City has role in keeping Hillcrest, community strong

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

You have noticed the incessant television advertising urging all to check in and get all the Medicare benefits possible. Now understand that as a retired veteran Grannie and I receive generous medical benefits due to my previous military service. For us it starts with Medicare but continues with a supplement, paid for with your tax dollars, that covers prescriptions. I too received a flier noting that vision and dental could also be included in our plan.

Looking a gift horse in the mouth I contacted my dentist to see how such insurance would affect her practice. The answer was that they donít accept Medicare because then the bureaucrats dictate to their patients only what procedures are allowed. My dentist was of the opinion that their practice could better evaluate the patientís needs and do the procedure needed. Yes pay out of pocket and you decide if you want to spend the money which is the capitalistic approach rather than the socialistic model preferred by the bureaucrats that run Medicare.

Now have you sadly noticed that the nursing home in Arapahoe has made the decision to close its doors? Just a few years back the nursing home in Cambridge was forced to make the same decision. It is a sad state of affairs for those families that have loved ones needing total care to move that patient a distance away to receive the service that had been nearby. What is happening?

Hillcrest Nursing Home in McCook has been long time dear to my heart. Both of my parents received excellent care there as they neared the ends of their lives. They had foreseen the possible need and had purchased Nursing Home Insurance that covered their financial needs. The same was true for Grannie Annieís mother when dementia made for us the decision that total care would be best for her. All three were happy in the home and with our daily visits through their final days.

Not all who go into the nursing home have the foresight to purchase insurance nor have the funds in their estate to pay for their stay in a nursing home when the time comes that their family can no longer care for them in their or the familyís home. Medicare will pay for a limited time after a person is admitted to a nursing home for instance to cover recovery from a broken limb or a necessary medical operation. When that time runs out and the patient still needs the care provided by the home then private pay kicks in. If the patient does not have the means to pay for his care then Medicaid enters the picture.

For purposes of Medicaid the patient is evaluated and then a whole list of procedures is dictated that the home is required to administer to that patient. For each procedure that is dictated there is a cost reimbursement to the home. Sadly in the current environment that reimbursement does not cover the cost to the home to do the required care.

What to do? In most nursing homes the administrators in charge have a heart and will not kick Medicaid patients out but will adjust the cost of private pay to cover the homeís cost of doing business. When private pay gets too high then families will look to other ways to care for their loved one. Possibly they can find another nursing home that will take their patient, further away, or maybe it is cheaper to hire 24/7 nursing care in the patientís own home or the familyís home. Private pay has its limits.

Hillcrest at McCook is a bit unique in that the County, Red Willow, years ago saw the need and built the facility. Actually the County for years ran the facility lock stock and barrel. Then a decision was made to have Hillcrest operate independently with the County still owning the building and keeping track of the operation through an appointed board of directors. In recent years the County has facilitated bonds to update two of the wings where patients reside. The Hillcrest foundation, through gifts, paid for badly needed repairs to the roof keeping finances in the black.

Not all the patients at Hillcrest are Red Willow County residents yet all in need are welcome. The County operates on taxes accessed against property yet when Hillcrest has financial help those funds come from property owned by Red Willow County residents. Now the City of McCook collects sales taxes paid by residents plus those from far and wide who come to trade in the City. I therefore propose that the City also bears some responsibility for support of financial needs of Hillcrest if in the future due to inflation and the need to hire the ever more expensive skilled help might make their operation run to the red financially. Just thinking but it only seems to be a fair solution to possible near future problems.

In my opinion having a well-run nursing home in our area is an essential asset to this community. Far sighted County Commissioners in the past created a wonderful facility for this area and as I see it with nearby similar facilities closing the need is even more pressing today. I ask that you visit with your City Council members and suggest that they give consideration to equitably sharing in the preservation of our wonderful facility the Hillcrest Nursing Home.

That is the way I saw it.

Dick Trail

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