Vote 'yes' on nursing home

Vote 'yes' on nursing home

Vermilion County Board members need flexibility as they decide what to do about the future of the county's nursing home.

The financial chaos in state government has sent tremors throughout Illinois, including in Vermilion County, where board members are worried about the future of the county's nursing home.

Vermilion Manor Nursing Home is battling constant cash-flow problems because of the state's now-routine delays in reimbursing the nursing home for the costs of Medicaid patients. Because Vermilion County doesn't have the financial wherewithal to bail out the nursing home, board members are studying their options, including the possible sale of the facility to a private owner.

That's why Vermilion County residents are being asked in the Nov. 6 election to authorize the county board to sell the nursing home. Granting the authorization is a common-sense option, and The News-Gazette urges a "yes" vote.

County board members do not want to sell the facility and would only do so as a last-case scenario. But because state law requires that voters approve any sale, board members decided to seek authorization in advance rather than face the risk of enduring a costly delay later.

Illinois' 102 counties are required to provide a wide variety of governmental services to the public, most notably a local judicial system. Operating a nursing home is not legally required, but Vermilion County, like Champaign County, has chosen to provide a taxpayer-subsidized facility for elderly residents in need of full-time care. Vermilion County's property-tax levy for the nursing home generates nearly $700,000 a year.

But that is just part of what is required to keep Vermilion Manor Nursing home up and running. The facility has roughly 150 patients and roughly 250 employees. It's a big business, and the cash-flow demands are severe.

In late 2011, the nursing home was in a danger of not being able to meet its payroll, the reason being that the state had not paid what it owed for Medicaid patients. It took a political intervention to get state officials to pay enough of what it owed to meet the payroll.

This has been a long-standing problem, and there is no hope the state's financial woes will disappear anytime soon. Vermilion Manor is just one of the hundreds of entities, including Champaign County's nursing home, to whom the state owes billions of dollars.

So far, the state has handled its cash-flow problems by not paying what it owes until it has enough money. The result is that the state is always roughly $1.5 million behind in its debt to Vermilion Manor.

Board members say the county doesn't have sufficient revenues to underwrite the state's debt and that if it tried to do so the county might not have enough money to keep its mandated services going. They don't quite know how they're going to address this problem, but board members need maximum flexibility as they study their options. Voters should give it to them.

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