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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, February 19, 2016

NorCo Council Treats Gracedale Nonprofit Options Skeptically

Gracedale workers listen to NonProfit Options
After being elected as President of Northampton County Council, the first thing John Cusick did was urge fellow Council members to adopt a resolution authorizing a "study" of the advantages and disadvantages of converting the County nursing home, Gracedale, into what is known as 501c3 nonprofit. During his Council campaign, Cusick argued that this would enable administrators to get medicare and Medicaid reimbursements at the same level as is provided to other non-County homes. Cusick got what he wanted, and a study was authorized in January in a 6-3 vote, with only Ken Kraft, Bob Werner and Peg Ferraro opposed.

Premier, the County's Administrator at Gracedale, had offered to provide this research at no charge. Vice President John Belko, whose company already manages two nursing homes that have been converted into nonprofits, presented his company's findings at the February 18 meeting of Council, with about 15 Gracedale employees sitting in the office, including union agent Jim Irwin and union president.Hector Rivera. 

No one spoke during courtesy of the floor. But Controller Steve Barron cautioned Council, before the presentation was made, that  he would "highly recommend a true and independent opinion" from a party that has no interest in the matter."We have no preference," stated Belko.

A 501c3 nonprofit is one that is exempt from federal income tax. Persons who make donations are able to deduct their contributions. It is barred from involvement in political campaigns. 

Booster Club Option

The most innocuous form of nonprofit Belko described is one that would enable the facility to raise private funds that are tax deductible. Barron called this the "booster club" option because it is similar to booster clubs at many schools, which have a 501c3 status. This is a kind of 501c3 group that Bob Werner and Peg Ferraro had described over a year ago, and no one opposes this concept.  That's because the nursing home would still remain, in all other respects, a county owned and operated nursing home.

County Control Option

The second option discussed was one in which Gracedale's assets would be conveyed to a 501c3 nonprofit corporation, but the County would still be in overall control. According to Belko, the County would still receive the same Medicare and medicaid reimbursements as a county-owned home. But he indicated the employees would no longer be considered County employees.

Controller Steve Barron pointed out that this would be a disaster. Because all these employees will be considered involuntarily terminated, they would be able to take their pensions.

Another drawback is that there would be a smaller pool for health insurance and workers' comp, which would result in higher costs.

The home would no longer be able to rely ion the County for things like IT services, but would have to make its own arrangements.

Belko stated that Gracedale would no longer be hampered by the bidding requirements imposed by state and county law, but ken Kraft questioned whether that's true. Since the asset itself would still be county-owned, Kraft maintained that all those requirements would still apply. Belko admitted he just didn;'t know and would have to research the matter.

Belko admitted the unpopularity of mass firing and mass re-hiring. "All you're doing ... is taking people's pensions and paying less money, probably minimum wage." complained Ken Kraft "Basically, the employee loses.".

A final drawback, and one driven home by Barron, is that the County would no longer be able to allocate overhead costs to the nursing home. That amounts to nearly $3 million per year.

Privatized Option

The third and final option was one ion which the County would surrender control to some outside board. Though this would enable the nursing home to seek higher Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, Belko warned that under this option, the outside board could decide it no longer will house people with no income.

Bob Werner complained that his proposal, which essentially was a "booster club" option, had been morphed and changed.

There was little sentiment with moving forward with any of the options at this juncture. Hayden Phillips stated he is tracking legislation in the state senate that will increase the reimbursements paid to county-owned nursing homes.

After the presentation, John Cusick refused to allow a Gracedale employee to pose a question that occurred to her during the presentation. He noted that she should have spoken at courtesy of the floor. But that occurred prior to the presentation.

Instead of starting this meeting with a prayer to the "Heavenly Father," as he did last time, John Cusick asked everyone for a moment of silence in honor of deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

In the meantime, I am contacting the Satanic Temple so they can lead a "convocation of the godless" next time council meets. Perhaps that might convince him to keep church and state separate.   


Anonymous said...

John Cusick one of the past "dump Gracedale" boosters once again showed contempt for the people. He was part of the old gang that tried to control the discussion the first time around with Gracedale and he is picking up where he left off. His utter contempt for the employees and public that do not agree with him is emblematic of how the sell Gracedale crowd handled itself in 2010. He is trying to bring back that shameful episode in county history.
He and those of his ilk are contemptuous of opposition and cannot accept the will of the people.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No one spoke during courtesy of the floor, which was before the presentation. That presentation evoked a concern from a Gracedale worker. There is simply no reason why Cusick could not have permitted her to speak. Had Council decided to vote that night on a resolution, his refusal would be a Sunshine Act violation. There is no question he wants to push nonprofit status, as a remark he made at the end of the discussion indicates. But frankly, I think he is alone.

Anonymous said...

please Lord, rid us of this perverted abomination and all the wasted monies paid to over manned and over paid county lackeys

Anonymous said...

"It is a sad story. Since the effort to sell Gracedale the facts and information has been muddied and muddled. Half-truths, rumors and out and out lies have permeated the debate and poisoned the process. It has pitted citizen against citizen.

This all could have been avoided with an in-depth and honest discussion and research. The problem was the players back in 2010 knew what they wanted to do and made the information fit the strategy. People who had other ideas and knowledgeable facts were shouted down and berated by Angle. Stoffa would tell one thing to council and another to the families. It was a real fiasco.

You hate that Bernie but in this case Stoffa and Angle created more of a problem than ever existed before the debate began. It was bungles from day one.

Let’s tell the entire story and not sanitize it to protect some people. You are doing as much if not more of disservice then the alleged wrong doing by Brown”.

This is an important part of the Gracedale story and why we are where we are today. Very Sad!

Anonymous said...

I find it hard to belive that taxpayers get mad about gracedale when it inly uses a few million tax dollars each year but the prison needs about 20 million for its budget

Randy U. said...

Too many cooks making the soup here! Leave Gracedale as is and it will be fine in the long run.

Anonymous said...

i saw in a previous post Bernie that you mentioned that Gracedale was on its way to break even and was projecting a 2.1 million dollar loss.

Is that before or after the county's contribution? Or said another way, if the County gave 10 million, it would have needed to give 12.1 million to break even

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:34 get real. It is a core function of counties to operate a jail. It is NOT a core function for counties to run nursing homes. There are dozens of private options for nursing care in the county, but only one correctional facility. Even if a jail was run by a private company the only source for funding is county dollars. Unlike a nursing home where Medicaid and Medicare are readily available. The real shame here is that private nursing homes must pay county property taxes, which in part are used to finance a competitor! What sense does that make?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"i saw in a previous post Bernie that you mentioned that Gracedale was on its way to break even and was projecting a 2.1 million dollar loss."

The County contribution to Gracedale in 2015 was 2.1 million. It beat the budget, but did not come close to breaking even.

Anonymous said...

"get real"

I agree, please get real. Many nursing home are non-profit and don't pay taxes. Also the "core function" argument is another half-truth that was played out by the el Gracedale fanatics. A county "core function" is whatever a county decides it should be. Care of the counties' vulnerable citizens is a core function. Much of how the county does that is decided by the county.

You also neglect to mention that a private nursing home can pick and chose whom they wish to admit. They are not obligated to take in anyone they don't want to admit and will refuse some people due to their perceived cost and the person's financial status. Have you ever been in a private nursing home? Have you gone past the wood paneled reception room to the wings were drugged up elderly lay for hours. Stop playing games.

The county ahs been torn apart by people looking for a fast buck at the expense of the elderly poor. The people want Gracedale and have spoken. Gracedale is both a moral and practical way for the county to ensure the well being of its most vulnerable people deemed non-profitable by private enterprise.

Anonymous said...

more of a haven for union pukes that can't make it anywhere else. Save money and rid us of the stranglehold this place has on the citizens of the county

Anonymous said...

Until you have worked at Gracedale I suggest you get your facts straight. We work very hard and deserve every penny we earn. No matter what department you are in. Gracedale is a well needed nursing home. County owned. Come and spend a day and see what really goes on before you spew your ugly words.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The people who work at Gracedale are a special breed, ni matter what you may think of unions. What makes them special is that they treat the residents like family members. They are not just beds. Many who retire come back as volunteers. I could never work there. Too much love. But these are no union pukes, as you claim. You'll have to try that somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

Gracedale is a godsend to the people. the haters lost on this one but they are always ready to pounce. How Cusick got back into government is amazing. The guy is a snake and will continue to undermine Gracedale. The people that wanted to dump it will stop at nothing to see it fail.

Atticus said...

You are a tool of the corporate elite. Union pukes are providing excellent care for the residents which might include you one day. Then you can spew your venomous bile in your day of need you callous uninformed asshole.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:48 it is not a "half truth" that counties must operate a jail. It is the law. There is NO legal obligation for a county to operate a nursing home. Less than a half of all counties in PA. run one. And your assertion that most nursing homes in the county are non-profit is bullshit. They pay county taxes which help prop up a competitor. That isn't fair. Gracedale is a union shop and this area remains heavily sympathetic to organized labor. That was the driving force behind the save Gracedale movement. But the citizens have spoken, and taxpayers are willing to pay for a county home at the expense of other needed human services programs.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes, they have, and you haven't signed any of your posts. Why not be honest and tell us who you are?

Anonymous said...

Hey anon 10:45, what 5:48 post? It must have been a very good pro-Gracedale post as it appears O'Hare removed it. He will always skew the discussion to his point of view. He makes me look tame.

Josef Stalin

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anonymous coward, the 5:48 comment involves no anonymous personal attack like you engage in and is still up. Can't fix stupid.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why the county is paying an outside company to run Gracedale. They didn't pay the past administrator what they are paying premier. And at the end of the day they still have final word on what gets done. It seems to me the county would save money going back to having its own administrator. Everything that's been done was proposed by Mr. Grand and it was all shot down!

Bernie O'Hare said...

When NorCo did administration in-house, it became a disaster. Going to Premier is the single smartest move the county made.