Portage County opts out of nursing home business

Caitlin Restelli

Portage County commissioners recently placed the county-owned Woodlands at Robinson Nursing Home on the sales market due to recent cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

“It’s been a long, tedious process and a daunting one to make that decision,” said Maureen Frederick, Portage County commissioner.

Frederick said there isn’t enough revenue being generated from the nursing home to keep it county-owned. The cuts to Medicaid and Medicare in July made funding more difficult than it already was.

“The Medicaid reimbursement is really tightly controlled by that federal program, and what we’re finding happening with that program there is what’s happening with every other federal program — we’re making less and less,” Frederick said.

At the 99-bed facility, a vast majority of the residents pay for their stay through Medicaid or Medicare, Frederick said. If a resident cannot pay the full amount, the county must make up the difference.

Portage County is not the only county struggling to get by. Wood Haven Health Care — Wood County’s nursing home — located in Bowling Green, also receives Medicaid and Medicare aid.

Dave Cecil, administrator of the nursing home, said the facility, on an average, has a Medicaid rate of $160 a day but was cut to $145 a day.

Starting Oct. 1, 11 percent cuts to Medicare will affect the Wood Haven facility.

“It’s forcing us to be much more creative and very fiscally sound in our management and very efficient in what we do and how we do it and manage our resident case load on a daily basis,” Cecil said. “It’s a challenge.”

At one time, all 88 counties in Ohio were mandated to maintain a nursing or county home. Once the mandate was lifted, counties chose whether or not to sell the homes, keep them county owned or close them.

Today, 32 counties remain in the nursing or county home business. Fourteen to 16 counties are certified through Medicare and Medicaid, said Cecil, who is also president of Ohio County Home Association.

“The rest of (the counties), due to having older buildings and so forth, never went that route,” Cecil said.

For Harrison County Home, maintaining a building that is more than 100 years old keeps it away from the Medicare and Medicaid money.

“To me, there are strict guidelines for Medicare and Medicaid,” said Joy Taggart, Harrison County Home superintendent. “When you take a building over 100 years old, this day in age, it’s not going to pass the guidelines.”

Taggert said many years ago the county considered using Medicare and Medicaid, but after realizing the renovations that would have to be made, officials decided otherwise.

“Every doorway — which there are a considerable number of doorways — would have to be widened out,” Taggert said. “We would have to have firewalls between our kitchen and the rest of the building, which would be, considerably, a hard thing to do.”

Harrison County Home runs strictly on what the residents pay for their care and two tax levies.

“We’ve been extremely lucky every year that the voters in Harrison County have always supported our tax levies,” Taggert said. “It seems like they want us to keep going here.”

Like Harrison County, Medina County runs off of tax levies. In 2000-2001, Medina commissioners made an attempt to close the county home due to funding difficulties, but decided to put it up to the voters.

“(The county) since then has maintained the county home,” said Stephen Hambley, Medina County commissioner. “I can comfortably say that generally the public finds the county home beneficial to the community.”

Even though the recent cuts to Medicaid and Medicare do not directly affect Medina, Hambley said he understands the concerns of the counties that do rely upon the income from the federal program.

Frederick said there isn’t enough money to maintain the Woodlands and other responsibilities.

The county would primarily want to make the county home available for lease and a legal council can accommodate that, Frederick said.

The only thing for the county to do is to do what is called a request for proposal and “that’s a uniform process,” Frederick said.

Since the announcement of the sale, Frederick said she has had a tremendous amount of interest — about eight to 12 inquiries.

Frederick also said the Woodlands staff is very diligent and works well with the residents.

“(Residents) have to be ensured that the quality of care will stay as excellent as it is,” Frederick said.

Contact Caitlin Restelli at [email protected].