State News for May 2015

MIDWEST

Bill would allow videotaping

ILLINOIS — The state's House of Representatives will soon debate a new bill that would allow nursing home residents and their families to place video or audio monitoring devices in facility rooms.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan threw her support behind the bill after her office received a mounting number of complaints. Madigan told reporters that video and audio surveillance could be used as an added tool to help resolve disputes about suspected abuse or negligence. House Bill 2462, sponsored by Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) would allow recordings to be admissible into evidence in administrative, civil and criminal proceedings.

Illinois joins California and New Jersey in considering laws that would allow some form of videotaping. At least a dozen states have considered similar measures since 2000, and four — New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington — have put such laws on the books, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

SNF moratorium in play

INDIANA — Plans to build up to 24 new nursing homes and a number of assisted living centers will proceed, in spite of a proposed moratorium narrowly approved by the state House in mid-March. The Senate approved it in April, and the bill awaits Gov. Mike Pence's signature.

The moratorium, which would remain in effect through June 2018, would mostly prohibit the Indiana Department of Health from granting licenses for new nursing homes, except for counties with occupancy rates greater than 90%.

Critics of the legislation have said it will cost the state nursing home and construction jobs. As of December 2014, there were approximately 12,000 available beds among the state's 530 nursing homes, according to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

$27M lost: Medicaid audit

MISSOURI — The state's Medicaid department lost out on recovering about $27 million from deceased patients' estates because it missed the deadline for filing claims, an extensive audit revealed in late March.

The audit found that an average of $15,000 was recovered from only about 6% of the 9,321 cases closed in fiscal year 2014. It also said that errors caused state and federal funds to be lost.

State law requires collections against patients' estates be filed in probate court within a year of death. A 22-year-old federal law requires states to collect long-term care costs from the estates of Medicaid recipients 55 and older, according to published reports. The collections division with Department of Social Services complained it doesn't have adequate staff to chase down potential losses, and claimed most of the uncollected bills from about 30,000 deceased patients were from former Medicaid recipients with few to no collectible assets. 

Coding error causes strife

OHIO — The state's Medicaid office is blaming a “coding error” on startling notices it sent to 4,200 doctors, home care workers and other providers announcing they were being dropped from the program.

The notice, which went out March 18, was apparently an inexplicable “random” event that occurred during a departmental computer system update, Ohio Medicaid spokesman Sam Rossi said.

Some providers who received the erroneous “dropped” letters said angst led to worries about their patients, the Columbus Dispatch reported. Providers who received the mailing and have questions should call (800) 686-1516.

NORTHEAST

New owner saves jobs

NEW YORK — The new owner of a Williamsville nursing home staved off a potential strike in early March after it agreed to preserve more than 100 jobs at the facility.

The employee union, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, had voted to strike in February after Department of Health delays in approving the transaction led many to believe the employee would be laid off, according to published reports.

Long Island-based Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services, which took ownership of 142-bed St. Francis of Williamsville, told the Buffalo News it had always intended on preserving staff jobs upon receiving approval of the transaction.

County SNFs to be privatized

NEW JERSEY — More than $47 million in budget deficits over the past eight years overcome cries to preserve two county-owned nursing facilities. Local officials, however, have decided to keep the doors open until the highest bidding private owner(s) come forward.

John L. Montgomery and Geraldine L. Thompson care centers, both in Monmouth County, posted nearly $7 million collective losses a year and millions since 2007, according to published reports. The facilities had 67% and 77% occupancies, respectively. Five other counties in the state have sold their nursing homes since 2012 because of financial issues, and a sixth — Warren County — is in the process of selling its lone facility.

One official said the county could operate both facilities at a profit if they were at 100% capacity and were able to attract more private pay residents – a near impossible feat given the fact that there are nearly 130 nursing homes within 25 miles of the two facilities.

County home future unclear

PENNSYLVANIA — A top county government official's disclosures about a financially ailing nursing home has one board member crying foul. The facility is among the county's largest employers.

Councilman Lamont McClure told reporters he fears efforts may be afoot to prematurely sell Gracedale Nursing Home in Nazareth. Northampton County Executive John Brown recently announced the large facility is projected to lose about $39.5 million over the next four years. Roughly one-third of employed citizens in the county work at Gracedale, according to reports.

Brown has vowed to help the facility remain intact and operating well. A 2011 county referendum requires the facility to remain open through the end of 2016. After that, its future is uncertain. Despite new management, an improved census and a new pharmacy, the facility continues to lose money, according to The Morning Call newspaper. Possible capital improvements could drive up costs another $7 million by 2018. Gracedale's 2015 fiscal budget is $69.3 million.

SOUTHEAST

Little Rock gets VA home

ARKANSAS — A new facility will rise from the ashes of the Little Rock Veterans Home thanks to a land transfer approved by the Veterans Administration in late March.

The VA consented to the 30-acre transfer of land to the state, which will build a new veteran's nursing home in North Little Rock over the next few years. The Little Rock Veterans Home was shuttered in 2012 after it fell into disrepair, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The state will receive a $15.6 million grant to begin building the facility later this year. About 65% of the total costs will be assumed by the federal government; state lawmakers approved another $7.5 million and the state VA department kicked in another $900,000, according to published reports.

The only current VA home in the state, in Fayetteville, houses 80 individuals.

WEST

SNF accused in worker death CALIFORNIA — A lawsuit filed by relatives of a deceased dietary supervisor claims the owner of the nursing home where she worked should be held liable in her drug overdose death. The facility failed to properly supervise the destruction of narcotics or maintain logs required by law, the family alleges.

Michelle Hughes' adult children are suing Pacific Christian Senior Services, owner of Atascadero Christian Community. Hughes was 48 years old when she died April 19, 2014, from a morphine overdose. The San Luis Obispo Superior Court lawsuit alleges a co-worker charged with destroying expired drugs gave morphine to Hughes. According to the complaint, the employee allegedly “either gave Hughes expired morphine she was supposed to destroy, or she substituted the expired morphine for non-expired morphine intended for patients,” according to reports.

The family's attorney told the San Luis Obispo Tribune that Hughes was “suffering from incredible pain” from a neurological disease shortly before her death. The employee who allegedly gave Hughes the drug was not named as a defendant in the suit, and a criminal investigation is reportedly not being pursued. 

Pacific Christian Senior Services CEO Dan Busby was unavailable for comment at press time and a spokesman declined comment.

PLAINS

State may issue SNF bonds

KANSAS — Shawnee County may issue nearly $16 million in industrial revenue bonds at no cost to build a long-term care complex in Topeka.

The 69,500-square-foot facility would be a combination nursing home and assisted living facility, according to the Topeka-Capital-Journal. MS Topeka LLC would be provided the bond funds and would be solely responsible for the debt, the newspaper reported. MS Topeka is a subsidiary of Mainstreet Investors of Carmel, IN. 

Industrial revenue bonds are a relatively unique form of financing in the sector. Typically, a government entity issues the bonds on behalf of a private sector business, mostly for projects that ultimately benefit the public or local economy. 

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