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County-Run Nursing Homes in Pennsylvania Struggle to Stay Afloat

It’s become a necessary but unwanted trend across the state: counties that still own nursing homes are deciding to cut back on service or find new sources of money to make up for declining medical assistance payments. It’s cutting into their revenue while costs such as pay and benefits for employees continue to rise.

An article on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review online points out that at one time, 50 counties in Pennsylvania had county-operated nursing homes. But according to the Pennsylvania Association of County Affiliated Homes, only 29 counties now run a total of 33 nursing homes.

Michael Witt, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of County Affilitated Homes says, “It’s not just county nursing homes; most nursing homes are struggling. It’s simply because the state has failed to keep up the reimbursements with the expenses.”

Some counties have given up: In 2010 Cambria County sold Laurel Crest to private company Grane Healthcare. That same year Lackawanna and Carbon counties sold their homes to priviate operators. This summer, Beaver County closed part of Friendship Ridge to cut costs. Butler County has warned that it might have to raise taxes to fix their home’s deficit. Allegheny County must fix its home’s shortfall with county money.

But what worries county home administrators is whether privately-owned homes can treat patients that are not well off financially. Tim Kimmel, administrator for the Washington County Health Center, is quoted in the article as saying, “In my opinion, medical assistance residents are not attractive for private, for-profit facilities. We’re here to serve our residents, not to make money, and I think that’s one advantage county-run facilities have. Where would these people go? That’s the concern.”

It’s a sad story, but one that’s becoming all too familiar in this economy. We’ll continue to monitor this situation.