McHenry County Board approves $15M Valley Hi rebate

Change of bed mix, increase of resident room rates also OK’d

On the verge of a vote to issue a $15 million rebate of surplus funds from Valley Hi Nursing Home on Tuesday, several McHenry County Board members stressed that their votes did not come from a place of apathy to the nursing home or its patients.

Board Chairman Jack Franks said before the vote that the rebate could be a shining moment that could repeat the message the board gave to residents when it lowered its levy in 2017.

Ultimately, board members felt similarly and the rebate resolution was approved by an 18-6 vote, with board members Jim Kearns, Mary McCann, Suzanne Ness, Jeffrey Thorsen, Kelli Wegener and Chuck Wheeler voting no.

Ness said after the vote that she was disappointed by the outcome.

During board discussion, Ness said that communities and societies are judged by how they care for their children and their elderly and in her heart, the rebate feels wrong.

About 88,000 properties could qualify, Franks said. Eligible homeowners who paid $500 in property taxes to the county last year could get about $150 – or about 30 percent of what they paid to the county. Residents would have the option of returning this money back to the nursing home.

However, some residents felt such a small rebate could be put to better use.

McHenry County resident Nancy Hiatt said Tuesday that she was at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital on Monday with a 93-year-old woman in declining health who used to live at McHenry Villa and has outlived all of her resources.

Without resources to pay for private caregivers, hospital dischargers were unable to find a bed for her, even at the Valley Hi Nursing Home, which had advised that it did not have Medicaid space available or hospice care while Medicaid was pending.

She was eventually transferred to a long-term care facility in Lake County. Because of scenarios like this, Hiatt said during Tuesday’s County Board meeting that instead of offering a $15 million rebate of Valley Hi surplus funds to county residents, she would like to see the money used to invest in more Medicaid space.

Several County Board members also stated that they received numerous calls and emails from residents, none of whom said they wanted to get the rebate.

Some supporters said that the board will aggressively move forward with plans to create a dementia wing for the nursing home now that a decision is made on the rebate.

Franks said a request for quotation will be requested at the next public health and community services meeting for a new dementia wing for Valley Hi.

After the rebate vote, resolutions designed to ensure future sustainability of Valley Hi also were approved.

The first resolution, which county consultants and Valley Hi administration said would be necessary to ensure future sustainability of the home, would remove 10 Medicaid residents and add 10 Medicare residents to the facility’s daily case mix target. There also would be the option to use the facility’s eight overflow beds to create private rooms in the future.

This measure also was approved by an 18-6 vote with board members John Reinert, Michael Skala, McCann, Thorsen, Wegener and Wheeler voting no.

Thorsen said he has a serious problem with moving toward Medicare over Medicaid because it seems to take away from the home’s mission of caring for those who can’t care for themselves.

Larry Spaeth of Harvard said during public comment that good management demands the evaluation of financial needs. Therefore, there are several questions that need to be answered before determining whether an increase in Medicare beds is necessary, such as whether all the residents on the waiting list of Valley Hi are actively waiting for a room.

The other resolution seeks authorization to increase the daily private-pay resident room rates by$10 a day effective June 1, $5 a day effective Dec. 1 and $10 a day effective June 1, 2020. This increase would affect about 20 residents a day.

This resolution was approved by a 21-3 vote, with board members Larry Smith, Michael Vijuk and Reinert voting no.

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