Wolf scraps proposal that would’ve sent additional tax dollars to Golden Living

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It is shocking and sad.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane on Wednesday dropped a 100-page bombshell that paints a deplorable picture of life inside several Golden Living nursing homes. She is suing and accusing the company of neglecting seniors.

Equally shocking, to some, is a proposed new Wolf Administration policy that would have rewarded places like Golden Living with additional state tax dollars in the coming fiscal year.

“It’s really one of the worst public policy things I have ever seen in my 24 years out here,” said Ron Barth, CEO of LeadingAge Pennsylvania, a group that represents for not-for-profit nursing homes.

Barth is upset that Golden Living facilities across Pennsylvania would have received $2 million additional state tax dollars while high-performing nursing facilities like Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, which Barth represents, was slated for a cut.

“If you’re going to give it to facilities, then give it to facilities that can demonstrate quality,” Barth said. “Don’t give it to facilities where the record clearly shows there are problems.”

Masonic Village has been around since 1910 and it’s a sprawling and immaculately maintained complex. It is home to nearly 1,900 seniors.

“We’re one of the largest retirement communities in the nation,” CEO Joe Murphy said.

Murphy was shocked when the Department of Human Services recently proposed a new funding formula for nursing home reimbursement. It’s called a Budget Adjustment Factor (BAF), and it would steer additional funds to many of the lower-rated nursing homes while cutting his facility as much as a million dollars.

“It’s gigantic,” Murphy said of the proposed reduction. “The residents we serve, they’re expecting high quality of care. We expect to give that. When you take a million dollars out and you only give a couple weeks notice, it’s virtually impossible to replace that.”

It could be argued that lower performing, for-profit nursing homes like Golden Living need the extra state funds to get up to snuff. Barth disputes that. He says he checked and Golden Living turned a $20 million profit last year in Pennsylvania and failed, according to the attorney general, to pump adequate dollars into proper staffing and care.

“They’re not talking about saving money in the state budget, they’re just talking about shifting it around,” Barth said. “So, they’re going to take from some to give to others.”

The Wolf Administration clearly heard the criticism. On Thursday afternoon, it scrapped the new funding formula for now. Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas sent an email to stakeholders that read in part, “the Department has decided to maintain the current formula … It will provide more time for the Department to work with all stakeholders on alternative approaches.”

So, while critics will slam a proposal that would have rewarded lower-performing nursing homes while penalizing high achievers, they should remember that the governor heard the complaints and changed course.

That’s not automatic in Harrisburg.

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