A crown for Hillcrest

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Flat roofs should be criminal, so says an astute friend of ours. Here we have it though with McCook's Hillcrest Nursing Home built forty some years ago. State-of-the art then, a covering of beaver board, then a nice layer of tar to waterproof it and then a layer of coarse gravel on top to counter pounding droplets of rain or hail. Tar and stone they called it and guaranteed to cause problems down the line. Cheap, though, and a nice out of the way place to put air-conditioning units, that sort of thing.

Kick the can down the road. If the roof leaks later that is someone else's problem. If the drifting snow covers the exhaust vents and fills the living space below with smoke, not the builder's problem. The cheapest way to go and the builder is long gone to escape responsibility.

Yes that is a pressing problem for our beloved county-owned nursing home here in McCook today. Those who are managing the place are backed into a corner and need relief. That is why the voters in Red Willow County have received a ballot in the mail this weekend asking for a 2 cent one-year special property tax levy increase to replace that failing forty some year old flat roof. The fix will be with modern membrane materials and sealing compounds guaranteed by the installer for minimum 20 years. The temporary one year 2 cent levy will produce about $254,000 in revenue just what the estimate to fix the roof will cost. Incidentally, a new fixed pitch shingled roof would cost minimum twice as much. Please join Grannie Annie and me in voting YES.

This budget season it seems that every (well almost) entity is asking for "just a small increase" in property tax next year. "It is just a small increase you won't even notice." or "Three cents will only be about $27 increase for the whole year for the average home in McCook." the rational goes on and on. What they, the City, the School Board, and others don't say is that there is a ratchet under their increases and it will never go down in the future. At least that has been the experience of taxes in our fair state for fifty plus years. Only the special levy increase for Hillcrest's badly needed roof repair is definitely scheduled to sunset next year. Guaranteed. To me the increase to save Hillcrest is the only one justified. In my opinion the others could simply manage better and remember you don't get to vote yes or no on those increases!

Hillcrest management has been caught in a triple whammy these past few years. The liberals' beloved Affordable Healthcare Act, aka Obamacare, has caused real problems. For one it edicted that all records must be kept electronically. That is to help government get their fingers into medical fields more easily. The cost to Hillcrest $300,000. A little help from those who mandated the expensive change? No way it is an unfunded mandate. So where is the Honorable Ben Nelson, one of the instigators of Obamacare, when we need him?

Hillcrest used to provide healthcare for its employees. Obamacare has made that unaffordable so management elected to pay the $179,000 Obamacare fine instead. That allows the lower pay rate workers to go to the exchanges and received a promised subsidy. Doesn't work for the higher skilled nurses though and makes recruiting help really tough! To ease the burden Hillcrest Management includes a small bonus in each full-time worker's check to help them buy healthcare insurance on the open market. The end result increased personnel costs again from an unfunded mandate.

In Grannie Annie and your humble columnist's opinion Hillcrest is a fine jewel providing a fantastic service to a large area of Southwest Nebraska. Ann's mother and both my parents spent their last days, months and years of their lives in that facility. We can only boast of the fine compassionate care that our loved ones received from a delightful hard working staff. No complaints it was the very best answer for them and our family in their failing years. For all three individuals, each had the foresight to purchase long-term care insurance and that paid all the bills for their stay in the home.

Again government edict requires that once a person is admitted into a nursing home they cannot be discharged unless the government terms it a safe dismissal. If that person has medical needs the home has to keep them until they can only be placed in a safe environment. Non-payment of bills by the patient is not even a consideration. Medicare and Medicaid do not cover the total patient expense even after a prolonged complicated admission process. Sometimes the patient overstays the length of long-term care insurance. The sad part is that some families will not step up to the financial responsibilities of caring for a loved relation that is in the home. Some families hide assets or cleverly "dispose" of them to the younger's advantage to evade paying the bill. That is where we as a people can "influence" our neighbors to step up and do the right thing to care for parents and grandparents.

This old guy is pleading that you vote YES. For all we know I may be the next resident of our beloved nursing home and I wouldn't care for rainwater drip-drip dripping onto my bed. You too could be next to be admitted. For sure then you would think it worth the added two cents of one-year property tax increase.

That is the way I saw it.

Dick Trail

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