URBANA — The average daily census at the Champaign County Nursing Home dropped to its lowest level in more than three years last month, but the facility's manager said he did not believe it was because of reports of an increase in deaths there over the winter.
Champaign County Corner Duane Northrup found that 42 nursing home residents died between Dec. 1, 2012 and March 11, 2013, but he said most were hospice patients. Both Northrup and the Illinois Department of Public Health investigated the uptick in deaths and cleared the nursing home.
Nursing home Manager Scott Gima said Monday that the facility's average daily census in March was 182, down from a high of 212 last October, and the lowest level since early 2010. But he didn't blame the drop on bad publicity or concerns about the deaths.
"It's cyclical. Everybody's down," he said. "The hospitals have been slow. No Medicare orthopedics. It's all younger, non-Medicare orthopedics from what we understand.
"We haven't seen any negative impact."
Gima said he did not know how many deaths were reported at the nursing home in March. Before last December the nursing home had had an average of 5.3 deaths per month in 2012.
Also Monday, Gima told the county's nursing home board of directors that the facility would write off $292,586 worth of bad debt from 2012. He said that amounted to about 2 percent of the $14 million of total revenue for the year.
"It's pretty spread out from all the payor sources," he said, citing Medicare, private pay, resident liability and commercial insurance sources.
Gima said the nursing home plans to be more aggressive in recovering bad debt.
"We're going to make sure we're touching every unpaid claim every month," he said. "Bdecause we have so many different payors we have so many different tasks. But it is phone calls, following up on whether there was a missing billing code or a revenue code. It's a very complicated thing."
Gima said the nursing home industry standard for bad debt is anywhere from 0.5 percent to 3 percent a year.
"The amount we're writing off for 2012 amounts to about 2 percent. While it's a big number it's not totally out of whack for what we see in the industry," he said. "That being said, it's not an acceptable level of bad debt that we want to be at. There are things we have put into place to work on it."