LYONS — Wayne County officials took a close look at the future of the county’s nursing home Tuesday.
The county Health and Medical Committee, along with the Finance Committee, heard presentations on the future of nursing homes statewide and the Wayne County Nursing Home’s efforts to cut costs.
County Commissioner of Social Services Josh McCrossen told supervisors a number of factors could affect how nursing homes operate in the coming years.
One is the United States’ aging population. That includes an increase in the number of elderly people and a rise in average life span. There are currently 5.7 million people 85 and older nationwide, a figure that’s projected to triple by 2050, McCrossen said.
On an even more immediate level are changes to the health care system, based on the Affordable Care Act, that increase the availability of long-term care and support.
“There is a belief that we can provide better care to folks at less cost,” McCrossen explained.
The strategy, he elaborated, is to change the way care is managed. That entails increases in efficiencies, such as simplifying eligibility rules and automating eligibility determinations, as well as creating a “consumer-focused, one-stop shopping experience for health care coverage.”
The challenges are many.
“How does the state, on one hand, make sure that the [Medicaid reimbursement] rates are low enough to save money but high enough to make sure that there are actually people who want to provide these services,” McCrossen wondered aloud.
Even nonprofit long-term-care facilities have to break even, he noted.
McCrossen said an increasing number of counties are selling nursing homes to private companies. These companies, he explained, believe there will continue to be enough people requiring extended care to make the endeavor profitable.
“There’s a market, and there’s going to continue to be a market,” McCrossen said.
Although there is no magic formula for success, private companies typically aim to keep the facility at 98 percent capacity and require a balance of those who need more services and those who need less, he explained.
“One of the savings, though, is that they’re not in the state retirement system,” Walworth Supervisor Bob Plant remarked, referring to the employees at private facilities.
In addition, one individual often oversees several facilities, resulting in more savings, McCrossen added.
McCrossen’s presentation was followed by a look at the county’s own nursing home.
Currently, operations are costing the county about $1.5 million annually.
“You’re doing pretty well,” McCrossen remarked. “However, what that does is it makes it more attractive to purchase.”
“You know going forward you’re not going to be [at $1.5 million],” Wolcott Supervisor Kim Park stated.
“We probably aren’t going to be,” agreed County Administrator Jim Marquette, although he praised nursing home administrators and staff for aggressively identifying opportunities to cut costs.
Significant savings are being investigated and planned, including a $170,000 annually from keeping cleaning services in-house, according to Margaret Haroff, nursing home administrator. Potential savings of $1.17 million include reducing overtime and minimizing staff.
“You’ve come up with some creative approaches ... you’re to be commended for that,” Rose Supervisor Kenan Baldridge said. “I would very much like to look at the revenue enhancement side with equal enthusiasm because I think there’s still some potential there.”