The Herkimer County Legislature sold the county’s Certified Home Health Agency and Long-Term Care Agency operating certificates to At Home Care for $200,000 in March 2011, following a request-for-proposal process that produced interest from multiple organizations.
During their quarterly session Wednesday afternoon, legislators unanimously approved the closure of the agencies, effective Dec. 1, as At Home Care, due to a change in regulations governing the issuance of operating certificates, has advised the county it no longer wishes to purchase its licenses.
“At Home Care has its own Certified Home Health Agency program and with the regulations imposed by the state, they decided this was the easier way to go,” said county Administrator James Wallace during a telephone interview Thursday afternoon. “I can’t fault them for their decision.”
Wallace said At Home Care, a not-for-profit Medicare-certified home health agency affiliated with Cooperstown-based Bassett Healthcare Network, has paid the county $50,000 for the operating certificates thus far, and has agreed to honor their 2011 purchase agreement.
“Sixty days after the closure of the programs, At Home Care will pay the county the remaining $150,000 for the certificates,” he said. “So even though they have informed the legislature they no longer wish to purchase the county’s operating certificates, they will honor the agreement.”
The privatization process started in 2011, when 18 employees were laid off, resulting in about $320,000 in savings in salaries in benefits. Legislators decided to make the change after the state took away $250,000 of funding for at-home health services in 2010 and $250,000 more in 2011.
In the weeks and months after the sale, At Home Care took over the county’s Certified Home Health Agency and long-term care services and hired eight of the former county employees.
The at-home support services and long-term care services are targeted primarily toward the elderly and people recovering from surgery. At Home Care has provided services such as professional nurses, physical therapy and other home-health support in Herkimer County since 1987.
In addition to selling the Certified Home Health Agency license, the legislature also decided to privatize other aspects of public health services last year. The Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program and personal care were shifted to At Home Care, Superior Home Care and the Home Aide Service of the Central Adirondacks. These programs did not require the selling of a license.
“The licenses were once a marketable piece of agreement, however, as a result of a state subcommittee ruling they are not worth what we once thought,” said Legislator Helen Rose, D - Herkimer. “I commend At Home Care for honoring the agreement they have with the county, even though they have informed us they no longer wish to purchase the licenses we have.”
In other business Wednesday, the legislature established the position of assistant director of public health at a base annual salary of $50,000. The position will be established effective Jan. 1, 2013.