Centre County residents who need skilled nursing care have a multitude of local options, but three stand alone in accepting Medicaid payments.
The Hearthside, in State College; Centre Crest, in Bellefonte; and Windy Hill Village, in Philipsburg, accept long-term government health care and plan on continuing to do so.
Medicaid, or Medical Assistance, covers people who fall under specific categories such as low-income families, children, pregnant women, women with breast or cervical cancer, the elderly and persons with disabilities.
Hearthside Administrator Meg Clauser said that having at least a few homes that accept Medicaid is important so that everyone who needs care has a place to go.
“There’s a real hole in the system where people that have MA don’t have anywhere that they can go,” she said.
The 157-bed facility has about 70 percent Medicaid residents, Clauser said.
Hearthside offers a short-term rehabilitation center; daily physical, occupational and speech therapy; and a licensed lymphedema therapist, among other services.
Centre Crest, which recently transitioned from a county-owned facility to a public nonprofit, also is staying at or above 70 percent Medicaid residents in its 240-bed facility, said Cathy Otto, chief operating officer at Complete HealthCare Resources-Eastern, which manages Centre Crest.
She said the transition went smoothly and the company has been able to institute building upgrades and new services and hire additional staff.
Continuing to accept Medicaid patients will be important for the facility because, Otto said, one of the biggest goals of the Centre Care board of directors, which oversees Centre Crest, is to continue to serve all community members.
“We take care of those who are in need, and it includes those who need Medical Assistance,” she said.
Windy Hill Village is at about 60 percent of its 120 skilled-nursing beds, Executive Director Chad Evans said. The campus also offers 18 personal care beds, 36 affordable apartments and five cottages.
Evans said that one of the major challenges of accepting Medicaid payments is being at the mercy of the state budget.
“(It’s) just making sure that our legislators are aware of the need for the seniors,” he said.
A trend that all three officials noticed is patients coming in with higher needs for care.
Hospitals are discharging patients quicker and referring them to nursing homes for rehabilitative care. Clauser said nursing facilities have to move along with the trends and make sure they still can provide that level of rehabilitative care.
She said people are looking to get the care they need and return to their homes as soon as possible.
“Long-term care and skilled nursing facilities really have been going through kind of a culture of change,” she said.
Another practice that is becoming increasingly important is investing money back into the facility and programming.
Evans said the expectations of residents are rising as technology advances and they are looking for more modernized facilities. He added that because there are so many local options for skilled nursing, homes need to invest in the buildings to keep pace.
“We have to be able to put capital expenditures back into the building to be able to meet those expectations,” he said.
Centre Crest has invested in new technology since its transition and made improvements, such as painting and upgrades to rooms.
The board is holding off any major upgrades to the facility because it is still hoping for a new Centre Crest in the near future.
But the board is continuing to hire skilled-nursing staff to allocate more care time to patients.