Nursing home doing well, but rough seas ahead

Nursing home doing well, but rough seas ahead

URBANA -- Things are looking up at the Champaign County Nursing Home, members of the nursing home board of directors were told Monday.

But it's not going to last.

The county-run nursing home had its highest average daily census in at least five years in October, monthly net income was up, operating expenses dropped and cash flow improved.

But because of ongoing problems with Illinois' Medicaid program, the good times will end in early 2013, nursing home manager Scott Gima told the board.

"I warned you that I was pessimistic about the savings we were going to see from the Smart Act," Gima said, referring to the state's Medicaid cost-cutting effort. "What we're hearing is, to date, the state has seen zero savings in Medicaid. All the things that were predicted are not coming through, at all. The nursing homes got dinged. I know that we got dinged about 2 percent. But costs are going up elsewhere."

The result, Gima predicted, will be more cuts and payment delays next year. Currently the state is only about two months behind in its payments to the nursing home, he said.

"We're going to start off 2013 with a much stronger cash balance relative to what we've had in previous years. But if we see payment slowdowns, we're going to eat into that cash," he said.

To strengthen its cash position, Gima said, the nursing home still hopes to be able to use revenue anticipation notes, a sort of line of credit, and to appeal to state officials for priority payments to county-owned facilities.

"Does this mean that all the wheels are going to fall off for county nursing homes? No," he said.

"Is it tough? Without question. That market we are looking at is unprecedented. But we are trying to position Champaign County and all the other county clients so that we can weather the storm.

"If we can weather the storm better than anyone else, then we'll be OK. But I believe without question that there will be fallout. There will be homes that will end up closing because no one can withstand not being paid for Medicaid by the state for six months."

The good news for now, Gima said, is that the nursing home had an average daily census of 210.5 in September and 211.9 in October. That's an improvement from about 196 a year ago.

And its month-ending cash balance grew from $543,000 in August to $976,000 at the end of September.

The census has grown, Gima said, because of better collaboration between the nursing home and local hospitals, and improved internal staffing and quality of care.

Monday night's meeting was the last one for three retiring nursing home board members: board chair Mary Ellen O'Shaunessey, whose term has expired, and county board members Janet Anderson and Ron Bensyl, both of whom chose not to run for reelection and whose terms expire on Dec. 3.

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