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County board to review home health bids

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County commissioners will review bid proposals for the sale of Wilson County Home Health at a Friday public hearing. And residents will have a chance to weigh in.

The hearing will be held at noon at the Wilson County Government Center, 2201 Miller Road.

Bid proposals for county’s home health agency, which is operated as a division of the health department, were due by April 30. Last week, a special Wilson County Board of Health committee met to discuss and compare offers received to purchase the county’s home health agency, which has operated for nearly 50 years here.

While the meeting was not required by law when selling a county home health agency, commissioners adopted a process that included giving members of the health board to have a chance to review the proposals first.

TWO COMPANIES

Companies interested in purchasing the county’s home health agency had nearly a month to submit a proposal offer. But only two companies responded during that statutory time frame — HealthView Capital LLC, a privately held company based in Rocky Mount and In-Home Partnership, a joint venture between Duke LifePoint and LHC, which is based in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Both companies offered $2 million to purchase Wilson County Home Health.

Health board members were charged with going through both proposals and then sharing their concerns with commissioners Friday. Those concerns include staffing and charity care percentage ratios. Charity care is used for underinsured and uninsured patients.

Both companies have lower charity care percentage ratios than the county’s current home health agency, which is 5 percent of its current caseload, officials said.

“My greatest concern is the care that is going to be given to the patients,” health board member Linda Copper-Suggs said during the meeting. She said she was concerned about how many patients in Wilson County would fall by the wayside and not receive adequate care when home health is privatized. She also had concerns for current home health workers, who are considered county employees.

Cooper-Suggs said she read reviews of LHC and found some of them alarming. Dr. Maria Glennon, a board of health member and veterinarian, said she had “major” concerns regarding HealthView Capital.

“They don’t exist,” she told the committee. “They are a startup. Or they appear to be created in the purpose of making this offer.”

Health board member and nurse Charlotte Hicks said it was difficult to even compare the two companies when looking over their bid proposals.

“It’s not even comparing apples to oranges,” Hicks said. “It’s apples to squash.”

She asked whether county officials were doing their due diligence for employees and patients by having really only one company to look at.

Cooper-Suggs agreed.

“We need to have apples to apples; oranges to oranges,” Cooper-Suggs said. “We need to begin to look at this and what is truly best for Wilson County...”

Glennon also said during the meeting that one of members’ greatest concerns is the sustainability of the home health agency in the current financial climate.

“The program isn’t self-sustaining,” she said. “It’s requiring an infusion of cash each year. That fund balance is shrinking. It’s going down every year because we are using it every year to shore up home health. And eventually the well is going to run dry.”

Wilson County Home Health currently serves about 350 patients here and made more than 33,000 in-home visits last year alone.

The decision to sell or lease the county’s home health agency isn’t set in stone. Commissioners won’t vote until sometime in June after other meetings and public hearings are held, which is required by law when selling a county home health agency. If commissioners do decide to the sell home health, they will be able to negotiate the terms of the contract and choose which company will be awarded the bid, officials said.

Wilson County Health Director Teresa Ellen has said home health hasn’t been able to cover its costs for the past several years despite cutting expenses in multiple areas. She has said revenues continue to decline due to cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates and a freeze in Medicaid rates.

Here is a rundown on what health board members will share with county commissioners Friday regarding the two bids submitted for the purchase of Wilson County Home Health:

HealthView Capital LLC

• $2 million bid

• Provided little detail and historical performance of any home health agency

• CEO grew up in Rocky Mount and has experience in the field but sold a previous company, Community Home Care and Hospice, in 2012.

• No data was included in the proposal

• Staffing would be handled by a third-party agency

• No benefit package was described in proposal

• Current county home health agency staff would be offered a 6-month employment term and then a reassessment of the company’s needs.

• Charity care, which is used for underinsured and uninsured patients, has historically been allotted 3 percent of total revenue in its previous companies

• Owned home health agencies in Atlanta and Greene County

• Greene County agency leased

• Company doesn’t currently provide any home health services in North Carolina

In-Home Healthcare Partnership/LHC

• $2 million bid

• Post-acute care partner for hospitals and physicians

• 20 years in the business with more than 30,000 employees nationwide

• 780 locations in 37 states

• Owns 574 home health agencies, seven of which are in North Carolina

• Centralized call center in Lafayette, Louisiana

• Joint Commission-accredited

• Has have nine other health care service providers, including Hospice of Wilson Medical Center

• Employee benefit package

• Salary vs. hourly compensation was not mentioned in proposal

• Likely will keep nurses here but didn’t guarantee all current county employees a position

• Wilson County’s home health agency’s patients would be taken on as long as coverage and eligibility are verified, according to the proposal.

• Company provided charity care at a rate of 0.5 to 1 percent of net revenue, which is below the current 5 percent of Wilson’s current patient caseload.

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