For an update on this article, click here.
On March 28, Elaine Vaughn's 94-year-old mother was given 60 days notice to find a new assisted living facility in her town of Poulsbo, Washington. The facility's owners announced that they could no longer afford to underwrite Medicaid residents like her, and she would have to go. Their decision has left a dozen older residents of Liberty Shores Assisted Living Retirement Community suddenly homeless. Mrs. Vaughn's mother had not left the building for eight years.
Northwest Care Management, the owners of Liberty Shores and three other eldercare facilities with Medicaid contracts, announced its decision just a day before Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a law designed to protect Medicaid recipients living in assisted care homes. The new law, which contained an emergency clause putting it into effect the day it was signed, stipulates that all boarding facilities that decide to stop accepting Medicaid payment must allow residents to stay or convert to Medicaid within 180 days of the facility's withdrawal from Medicaid.
State legislator Sherry Appleton, who supported the law, expressed shock that residents would be evicted before it took effect. "I just would not have expected that to happen," she told the local press. "As a member of our community, I'm terribly disappointed."Â "It was an eleventh-hour attempt to avoid the new law that would essentially protect these vulnerable people," Mrs. Vaughn said.
Northwest Care Management released a statement saying that it was "loathe" to take the step, but that Medicaid covered only about half of the real costs of the facility program, and that privately paying residents were having to pay more to make up for the shortfall.
Although some 30 states now allow Medicaid coverage of assisted living stays, more facility operators are dropping out of the Medicaid program and evicting residents. "This is a hot issue in this state, and everyone is getting involved," says George Zimmerman, residential policy manager at the State's Aging and Disability Services. In neighboring Oregon, assisted living operators have been trying to phase out Medicaid contracts in 29 centers across the state, and ElderLawAnswers earlier reported on evictions of Medicaid patients from facilities run by Assisted Living Concepts, Inc.
Mrs. Vaughn refuses to accept her mother's fate quietly. She has started a vigorous campaign to get the facility to back down. She has written the governor, lawmakers in the state House and Senate, and state regulators, and now awaits the state attorney general's ruling on the legality of the company's actions.
"The responses I hear from the president and CEO of Northwest Care Management are all from the business standpoint," Mrs. Vaughn says. "But he's taken pride, dignity and hope away from people in the process." As of now, her mother's move-out date is June 26.
For an article in the local North Kitsap Herald, on the evictions, click here.