Nursing home manager vows vigilance in reconciling bad debt

Nursing home manager vows vigilance in reconciling bad debt

URBANA — After writing off some $346,000 in bad debt, the managers of the Champaign County Nursing Home have resolved to become more aggressive in collecting money owed the county-owned facility.

"We don't have the luxury of not being paid for services. It's a mentality, a culture we're instilling that if we're providing services ... we should be paid for them. To a certain extent, we will have to play hardball," manager Scott Gima told the nursing home board of directors Monday night.

Gima is employed by St. Louis-based Management Performance Associates Inc.

He said the nursing home wrote off debts that had accumulated from fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012. Much of it, he said, was owed by Medicaid and Medicare, although there also was money owed by insurance companies and nursing home residents and families.

"There may be circumstances — and it's not going to happen often — where we have to invoke involuntary discharge proceedings because the state will allow us to displace someone for nonpayment," Gima said. "Now, we don't do it very often, and I can't remember the last time we've done it here, but we have done it at other (county nursing home) facilities for nonpayment."

Gima said the nursing home could also use the Illinois State Police Medicaid Fraud Unit to recover co-insurance amounts owed to the facility. And the nursing home's business office will make the collections a greater priority, he said.

"We are becoming more aggressive in going after these accounts, but it also means that as soon as someone is late 30 days, we've got to be on top of them," he said. "We can't wait two or three or six months, but that's what has happened in the past."

In a typical month, Gima said, the nursing home will receive 80 percent of its payments quickly.

"We have to do a better job of getting that other 20 percent quickly. Our goal is to have just a half-percent of bad debt," he said. "We will never get that down to zero because there's always going to be stuff that we can't collect, but we have to make sure that we're collecting everything that we can. It takes a discipline for the billing office. It is a time-consuming process to go through."

Also Monday, the nursing-home board learned that the facility's census improved in February for the fourth consecutive month, to an average of 208 residents a day. Net income was $83,314, the third consecutive month in the black.

The board also learned, though, that the home continues to have trouble finding a qualified food-service director, a position that requires a special certification and has gone unfilled for several months.

"It's not us. It's the marketplace," Gima said. "It's just the nature of the market in this area."

The home's new director of nursing, Kristi Gearalds, was introduced to the board. Gearalds, of Farmer City, filled another position that had been vacant for several months.

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