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Pa. bill would help York nursing home

Greg Gross
505-5433/@ggrossyd

For more than a decade, York County taxpayers have been subsidizing the county-owned nursing home with millions of dollars.

But a bill in the state House could lower the amount of tax dollars earmarked for Pleasant Acres Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and other county-owned nursing homes in the state.

House Bill 1062 would repeal a provision that allows the state to withhold 10 percent of the Medicaid costs for residents in county-owned facilities, forcing the counties to make up the difference. The provision on the books doesn't apply to privately owned nursing homes.

If repealed, it would mean an extra $2 million for Pleasant Acres, county officials said.

"We've been arguing to get this moved forward for years," said  Marlin Peck, the home's administrator.

Pleasant Acres: But the additional money that would roll in would only curb, not eliminate, the county's yearly subsidy.

"It definitely will help us in our position," said Doug Hoke, the vice president commissioner. "It's going to help us with the subsidy."

Between 2002 and 2014, the county has provided $63.1 million in subsidies to the Pleasant Acres, according to previous years' budgets.

The lion's share of that subsidy, about three-quarters, is used to fund legacy costs, such as continued benefits for retired employees, Peck said.

Benefits, such as healthcare and life insurance, for retired employees hired prior to 1989 are covered by the county, he said, adding the legacy costs will decrease in the coming years.

The county is expected to provide a $7.7 million subsidy in next year, according to the proposed 2016 county budget, which will be voted on at the commissioner's meeting on Wednesday.

The home's overall 2016 budget, including the legacy costs, has grown to $45 million, up from $43.3 million in 2015, said county spokesman Carl Lindquist.

Pleasant Acres is the largest nursing home in the county, boasting 375 beds with an additional 32 independent care units. It employs about 540 people.

Topic: The new board of commissioners, which includes Commissioner-elect Susan Byrnes, is expected to take up discussing Pleasant Acres' finances come the new year.

"I want to look at all our options to make it revenue neutral," said Hoke, who won re-election.

But that may be a too tall of an order to fill, said Commissioner Chris Reilly, pointing out the subsidy has drastically increased year over year starting about five years ago.

The subsidy increased by more than $3 million between 2010, when it was $4.1 million, and 2011, when it rose to $7.7 million, according to previous years' budgets.

Reilly, who was also re-elected, said he welcomes a discussion on the nursing home.

"We can't continue to ignore it," he said. "It's a shame. The home provides excellent care. It's just not competitive."

The home was once known as the last resort for York's poor who couldn't afford the cost of private nursing homes. But that's no longer the case, Reilly said.

"It's no longer the poor's house," he said. "There are safety nets out there."

Proponents of the nursing home have said the county has an obligation to keep it in public hands and an option for aging residents.

"I probably think it is a moral responsibility," Hoke said.

The bill: No York County lawmakers have signed on to co-sponsor the bill, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Killion, R-Delaware County.

State-wide, the bill would allow about $20 million to get to county nursing homes, according to Killion's memorandum on the bill.

It is in the House Appropriations Committee.

"Anything that improves the financial out there is welcome," Reilly said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.