|Unions and Mayor Callahan supported Gracedale|
But times change. These days, public nursing homes get plenty of competition from the private sector, who can care for people without the high labor costs. Private home also get a higher medical assistance reimbursement rate. So they can flourish while public homes flounder.
This week, Gracedale re-opened a wing for its growing census, which is hovering around 650. Things are looking up. But it still burned through its $3.6 million annual subsidy in just six months, despite major concessions from the union. Whether that changes in the second half of the year should be known soon.
While Gracedale's financial picture is still murky, The Morning Call reports that Lehigh County nursing home Cedarbrook is falling on hard times. Its census has declined, and unions there have made no concessions. It will burn up $6.5 million in County tax dollars this year, about twice what was budgeted.
About 2/3 of the money coming into counties is in the form of reimbursements from the state or federal government. The remainder comes from real estate taxes imposed on residents. In Northampton County, that is hovering around $90 million per year. In Lehigh, it's slightly more. When there is a shortfall like the ones at Cedarbrook or Gracedale, that money is made up for with those tax dollars.
So counties are slowly getting out of the nursing home business. At the beginning of this year, only 33 counties still had their own nursing homes. After this year, that number may be down to 28.
Blair, Beaver and Franklin Counties have all sold their homes. Montgomery County is reviewing bids. Centre County made an interesting conversion to non-profit, which will allow for some public control.
In a plebiscite, the voters made clear they want to keep Gracedale. But they also have to pay for it. At what point will the cost be too high?