In 2018, the Berks County-owned Berks Heim Nursing Home was perceived to be in financial distress. But the message since then has been to blame the state for the financial distress of the Berks Heim.

Some of the statements made were: “From day one, we have identified that the core issue is the decision by the Commonwealth to flat fund Medicaid reimbursement” and “The conclusion I have drawn is that the state intends to put county-owned nursing homes out of business."

In 2018, Berks Heim’s financial forecast for 2019 was that it would be $906,230 in the red. Now, a nearly $1 million loss for the nursing facility would have indeed been devastating, but the Berks Heim forecast did not consider state government’s changes to non-per diem payments that provide supplemental funding to our county-owned nursing homes.

These supplemental payments not only saved Berks Heim they have been an absolute financial boon for it.

Due to changes in the state’s supplemental payments, Berks Heim is projected to receive an increase in funding of almost $1.7 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year. That is the equivalent of a 6.5% rate increase for Berks Heim in one year!

These supplemental payments, in addition to the regular per-diems for county-owned homes, totaled nearly $9 million over fiscal years 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. Finally, Berks Heim received a per diem rate increase of 1% effective Jan. 1

But there is more good news, Act 76 of 2016, which rescinded the county’s required 10% contribution, became effective Jan. 1. And, thanks to the leadership of Berks County Commissioner Mark Scott, Berks Heim will do better than other nursing homes in the state.

Scott sat down with the union workers and union leadership at Berks Heim and negotiated a new contract satisfactory to both sides that will help keep Berks Heim in the black and save its union jobs for years to come.

How good is this new deal for state-owned nursing homes? Health care lobbyists dropped by Harrisburg recently to tell us private, for-profit nursing homes in Pennsylvania are in crisis and need taxpayers to swallow a 2.8% increase in Medicaid funding and another “access add-on” (in addition to the current budget) of $25 million in taxpayers’ money.

When we showed them what the supplemental payments were doing for Berks Heim, they literally nearly fell out of their seats. One of them told us, “If we had that kind of support, we wouldn’t even be here talking to you!”

The bottom line is because of increased state funding, including supplemental payments and Commissioner Scott’s negotiations, Berks Heim will see a total increase of some 70% this fiscal year and another half-million dollar increase in the next.

On top of that, the county now has more money to work with in its annual budget. The message that the county-owned Berks Heim Nursing Home needs to be sold and to blame it on the state is just not so.

This column was submitted by the following Pennsylvania state representatives: David Maloney (R-Berks), Jim Cox (R-Berks), Gary Day (R-Berks), Barry Jozwiak (R-Berks), Ryan Mackenzie (R-Berks) and Mark Rozzi (D-Berks).

comments powered by Disqus