Saratoga County officials may relax a stringent admissions policy for the Maplewood Manor nursing home that has resulted in dozens of beds going empty in the past year.
“The numbers are starting to indicate we need to change the policy,” said county Public Health Committee Chairman Ed Kinowski, R-Stillwater.
The committee, meeting Monday in Ballston Spa, voted to ask the Board of Supervisors to delegate it more flexibility to make waivers from the current admissions requirements.
Current policy requires completed Medicaid applications from nearly everyone applying for admission to the Ballston Spa nursing home, but the requirement is discouraging many families from applying.
The policy was put in place in late 2011, after the county incurred $700,000 in unpaid bills because it was admitting patients before an application was done, and their families then never completed the Medicaid paperwork.
However, the strict policy is one of the reasons the nursing home — already plagued by heavy financial losses — has seen nearly 60 beds go empty since then, out of what were originally 277 beds. In December 2012, a 40-bed wing of the nursing home was closed.
Within the policy, the county has provisions for granting waivers from the completed application requirement, but committee members said it’s been cumbersome.
Kinowski said the committee could make quicker decisions about granting waivers.
A more flexible policy would also allow Maplewood Manor to accept people who need only a short rehabilitation stay before going home, and would be paying with insurance money or cash resources, not Medicaid.
“Quite frankly, this needs to be implemented sooner rather than later,” Kinowski told the committee.
Officials who deal with the day-to-day applications for nursing home admission said time can be of the essence when a patient is being discharged from a hospital, and hospital officials need to know what nursing home to send them to.
“Other facilities are making a decision within a half hour, and we can’t do that,” said Maplewood Manor Administrator Diane Brown.
County officials are seeking to make the policy more flexible, but aren’t expected to drop the Medicare application requirement entirely. Medicaid applications require a five-year review of an individual’s total finances, and families often require legal assistance to fill out the federal paperwork.
Kinowski said the empty beds and difficulty with admissions are contributing to the public impression that the county plans to close the nursing home. The county is in fact moving to sell the nursing home, but it is expected to remain open.
The discussion is taking place against the backdrop of those efforts by the county to sell the nursing home, which has been losing $8 million to $10 million a year in recent years.
The county board recently created a local development corporation to take ownership of Maplewood Manor and manage its sale. The LDC will have its first meeting Thursday in Ballston Spa.
The sale process is expected to take until late 2014.