Weather Forecast


Supervisor: Taxpayer subsidy for private patients should stop

St. Croix's county-owned nursing home is subsidizing private-pay patient care to the tune of roughly $58 a day per patient. A County Board member wants to know when that will change.

Referring to November Health and Human Services Board minutes that acknowledged the subsidy, Supervisor Buck Malick, town of Hudson, asked the HHS Board when the private-pay rate will be raised to the breakeven cost.

Under bylaws, Malick is entitled to a reply within two County Board meetings.

"It seems to me that private payers ought not be subsidized by taxpayers," said Malick, explaining his reason for asking the question.

Health and Human Services Director Fred Johnson said Monday that a consultant's analysis of 2007 costs shows the county lost an average of $55.72 per day on private-pay patients and an average of $70.13 a day on Medicaid patients.

Accounting for higher costs in 2008, the consultant estimated the home is now losing about $58 a day on private-pay patients.

That same analysis showed the county made an average of $9.60 per day on Medicare patients.

"People who come in on Medicare typically have greater needs," said Johnson, explaining that that rate is set higher to cover those needs.

At the end of December the nursing home had 16 private-pay patients, according to Johnson. The home's average occupancy for 2008 was 65 to 66 residents. It is licensed for 72 patients.

Since the County Board isn't scheduled to meet in February, Johnson expects Malick's question will be addressed at the March 17 meeting.

Johnson explained that "private-pay patients" are those who use their own money to pay for their care. Insurance companies that pay for nursing home care generally negotiate their rates, he said.

According to minutes from the Nov. 19 HHS meeting, Johnson asked board members about the rates, which have been kept lower to stay in line with rates charged at other area nursing homes.

The minutes say, "Major adjustments in private pay rates have not taken place as the County Board has deliberated the future operation of the facility. As the Health and Human Services Board looks at planning for the future operations, subsidizing private pay will need to be reviewed."

These are the current rates for private-pay patients: $194 per day for intensive skilled nursing, $173 for skilled nursing and $168 per day for intermediate care.

The 2009 county budget allocates $945,000 in tax money for the nursing home. The amount budgeted for 2008 was $685,000.

In November county residents voted 27,425 to 14,765 to continue operating the nursing home even if tax dollars are needed to fund the operation.