid system that went into effect in 2016.

The state’s Medicaid program includes a long-term service and assistance to low-income families that is financed by both the state and federal government at a cost-sharing rate based on the state’s per capita income, which was 50 percent for Washington state according to CMS.

Funding for tribal long-term care facilities within the state is passed through the state at a fixed rate equivalent to the state’s rate, but when signed by the governor, the new law will allow the state to negotiate an enhanced rate for tribal facilities with a 100 percent match from CMS, rather than working through the state’s fixed rate.

On the state side, the new law has been seen as a cost-savings in that negotiations are expected to see an increased federal contribution to Medicaid patients who are members of federally recognized tribes, thus lowering the state’s necessary amount to contribute.

In addition to the billing change, under the new law the Colville tribal rest home is also available to receive operations and maintenance support from the state, said Nicholson.

The Colville Tribal Convalescent Center is the only tribally operated facility in Washington.

The Colville tribal facility averages 27 patients at a time, though there are more than 40 beds available in the facility.

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