ILLINOIS — After volunteers spent days during the summer decorating windows at a vacant nursing home, the building burned in a December fire.

Around 90 volunteers spent four days in August at the former Rockford Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Rockford, IL. Their effort was part of a city initiative to improve dilapidated properties.

The Dec. 15 fire, which remains under investigation, left it a burned shell.

“It tugs at my heart because of all the work that was done,” Vickie Fogel, president of the North End Square neighborhood association, told the Rockford Register Star.

The city plans to demolish the building, but it will ask the owner to pay for the costs, the newspaper reported. The damage was estimated at $120,000.

After being labeled a “special focus facility” in 2010, the facility lost its Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services certification and closed. In 2017, a judge ordered the owner, North Main Properties, to pay $300,000 due to safety issues. The fine has not been paid, and the city said it will pursue legal action, the newspaper reported.

SOUTHWEST

Medicaid costs to skyrocket

NEW MEXICO — The state’s Medicaid costs will hit $1 billion in 2019, boosted by paying an additional $63 million, according to local reports.

The cause is the federal government reducing reimbursements for beneficiaries, rather than an increased number of people receiving services. While the state’s Medicaid enrollment has declined, the federal government is dropping its contribution to 90% in the next fiscal year, down 3%, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. 

Enrollment is expected to stay reasonably flat, with 848,000 citizens set to be on the rolls by June 2020.

Gov. Susana Martinez (R) is proposing new premiums and co-pays for some New Mexicans enrolled in Medicaid to help offset the costs.

PLAINS/MOUNTAINS

Pot on ballot in 2020?

NEBRASKA — Some lawmakers are seeking to put a medical marijuana proposal on the state ballot in 2020, the New York Times reported in December.

The District of Columbia and 32 states have legalized it in some form, including three states touching Nebraska. That includes Colorado, where the business has created an estimated 40,000 jobs.

Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) was opposed to marijuana legalization efforts in 2016 and 2017.

EAST

Peds facility under fire

NEW JERSEY — Inspectors found 15 occupied rooms at a pediatric long-term care facility that had cleanliness problems, according to a new report. 

Inspectors had visited Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation on Oct. 30 and Nov. 14 during an adenovirus outbreak that eventually killed 11 children. The report was released by the state’s health department on Dec. 17.

Among the findings: A disabled child was wearing two urine-soaked diapers and reported he’d been denied a request to be changed, the North Jersey Record reported. In 15 of 27 occupied rooms, inspectors said bed frames, ventilator carts and heating units had accumulated rust.

The center’s administrator said in a statement that nothing in the report listed systemic deficiencies in policies or procedures. The center’s owners have not commented.

SOUTHEAST

Favorable treatment alleged

ARKANSAS — The Arkansas Health Care Association and its consultants were asked to craft the details for limiting in-home Medicaid assistance, according to newly released documents. 

Proposed amendments to federal waivers were attached to a March 16 email from the director of the association to the state’s Department of Human Services. Agencies that provide the in-home care, along with elder advocates and other members of the public, did not see the rules on the state’s Medicaid website until Oct. 8. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette published its investigation Dec. 17.

Other elder groups objected to the AHCA affiliate being put ahead of others.

“I think the nursing home association has as much right to be involved in proposed changes to DHS rules as anyone,” Herb Sanderson, AARP’s Arkansas director, told the newspaper. “What I take exception with is, apparently they were involved and nobody else was.”

Proposed changes would reduce the rates to assisted living facilities by around 22%.

Rachel Bunch, executive director of the Arkansas Health Care Association, said it is a misconception the group wants to take business away from others.

“We want to have programs that are sustainable, so that the whole long-term care continuum can work together,” she told the newspaper.

The rules were slated to go to subcommittee for further review and debate in December.