A Letter received for the July 19, 2016, Tomahawk Leader
Should Lincoln County's Pine Crest Nursing Home be sold to a private, for-profit company, or should this fine facility be maintained as a possession of our county, with bonding approved for improvements? These are questions, which the residents of Lincoln County must answer in the next two months. I have attempted to do my homework, and I will explain why we must say: “Lincoln County Pine Crest Nursing Home is Not for Sale!”
FIRST: How would residents at a for-profit, private nursing home, versus our Lincoln County owned and operated Pine Crest Nursing Home be affected? Throughout the years, Pine Crest has maintained a ratio of 70% to 75% Medical Assistance (Medicaid) residents. 25% to 30% private pay, hospice and Medicare residents help offset the deficit of Medicaid residents; additionally, through tax levy, Lincoln County contributes annually approximately $550,000 to help offset the medical assistance deficit. Pine Crest's annual budget is over $12 million and thus, our tax levy contribution is minimal and comes to under 5% of that total budget.
The majority of Pine Crest residents have lived their entire lives in Lincoln County. They have worked here, contributed to our county, and paid taxes. Thus, it is not unreasonable, that we take care of them in their senior years. In fact, it is our public obligation, or as a wise man stated, “It is our moral obligation, that we care for all of our senior citizens.”
Private, for-profit nursing homes are under no obligation to accept Medical Assistance (Medicaid) residents, and, in fact, they limit the number of Medicaid residents, as they must operate at a 7 & 1/2 % profit ratio, which would amount to about $700,000 for Pine Crest. For example, an unnamed private nursing home in Wausau will accept no more than 29% Medical Assistance (Medicaid) residents. Please compare that to the acceptance rate at Pine Crest of 70% to 75%. Furthermore, consider, that this profit margin of perhaps $700,000 or more, would not remain in Lincoln County, nor would it in any way benefit the residents of Lincoln County. That profit would go to corporate headquarters of that for-profit company, which would be based elsewhere in Wisconsin or even out of state.
In Lincoln County, that would leave about 50 senior citizens, who need to be on Medical Assistance. Where would they go? Will they be homeless? Will it be you, in your senior years?
SECOND: How would employees be affected? Currently, Pine Crest has 210 employees. 70% of Pine Crest's budget is for salaries and benefits, which include contributions to pension and health insurance. The majority of employees are covered by the health insurance offered, which is the same health insurance under which all Lincoln County employees are covered. Having more employees under one plan helps spread the risk, and thus also lowers individual rates.
Because a for-profit nursing home must operate at a 7 & 1/2% profit ratio, wages are lower, no pension plan is available, and any health insurance offered is more expensive for employees. Furthermore, in order to maintain that profit margin, the number of employees must be cut. Anyone who has worked as a CNA at county and also at private nursing homes will tell you about low wages, too few employees, and low staff morale, which exist at private facilities. Lower wages mean that employees have less purchasing power, less money to buy homes and pay taxes. Additionally, we need to attract not only more skilled women, but also more skilled men to the CNA and nursing staffs, but this will not happen at a private facility, if they are not paid a living wage.
THIRD: Will quality of standards be maintained? “Pine Crest is currently very well managed,” stated one of the brokers, who has already started assessing this property. Yes, it is, and its employees have won awards over the past many years. This year, Doris Clausen was honored with the State Award for Assistant Activity Director of the Year, and then went on to be honored with the National Award. Thus, I ask: why would we want to sell this superbly run nursing home?
FOURTH: Will volunteers continue at a private entity? Pine Crest has over 150 dedicated volunteers. Typically, one does not see this outpouring of volunteer spirit at a for-profit facility, yet, without them, many activities would cease. This year, Richard LeDuc, who volunteers much of his time to the residents at Pine Crest Nursing Home, won the State and National Volunteer of the Year Award.
Would such contributions continue at a for-profit facility?
FIFTH: Will our Lincoln County Board of Supervisors vote for and approve bonding, and what does this mean? A new building project is planned, and in order to make Pine Crest attractive to present and future residents, this must go forward. Currently, the majority of rooms are 2 or 3 person occupancy. The proposed building project will include the following: a new, 20-bed unit, with private rooms, for rehabilitation patients, who have different needs than long-term residents; a special care, 20-bed unit, with private rooms; the majority of rooms in the current building would be remodeled, as private rooms, in order to meet the needs of present and prospective residents. This remodeling project will give Pine Crest a great edge in the increasingly competitive nursing home market.
The GOOD NEWS is, that this entire building project will not cost Lincoln County and its tax payers one dime! Why is that? The entire building and remodeling project will be paid for by the Medical Assistance Program, which is a state and federal program, which is, of course, not available to for-profit entities.
The bonding, which I ask our Lincoln County Board of Supervisors to pass and accept,is to initially fund the Pine Crest building project, but will be fully reimbursed by the Medical Assistance Program. (The Pine Crest expansion project completed in 1992 was done under the same program, and thus, did not cost Lincoln County taxpayers one dime.) Thus, the building and re-modeling projects will be completed at no cost to Lincoln County taxpayers. In essence......free!!!!
At present, the vote for bonding will be held at the August 16th meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors, however, as not all construction bids are in, as of this date, a special meeting for that vote may be scheduled for late August or early September.
I have attempted to clarify, why it makes good business and human sense to retain Pine Crest Nursing Home as a possession of Lincoln County. This is a win-win situation.
Despite this, it is my impression, that at least four individuals on our Lincoln County Board of Supervisors plan to vote against bonding, and would like to put the “For Sale” sign in front of Pine Crest Nursing Home, and these individuals are: Michael Loka, Carl VanderSanden, Loretta Baughan, and Bill Zeitz. It appears that two additional members are leaning in that direction. 17 “yes” votes are required, for the bonding issue to pass, and those 17 supervisors must be present for the vote. Unfortunately, if a supervisor is not present for that vote, his or her vote is counted as a “no” vote. The supervisors, who are against bonding and who propose selling Pine Crest to a for-profit company, have not clarified their positions. Why do they want Lincoln County to sell this very well run facility? We must never have a two-tiered system in our country, where only those with the financial wherewithal will be taken care of in their senior years. Yet, that is exactly what they are proposing.
Please telephone and put pressure on your Lincoln County Board of Supervisors Representative, and tell that individual: “Pine Crest is not for Sale!”
Respectfully submitted by Catherine G. LeMay-Brown of Lincoln County
Letters to the Editor from the Tomahawk Leader.
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