Ninety-two percent of county-owned nursing homes outside New York City lost money in 2010 and are struggling to survive, a report Monday found.
Counties have been looking to flee the nursing-home business as costs rise and as they face fiscal pressures from stagnant tax revenues to pay for goverment operations.
The report from the Rochester-based Center for Governmental Research said 33 counties own nursing homes, down from 40 in 1997. Eight, including Rockland County, are in the process of selling their facilities, and five plan to put them on the block.
The New York State Health Foundation, a private Albany-based group, commissioned the study.
“In recent years, six counties have sold or closed their homes, with mixed results ranging from improvements in care to state closure of one poorly performing home,” said Donald Pryor, the study’s author, said in a statement. “Other counties have kept their homes but are dealing with an increasingly rugged landscape.”
Counties historically considered running a nursing home as a way to care for its elderly, particularly those who are poor. Yet at a time of cost constraints, counties are finding the mission jeopardized as more private homes are built.
Westchester County sold its nursing home to the Westchester County Medical Center, and the facility was closed in 2009. Dutchess County sold its nursing home in 1998.
Monroe County has struggled with growing costs of its nursing home, and in Albany County there has been a pitched debate about whether to sell its facility. Broome and Chemung counties also own nursing homes.
The troubles are expected to grow as the population ages, the study found. In the upstate counties with nursing homes, there will be 180,000 more residents older than 75 by 2030.
The study said wages grew at all nursing homes 37 percent since 2001 and were up 45 percent at county homes.
While county homes are about 8 percent of all nursing homes in the state, they represent about 11 percent of all the beds in the state because they are among the state’s largest facilities.
Many of the patients rely on Medicaid, yet the payments haven’t kept up with the costs – by as much as $100 a day, the report said. Medicaid represented 71 percent of county-owned homes’ revenue in 2010, compared to 55 percent for other homes.
County nursing homes reported a loss of $201 million in 2010, double the loss compared to 2005, the report said.
Oswego, Delaware, Montgomery and Fulton counties sold their homes between 2005 and 2012.
The study said counties are better off trying to find a buyer for a nursing home than closing it.
“Given all this, we expect that over the next five years there will continue to be counties owning and operating their own nursing homes, but that number will be considerably smaller than the number existing in 2013,” the study concluded.