Thursday, October 29, 2009

Many HHC Nursing Homes Rate Below Average

You can add another lie HHC CEO Matt Gutwein has been telling voters in Marion County as part of his campaign to pass the Wishard referendum during the November 3 special election, a vaguely-worded question that asks you to approve property tax levy increase to support the issuance of more than $700 million in general obligation bonds to fund a new county hospital, although you would never know that after reading the referendum question. Gutwein has repeatedly bragged about how the quality of care provided by the nursing homes HHC "owns and operates" is better than other nursing homes. "Nursing homes are a growing part of Marion County Health and Hospital Corp.'s bottom line," Star business reporter Dan Lee writes. "Yet almost half of its nursing homes -- 17 of 35 -- were rated below average, according to a Star review of Indiana State Department of Health records for the past three years. Eleven of the homes ranked in the bottom 25 percent of the almost 500 facilities reviewed in the state's Nursing Home Report Card system." Lee explains how critical the revenue from these nursing homes are:

Income from nursing homes is an important part of Health and Hospital Corp.'s strategy to pay for a proposed new Wishard Memorial Hospital. The $754 million complex would replace the existing one on West 10th Street.

Marion County voters head to the polls Tuesday to vote yes or no on giving the Health and Hospital Corp., Wishard's parent organization, the authority to issue bonds needed to finance the new hospital.

Corporation officials have said the project can be completed without using additional property tax revenue, and they view their nursing home operations as part of the reason why.

In 2009, nursing homes will account for roughly 42 percent of Health and Hospital
Corp.'s projected $848 million in revenue, according to Dan Sellers, the corporation's chief financial officer.

As income from nursing homes has increased, Wishard has relied less on property tax revenue. In 2009, Wishard received $24.9 million, or 5 percent of its revenue, from property taxes, down from $51.9 million, or 15 percent, in 2003, according to hospital documents.
According to Lee's story, HHC plans to acquire even more nursing homes in the coming years, as many as seven more by next year. His story is deceptively misleading, however, because of what he fails to mention in his story. Here are some of those facts:

  • Lee continues to claim that HHC owns these nursing homes and simply has management agreements with American Senior Communities to operate them. What he doesn't tell you is that HHC actually leases the nursing homes from an entity owned by Eagle Care, Inc., an entity owned by the same people who own ASC. HHC merely creates a legal fiction to make it appear that it owns the nursing homes so it can qualify to receive upper limit payments from Medicaid, which effectively doubles the Medicaid reimbursement rate of its nursing homes compared to other nursing homes. Former HHC CEO Mitch Roob has called this a scam on the federal government.
  • Lee conveniently omits the fact that virtually all of these nursing homes are located outside of Marion County, some in the far reaches of the state. HHC is a municipal corporation that is suppose to operate for the benefit of Marion County residents. Would we expect the City of Indianapolis to operate water and sewer services in Fort Wayne or Evansville? So why is our municipal-owned corporation doing business all over the state?
  • Lee conveniently omits the fact that HHC recently closed Lockefield Village, one of the few nursing homes it operates within the municipal corporation. HHC built the nursing home, which is adjacent to the Wishard hospital campus, in only 1995 at a considerable cost to taxpayers. When HHC closed it, it received a rating of just 1 out of 5, the lowest possible rating for evaluating the nursing home's quality of care.
  • Lee repeats the myth that because the nursing home scam has been so wildly successful, HHC has been able to reduce property taxes in Marion County by more than $50 million a year. Like Gutwein, Lee conveniently omits the fact that most of that reduction is the result of the passage of the 2008 property tax reform and relief law that mandated a roll back in certain tax levies, including one imposed by HHC. Taxpayers were forced to pay a 1% higher sales tax to help pay for the replacement tax dollars HHC is now receiving from the state. The truth is that HHC has banked most of the nursing home revenue windfall to spend on the hospital--nearly $150 million to date--rather than reduce our property tax burden.
  • Lee continues the Star's campaign of deception by giving people the impression they are not voting to approve a property tax levy increase if they vote to approve a referendum.
This demonstrates how important it is for the taxpaying-public to look elsewhere for your information on this issue. The local news media simply cannot be trusted to give you the facts on the Wishard referendum. They are all in the tank with the HHC officials and are doing everything they can to hoodwink you into voting for the referendum under the mistaken impression that it does not call for a property tax increase. It does. It authorizes what could become one of the largest property tax increases in Marion County history. That increase will not be protected by the state property tax caps. You will pay these higher taxes on top of that increase. Get the facts so you can make an informed decision.


Had Enough Indy? said...

Great job. I would only add that even if the outcome of the referendum is 'no', Wishard can legally build their new campus. They just have to float revenue bonds that are not tied to property taxes.

Guest said...

Again, can Wishard and the minions with talking points, including state gov. for their referendum laws or whatever sets the rules for wording these things and printing a lie, be class action sued by the taxpayer should the increase come to pass???Even the governor has ignored this referendum business of wording and omitting facts to the voters.. What is up???? Other than the fact that they will resort to anything to get the taxpayers on the hook above the cap......Where are the lawyers and real men anymore??? A lady wants to know.

Downtown Indy said...

Garrison is supposed to have someone from the Wishard camp on today's show. I thought he said her name was Ann, but I don't know who that is. Yesterday he made mention of this and the objective of addressing the contentions of 'the blogger types' who oppose the referendum.

That's Greg 'My Wife works for Wishard' Garrison.

Edward said...

We all know that this nursing home arrangement is a “tax sham.” What is to stop someone from making millions of dollars by filing a whistleblower Qui Tam. This would stop this illegal behavior by Wishard-IU and the nursing home revenues would immediately dry up.

artfuggins said...

Edward, if you have proof of illegal behavior, you need to report it immediately. You may be confusing you differences of opinion with "illegal behavior".

Paul K. Ogden said...'s funny you would raise the issue of a Qi Tam.

Sorry, Art, but ripping off taxpayers through some nursing home scam is not a "difference of opinion." I think it's funny though that the Dems are all behind what will probably lead to the largest property tax increase in Marion County history.