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Guest view: Why Valley Hi Nursing Home is an asset to McHenry County

The Northwest Herald - 3/13/2018

In the face of all the talk about high taxes, wouldn't you, as a taxpayer, be thrilled to know that for every tax dollar you paid, your money doubled?

But we won't stop there.

Wouldn't it be comforting to receive critical care services, no matter your economic situation? Finally, wouldn't it be satisfying to know that these funds also are boosting McHenry County's economy?

What we are talking about is the McHenry County Valley Hi Nursing Home. Over the past 10 years, for every dollar McHenry County taxpayers have paid for Valley Hi, revenue from Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance has generated an additional $2.26.

That translates into an additional $95,374,029 of income from outside of McHenry County. From 2008 to 2017, when combined with the $42,160,835 from McHenry County taxpayers, it has resulted in total revenues of $137,534,864. Of this amount, about $100 million has been reinvested into McHenry County's economy.

Remaining funds in the Valley Hi cash reserves have been used in a variety of ways, which include taxpayer abatement, county spending and managing cash flow (because of six- to 18-month delays on state Medicaid payments and applications).

In addition, McHenry County Treasurer Glenda Miller has generated sizable investment yields from the Valley Hi cash reserves, with the 2017 investment yield projected at about $730,000.

Valley Hi contributes to our county economy through employment of hundreds of McHenry County residents, the purchase of products from local/regional providers and providing clinical teaching with McHenry County College.

As one of the top nursing home and rehab centers in McHenry County, Valley Hi serves our ever-growing elderly population, which gives residents and their families another reason to stay in McHenry County. So, while most counties in Illinois have gotten out of the nursing home business, Valley Hi not only has survived, but it has prospered.

The history of Valley Hi exemplifies McHenry County's commitment to our most vulnerable and impoverished elderly, when 133 years ago, our county government spent $25,000 to establish a "poor farm" that served those in need.

In 2002, McHenry County voters reaffirmed the county's legacy to care for our elderly by overwhelmingly approving a $16 million referendum for a new Valley Hi Nursing Home, which since has been paid for in full. At the 2004 groundbreaking ceremony, then-County Board Chairman Mike Tryon said, "To have the long-term care needs [met] for the county for the next 100 years is a truly exciting thing."

Because its mission is to care for elderly in need (67 percent of its clients are Medicaid-funded), Valley Hi is not a true competitor to other nursing homes. This is because private nursing homes are unable to incur large-scale deficits because of Medicaid reimbursements, which only cover a fraction of the costs of care.

As a result, most nursing home options for Medicaid clients are limited. In contrast, Valley Hi not only welcomes Medicaid clients, but should a Valley Hi client run out of his or her private pay or Medicare funding, that client will not be forced to leave, which commonly occurs in other nursing homes. Rather, Valley Hi transfers the client's funding status to Medicaid, if necessary.

Today, through sound and innovative management, Valley Hi is led by Thomas Annarella, Valley Hi administrator, and its operating board. By maintaining a census comprised of 80 Medicaid clients, 20 Medicare clients and 20 private insurance clients, Medicaid deficits are offset by the higher rates paid by Medicare and private-pay insurance.

Since 2007, about 700 clients have been served. Going forward, health care practices are focusing on short-term admissions. This will cause increased turnover and will result in even higher numbers of clients served.

Developing Valley Hi as a teaching facility with MCC has resulted in an infusion of youthful energy and drive as both high school and college students work during the school year and in the summer.

This allows them to pursue a meaningful and well-paying job with an unlimited career path, and to apply for Valley Hi's CNA Scholarship Program. This program has replaced expensive recruiting costs and attracts the most promising high school students with full scholarship opportunities at MCC.

The future of Valley Hi is bright. It is a resource that keeps people here in McHenry County. As a county institution, Valley Hi provides critical services, contributes to the county economy, provides hundreds of jobs and now is adding value as a teaching facility.

"We are assessing ways to maintain quality care despite shrinking federal and state reimbursements," said Chuck Wheeler, chairman of the County Board Public Health and Community Services Committee. "Ultimately, achieving a self-sustaining operation without taxpayer funds is a possibility in the years ahead."

If you would like information about the services offered by Valley Hi, call Annarella at 815-338-0312.

McHenry County Board member Donna Kurtz can be reached at 815-353-5972.


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