2013-07-11 / Front Page

MCF seeking financial help

Requests cash assistance in light of recent problem

MANISTIQUE – The Schoolcraft County Medical Care Facility is seeking the assistance of the county in light of recent cash flow problems. Further exploration of possible financial aid to the facility was approved by the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners in a special meeting Friday.

According to Commissioner Dan LaFoille, the county recently received a request from the medical care facility for cash flow assistance. He explained the facility has been experiencing issues with Medicaid Interim Payments from the state, as well as various other issues – such as a reduction in the number of residents in the facility – contributing to a rapid decline in available cash.

After speaking with facility Administrator Jerry Hubbard, LaFoille said he agreed to assist in the search for a solution.

“I put our finance committee into operation here to review some of the issues,” he said. “We wanted to establish a position for both the facility and the county.”

In addition to gathering the committee, LaFoille said he and County Clerk Dan McKinney also contacted the county’s attorney, Bonnie Toskey, as well as representatives from the Michigan Association of Counties.

By calling the special meeting Friday, LaFoille explained he was hoping to gain the board’s permission to have the finance committee continue what they are doing – “fact-finding and establishing responsibility and how we may create some options for both the county and the facility.”

Commissioner Craig Reiter agreed the finance committee should look into it, adding he had concerns about the facility’s operations.

“I understand that they’ve run into some difficulties … I don’t want to see the facility close,” he said. “However, if we’re going to step in, there’s more problems here and these problems need to be addressed.

I would like to see … the board have a say in what goes on,” he continued. “If we’re going to use taxpayer’s money … we can help them, but stop the leaking – because you don’t just throw money at something to fix it.”

Reiter noted that the MIPs program is just a small part of the problem, and that, though the county is currently in a good position financially, they are not a “lending institution.”

According to a financial statement prepared by County Treasurer Julie Roscioli, Reiter said the facility dropped from $1.5 million in cash in 2011 to just $18,000 in June of 2013. Roscioli later noted that two recent payments to the facility have brought their current cash holdings to approximately $362,000.

“We will do everything that we can do to protect our position and still help the facility come out of this,” LaFoille said. “What I’m hoping is … the finance committee will be able to come up with some options, along with the medicare (medical care facility) board.”

He explained the facility’s board is made up of three individuals – two of which are appointed by the county board and the other, who is appointed by the governor. Because of this, he noted the county’s influence on the board would be limited, but added he does not see a problem working with that board, as they appear to be open to suggestions.

Chairperson Al Grimm explained that Hubbard has had to recently de-license beds because of declining residency.

“It’s been a known fact that … people are keeping their elderly in their homes much longer now, with this recent recession,” he said. “So the bed count has been going down, and down, and down.”

Grimm added he would like to see if the facility has cut expenses to reflect their decreased revenue from a loss of beds.

The board unanimously approved LaFoille’s request to allow the finance committee to further explore options for the facility.

In an interview Monday with Hubbard, he explained the facility is currently concentrating on receiving the rest of their MIPs payments.

“Our most immediate problem is that the state owes us money … for our people on Medicaid,” he said. “We’re trying to get an interim reconciliation from them.”

An interim reconciliation would mean the facility would receive their owed payments earlier than the normal reconciliation date of the fiscal year’s end on Sept. 30, Hubbard explained. Currently, the facility’s estimated payments haven’t equaled the actual claims they have from residents. He noted a request for the early reconciliation with the Michigan Department of Community Health and will be awaiting their reply.

In the meantime, Hubbard said the facility is attempting to regain its financial footing after a steady loss in residents.

“Our census has been declining and it seems to have stabilized,” he said. “We were 105 beds, now we’re down to 80, and so it takes a while to get your expenses in line with your revenue, with that steep of a drop off.”

Hubbard explained that the facility has worked with the state to de-license beds, and are looking at ways to reuse areas no longer used for patients. This includes possibly creating more private rooms.

A plan to retrofit rooms running along the facility’s shared roofline with the soon-to-be-demolished Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital will now have to wait.

“We’ve put that on hold, at this point, until we know we can … swing it,” he said.

When asked if any of the current financial difficulties would affect employees of the facility, Hubbard could not offer a definitive answer.

“Not at the moment,” he said.

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