“We have to determine what our priorities are. We’re running out of money. We have to do something now, and make changes that are the best possible scenario for county residents,” warned Saratoga County Supervisor, Joanne Yepsen.
2011 year-end figures are anticipated to show a record loss of $8.5 million dollars, according to a Times Union article last week.
Both Yepsen and Assemblyman Tony Jordan agree that the on going battle to control costs at Maplewood Manor is presently being lost, costs that place the future of the home in limbo status. The biggest area of concern for all officials is the issue of declining Medicaid reimbursements, which have decreased steadily from the state since 2000.
“Nursing homes are underwater already. Counties are faced with dilemmas. We need to make decisions,” said Jordan. “First, can these counties handle the costs of these homes? Secondly, what will the quality of care be if they do sell? This is hard to measure in terms of cost. I’m fighting with the state to remove the cost of mandates when it is cheaper to run homes in other states,” said Jordan.
“The cost of doing business is up while Medicaid reimbursements are going down,” added Yepsen. “The county is asked to determine how to keep it open, how to keep costs down, and how to bring in revenue, but Maplewood Manor can’t provide services much longer at current costs,” she continued.
Other counties locally are facing the same struggles with their nursing homes.
“No wonder why county nursing homes are in this [condition],” said Yepsen. “The reason for the wave of county nursing homes facing closure is that the state continues to pass the burden of Medicaid costs to counties unlike all other states, besides California. There is only so much money available. We can’t afford raised taxes right now either. There’s a defined pool of money to work with,” she added.
Solutions not only for Maplewood Manor, but for affordable elderly care and housing in general, are what citizens have been looking for and asking about. Maplewood Manor is tightening its admission process to ensure that those being admitted do, in fact, qualify for Medicaid, in order for the facility to at least receive a partial reimbursement for the care they provide to residents. This is according to Diane Brown, administrator of Maplewood Manor.
“If people aren’t on Medicaid and can’t pay privately, it really costs us,” Brown explained.
But those who don’t qualify for Medicaid are left worried as well.
“My wife has been in several nursing homes. We weren’t accepted into one because we aren’t [eligible for] Medicaid. Now I’ll have to pay $45 per day for her care, this despite the fact that I have the best insurance (Blue Shield’s Senior Blue) available,” said one area resident at a Malta town meeting April 12.
Area officials are working to contrive solutions. The county has hired the law firm Harris Beach to assist in consulting and to review the home’s status comprehensively, using money ear-marked for these purposes. It will begin conducting an extensive analysis of the home’s exact running costs in order to determine what the specific complications are while offering recommendations for change.
“It’s early. It’ll be interesting to see Harris Beach’s complete analysis,” Brown said.
“We’re trying to come up with ways to bring in additional revenue. We’ve already analyzed our supply costs and they are low in relation to other homes. We are encouraging and looking at any and all ideas,” she explained.
Privitization is one option on the table proposed for the 277-bed Ballston Spa facility.
“Meaningful mandate relief is a critical component of the remaining session. We need it. This is a most important issue because problems come from (state) mandates,” said Jordan.
Many agree the decision that lies ahead is beyond difficult.
“My position is that the decision is a very local decision and issue. Every county has commonality in that they are passionate about the residents of their county’s facility,” offered Jordan.
“The board will make the decision based on all the information that has been gathered. They have a very difficult decision to make because they have to consider not only the fiscal issues but the social issues regarding residents and concern for our employees, too,” said Brown. “It is concerning for everyone, especially employees if they like where they work.”
The facility maintains the equivalent of 315 mostly full-time employees, according to Brown.
“If something does happen in the remaining [legislative] session, it has to be immediate and significant. Specific steps must be taken now,” urged Yepsen. “I know employees there feel weary about the future, I’m sure the residents do as well. Taxpayers and county nursing homes are losing out,” she said.