Warren County’s Westmount Health Facility will be sold in the coming months, if county leaders’ plans progress as expected. This week, Warren County officials revealed terms of the pending sale of the nursing home to Specialty Care Group of Manhattan for $2.3 million. Some county supervisors and citizens have objected to the price and a provision that calls for Warren County to guarantee that the state will pay Specialty Care $2.5 million or more in projected future Medicaid reimbursements through 2021 — although the state has not made several years of prior reimbursement payments, and there’s no guarantee the state’s policy will change over the next seven years.
As Warren County leaders announced terms of an agreement to sell the county-owned Westmount nursing home for $2.3 million to a private firm, some of the details revealed sparked controversy.
The terms were made public April 3 during an informational hearing held by the county Board of Supervisors on the finances of the nursing home’s cogeneration plant.
The 80-bed home in Queensbury, which provides care for elderly regardless of income or personal resources, would be sold to Specialty Care Group of New York City, along with about eight acres of land surrounding the home. This firm has already bought nursing homes in neighboring Washington County and Essex County.
A county-owned parcel of land totaling 23 acres would not be included in the sale.
The sale terms call for Specialty Care to undertake most of the expenses of operating the cogeneration plant that provides electricity and heat for the nursing home, and was shown this week to be losing money for the county.
Both Warren County and Specialty Care, however, would jointly invest $15,000 to $20,000 to upgrade the cogeneration plant soon after the sale contract is signed, according to the negotiated terms.
The sale provision that generated the most controversy at the April 3 meeting was a negotiated stipulation that the county would guarantee state Medicaid reimbursements to Specialty Care, related to the cogeneration operation, that the county has forecast based on prior state policies. If the state did not pay Specialty Care the full $1.26 million of projected Medicaid cogeneration reimbursements supposedly due from 2015 through 2021, Warren County would be obligated to pay any or all of the balance to the private firm.
A number of county supervisors objected to the county assuming this liability.
“It troubles me that Warren County guarantees this Medicaid reimbursement,” Glens Falls Ward 2 Supervisor Peter McDevitt said.
“I have a real problem guaranteeing a private company future Medicaid payments,” Queensbury at-large Supervisor Doug Beatty said, noting that the state had already not lived up to its pledge of Medicaid payments over the last several years, and owed the county $2.5 million or more through last year. “This is quite a liability.”
Queensbury at-large Supervisor Mark Westcott also questioned the county assuming such an obligation.
“This is very alarming,” Westcott said in an email he sent out after the meeting, citing that pledging to pay any shortfall in Medicaid reimbursements represented a “substantial risk” for local taxpayers.
The terms also call for Specialty Care to guarantee they’d continue operating the nursing home with a full 80 beds for at least five years, continue to accept patients regardless of ability to pay, and not seek tax-exempt status of the nursing home or its property.
Also, the terms call for existing nursing home employees to be given priority in working under the new ownership.
The sale terms are still tentative, and they are subject to a vote of the full county board or supervisors.
Several supervisors objected to the price of the proposed sale.
Westcott noted that the sale price of $2.3 million represented $28,750 per bed — but Essex County recently sold their nursing home for $40,500 per bed, and Saratoga sold their nursing home $59,494 per bed. He said that perhaps the proposed sale price of Westmount was too low.
Queensbury Supervisor John Strough suggested that the county obtain an independent appraisal of the home, after hearing that none had been conducted.
County Administrator Paul Dusek defended the proposal.
“We put it out for competitive bid and $2.2 million to $2.3 million appears to be a reasonable price for a facility this size,” he said, citing the factor of economy of scale.