To The Daily Sun,
Let's talk about the Belknap County Nursing Home. A recent newspaper article brought our attention to the consideration of privatizing this unit.
First, and foremost, the County Nursing Home has been at the forefront of care for the elderly and needy since its inception. It has always been preferred by those needing care, whether they had money or not, to go to the County Nursing Home because of its great care, care that exceeds many of the private nursing homes. In fact, the Belknap County Nursing home has the highest rating of all nursing homes in the county. It has a rating of 87.
Yes, it does cost the taxpayer money. Doesn't everything?
The patients who go to the nursing home are the elderly people who have worked all their lives and paid their taxes to the county through city taxes for others to benefit from those services provided by the county and the elderly are also a huge percentage of present taxpayers. The county would be in a tough spot without their share of taxes.
New Hampshire has the third highest percentage of the elderly and Laconia and Belknap County are in the highest category of growth in elderly population.
The county is now in the process of building a new jail and bonding $8 million for the project along with programs to rehabilitate drug users, and alcoholics who have committed crimes. Don't get me wrong. These programs are necessary and so are improvements to the present jail.
I would just like to point out that services for the poor and elderly sick people who have committed no crime, and who paid their way in life and paid taxes for the jail and other county services are entitled to at least the same kind of compassion and assistance as those who do not contribute.
It is true that federal laws in the Medicare system have become more burdensome on the nursing homes and on the taxpayers who must pay for patients sent to PRIVATE nursing homes because of a shortage of beds. A recent article in The Sun stated, "Currently county taxpayers . . . pay $6.1 million in the Health and Human Services line in the county budget, which represent payments made to the State of N.H. for county residents who are in PRIVATE nursing homes and who are covered by Medicaid."
This year, people on Social Security not only did not receive a cost of living increase, their checks were reduced further by increased cost for Medicare benefits. These people could not possibly afford the cost of a private nursing home. The latest figures put out for the state, reports that the New Hampshire rate for nursing home care for a day is $290 median with a maximum of $388 a day or $105,850.00 a year (Taken from N.H. State Specific Data from Gemworth Cost of Care Survey 2013.) There is a 5 percent annual growth.
Perhaps the need warrants increasing the nursing home racility. If there were more beds, the need to send patients to private homes would be cut or eliminated and the savings would pay for the expansion and possibly lower the budget's bottom line. I am no finance person. This may not be possible, but I would like to know the feasibility of such a plan.
There are several excellent home care programs available but more are needed and they should be funded through Medicare or Medicaid. This would actually save money as it is cheaper to provide this care than a nursing home. With the increasing number of baby boomers who are now moving into the elderly category it means that more nursing home care facilities or home care services are essential. Everyone gets older and health care and quality of living are a huge problem down the road and we should not wait for doomsday.
This is a huge problem and the county commissioners are faced with many problems and they have not said they would privatize, but this subject has been heard before and is bound to be brought up again.
Let us look now for solutions before it too late.
Councilor Brenda Baer
Ward 4 - Laconia
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