OLYMPIA – The state House gave near-unanimous approval Friday to a bill requiring an increase in the amount Medicaid clients in community residential settings and assisted-living facilities can keep for their personal needs. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-23rd, Poulsbo), said it was a move to respect the dignity of the low-income seniors and persons with disabilities who would benefit from the legislation.
Medicaid recipients in these situations essentially are required to turn over their modest incomes in return for Medicaid picking up the tab for the residence or facility to which they move when they can no longer live independently. They are allowed to retain a monthly “personal needs allowance” of $62.79 if they are in a community setting, or $57.28 in an assisted-living facility. Unless they are aided by family members or others, this is all they have to spend on their personal needs, a category that includes everything from toiletries to birthday presents for grandchildren.
Appleton’s bill requires the personal needs allowance to increase annually at a rate determined by the consumer price index – a minuscule expense for the state that can have a significant impact on the quality of life for affected persons.
“The small amount they are allowed to retain has to cover so many purchases that most of us would consider necessities,” Appleton said. “Deodorant, toothpaste, greeting cards . . . all of that has to come from the personal needs allowance. And we haven’t raised these rates in years. They’ve taken care of us. It’s time for us to take care of them.”
The legislation, HB 1772, passed on a 96-1 vote in the House and will be taken up in the Senate next. If approved in that chamber and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, the Medicaid personal needs allowance increase would take effect July 1 of this year.