GOLDSTEIN: Meskers Needs to Step up to Help the Witherell

Submitted by Dr. Michael Goldstein, Greenwich

Last night (Sept 18) at the RTM meeting State Representative Steve Meskers expressed his support for the Nathaniel Witherell Nursing Home. While lip service is commonplace for politicians, his actions show the opposite. As a State Representative of the Democrat Party which has the majority of seats in both houses in the Connecticut State Legislature, he is in a position to help make Witherell financially solvent without opposition. In fact, taking care of our elderly is not a partisan issue so there is a very high probability of success here.

According to the financial statement prepared by Grassi Healthcare Advisors, Witherell’s  2022-2023 operating expenses are $30,556,127 with a loss of $6,317,229.

The average occupancy is 174 beds with an average yearly cost per bed of $175,610.  110 of these beds, or 63.4% are filled with Medicaid residents. The Medicaid reimbursement rate per resident per day is $325.18 or per year is $118,699 resulting in a $56,919 dollar per year loss per Medicaid resident. With an average daily census of 110 Medicaid residents this results in a total loss $6,261,090.  This represents the entire short-fall.

This huge loss is supposed to be picked up by Medicare rehabilitation patients and self-pay residents who are overpaying to subsidize the Medicaid residents. If you are a resident or the child or relative of a resident that is a private payer, you should be infuriated that you are being overcharged which increases the already high financial burden  of keeping  your loved ones at the Witherell.

Witherell as unionized facility with fair wages cannot survive such huge losses. The Union wages are not the issue as some of that is offset with the free rent that other similar facilities pay.

There is simply no reason why Witherell should be forced to treat residents for less than it cost to provide the care.  Greenwich taxpayers should not have to subsidize this state underpayment. Moreover, it needs to be determined how many of those Medicaid residents were not Greenwich residents prior to entering Witherell.

Steve Meskers as a Connecticut State Representative from Greenwich should replace his false claims for support of Witherell with meaningful legislation that raises the Medicaid Nursing Home reimbursement level to a level that is actually equal to the true cost of care. 

There are plenty of reasons to subsidize a loss, but this is not one of them, especially if we are  subsidizing former  non-Greenwich residents that came to Witherell and now reside in our town. We have a limited resource of Witherell that could be lost to privatization, a loss of town jobs, and potentially a lower rating while that operator maximizes profit with no benefit for the town. 

As I have suggested, new income streams are needed to infuse capital into Witherell, not simply pleas to the town to cover shortfalls due to mismanagement and lack of occupancy. With the right board, and day-to-day management, Witherell can be a success story. In the interim, these losses cannot persist and Witherell is a major economic issue for Greenwich.

Steve Meskers needs to step up to the plate with his decades of financial experience and a background in finance and economics and fight for fair reimbursement. We need action not talk.  

Mr. Meskers, if you are truly interested in saving Witherell the time is now.                

Dr. Michael Goldstein