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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Township shows concern over county nursing home

By Mike Heine/The Week

The Town of Linn resolution is simple: "The Town Board of the Town of Linn does not support any future downsizing of the number of long-term beds at Lakeland Health Care Center."

It passed unanimously last month and was sent to the county for consideration, said town Supervisor Greg Holden.

Holden proposed the resolution after reading in The Janesville Gazette about the county adjusting its resident mix at Lakeland.

To save taxpayer dollars, the county has gradually increased number of beds available for patients who can pay privately or with Medicare.

That means fewer of the facility's 120 beds are available for indigent patients covered by government-subsidized Medicaid.

Having more private-pay or Medicare residents creates some tax relief since Medicaid does not pay the full daily cost. A $3.5 million annual county tax levy makes up the difference to fund the center.

Of the 120 beds, about 27 of them are reserved for Medicaid or private paying residents. In 2009, that number will increase to about 31 beds, a number county officials feels will remain for some time.

Holden is OK with that. He just doesn't want to see the county accept more and more private paying or short-term residents.

"I think it's an important for the county to have a facility like that," said Holden, a county supervisor from 1996-2000 whose wife also works there. "The citizens who need it can use it. It should be there."

There is no county ordinance or resolution that would limit the number of non-Medicaid beds.

"I can understand county's desire to fund this in a better way and spread beds out a little bit, but when you hear the word 'downsize,' that's a real easy way to keep going," he said.

The Lakeland Health Care Center will review the resolution, but little is likely to change in the foreseeable future.

County Administrator David Bretl said the county board always envisioned having a mix of indigent and private pay residents at the new center.

The center accepts private pay or Medicare residents, but will likely always maintain a higher ratio of Medicaid residents than private nursing homes, he said.

"It's achieving that balance," Bretl said. "Future boards will decide what population it serves, (but) it will probably, in all likelihood, have a significant majority of Title 19 (Medicaid) residents."

The county's plan when building the new home was also to operate it with a $3.5 million tax subsidy. It hit that mark and it should continue to do so with the right mix of Medicaid and private pay residents, Bretl said.

The new center was also built with tax money from county residents who have the ability to pay.

"To close the doors to those private (pay) individuals, I don't think that's a good approach, either," Bretl said.



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