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If the workers at 3030 Park in Fairfield didn’t already know by the end of September that something was wrong, they probably figured it out soon enough, when the nursing home’s managers had to approach the state for enough money to cover payroll. That occurred Sept. 29, according to court documents, and the 3030 Park nursing home was only able to pay its workers “due to the extraordinary grant of an advance payment of Medicaid funds made by the Department [of Social Services].” By October, the nursing home’s obligations had become too much. As of Oct. 1, 2005, it owed over $1.2 million to the Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority, according to court documents. The not-for-profit facility is run in tandem with a retirement community in Bridgeport. So rather than approving another Medicaid advance to cover its debt, DSS went to court earlier this month and asked a judge to appoint a receiver. Under new state law, the receiver runs the nursing home instead of management. The receiver has 90 days to determine whether the home can be sold to another operator. If it can’t be sold, then the place closes down and the residents must be transferred to new digs — never an easy task with an older and frail population. Beyond the immediate problems in Fairfield, what makes the events surrounding 3030 Park significant is that it is the first time in more than a year that a nursing home has entered receivership, according to statistics provided by DSS. Certainly, it is the first time since the Legislature passed the so-called “provider tax,” which provided extra federal funding to the state’s nursing home industry, though not as much as management and the unions had sought. So is the 3030 Park situation unique? Or is this the beginning of another spate of nursing home receiverships? In the case of 3030 Park, that nursing home received a net gain of over $200,000 under the provider tax, according to DSS, and still it had to be placed in receivership. But that facility is unique because of its high debt load, said Gary Richter, DSS’s rate-setting director. Also, Attorney General Blumenthal told the Connecticut Post that his office might launch an investigation into 3030 Park’s finances. Still, the pessimists warn that the provider tax did not meet its intended goal of stabilizing the industry, because politicians returned only $55 million out of an expected $118 million in provider taxes to the nursing homes. “We’re going to have to see how it goes. It wasn’t a huge windfall for the industry,” Richter said, adding that 10 to 15 homes have requests in with his office for boosts in their Medicaid rates, even after the provider tax. Others are more outspoken about the amount of money legislators returned to the industry. “They’ve taken the effective dose of the vaccine and watered it down so nobody gets better,” said Deborah Chernoff, spokeswoman for New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199. One big reason why some facilities had been able to avoid receivership was because DSS provided targeted rate increases for specific homes, said Mag Morelli, president of the Connecticut Association of Not-For-Profit Providers for the Aging. And though she can’t speak to the specifics of 3030 Park, Morelli said now is the time for legislators to fix the funding problem. “We’re trying to encourage them not to be done with us,” Morelli said. “Now is a good time to put in continuing COLA increases so we don’t get into crisis mode again.”

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