Leinbach: Reps' letter on Berks Heim 'extremely misleading'

'The information is fundamentally false'

READING, Pa. - Berks Heim, the county-owned nursing home that had been at risk of being sold, continues to be a hot topic of discussion at the commissioners' weekly meetings.

Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach on Thursday read a letter, titled "Shining the Light of Truth on Berks Heim. Several state lawmakers who represent Berks County are listed as its authors.

"The information is fundamentally false and extremely misleading," Leinbach said.

The letter, provided to 69 News by state Rep. David Maloney, lists Maloney and fellow Reps. Tom Caltagirone, Jim Cox, Gary Day, Barry Jozwiak, Ryan Mackenzie, and Mark Rozzi as its authors.

Leinbach, however, said a Rozzi representative told him the lawmaker's office doesn't know anything about the letter.

"The bottom line is because of increased state funding, including supplemental payments and Commissioner Scott's negotiations, Berks Heim will see a total increase of some 70 percent this fiscal year and another half-million dollar increase in the next," Leinbach said, quoting the letter. "On top of that, the county now has more money to work within its annual budget. The message that the county-owned Berks Heim Nursing Home needs to be sold and to blame it on the state is just not so."

Robert J. Patrizio, the county's chief financial officer, said based on the current financial information available, without a Medicaid bed rate increase, the Heim will experience a net operating loss starting in 2022 and continue through at least 2024.

"I've been showing losses all along," Patrizio told the commissioners. "I don't know what the confusion is."

Patrizio agreed that the one-percent increase in the Medicaid bed rate earlier this year and an increase in IGT funding pushed back when the deficits will begin. He also said the commissioners could decide to consume money from the county's unrestricted net assets to make up the deficit and avoid a tax increase. Once the balance of those assets is zero, however, the tax increase needed to balance the nursing home's increasing operating costs would be substantial.

"The bottom line is that I've been saying this for two years," Patrizio said. "We need an MA [Medicaid] rate increase. It's that simple."

New agreements recently reached with Berks Heim's two unions -- the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) and SEIU (Service Employees International) – will save the county nearly $3 million per year and keep the home in county hands for at least another five years.

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