Berks commissioner sees way of keeping Berks Heim

Increased Medicaid reimbursement key

Video report by WFMZ's Tom Rader

READING, Pa. - The issues surrounding the future of Berks Heim have been many, but the Berks County commissioners have since zeroed in on one that they believe could give employees and residents the tools they need to get the state to act in their favor.

"It's a matter now of understanding the numbers," Commissioner Christian Leinbach told 69 News on Thursday.

It's not an easy task when it comes to the ongoing issue to keep Berks Heim, the county-owned nursing home in Bern Township, thriving.

"We've been talking about Medicaid reimbursement since the summer," Leinbach said.

A looming $1.5-million deficit has the commissioners considering selling the home to a nonprofit, which isn't sitting well with employees at the Heim.

But now, Leinbach said he believes a turning point may have been reached.

"The new structure of managed care for reimbursement is what's called the Health Choices Program, which is how Medicaid reimbursement occurs to county homes," Leinbach said.

Berks County is teaming up with PACAH, or the Pennsylvania Coalition of Affiliated Healthcare and Living Communities, to help the home and residents learn how to lobby state lawmakers to increase Medicaid reimbursement.

"They want to be able to renegotiate the funding," Leinbach explained.

He said if lawmakers properly fund Medicaid reimbursement, there will be no reason to sell Berks Heim.

The commissioners also want to join other counties in not signing the state's current Medicaid reimbursement agreement until it's restructured.

"I think the time is ripe for counties, in central, even though we are not negotiating, to go on record and say we are not signing when it comes our turn," he said.

The challenge is still daunting in that 80 percent of the beds at Berks Heim are Medicaid-funded, and officials said when private patients run out of money, they often transition to Medicaid.

A PACAH representative plans to meet with commissioners, county residents and Berks Heim employees next Thursday to discuss their options.

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