While the nursing home industry refuses to spend money on patient care and blames lawsuits for their failure to care for their residents, they don’t mind spending millions suing each other. Northern Kentucky’s two largest nursing home operators are locked in a five-year battle over who gets to run new nursing home beds in Boone County.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the controversy began in 2008 when Loveland-based Carespring Health Care Management bought the license to a large facility in Campbell County after the prior operators lost the license. Carespring operates nursing homes in Fort Thomas and Erlanger. The company planned to split the existing facility by keeping half the beds in Campbell County and moving the other half to Boone County.
State health plan dictates number of nursing home beds
The issue begins with the fact that the number of nursing home beds is tightly regulated out of a need to control Medicaid costs. In Kentucky, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services controls this process through issuance of a “certificate of need.”
The problem stems from the fact that the state’s plan did not show a “need” for new beds in Boone County, even though Census data projects a large increase in senior citizens in that area over the next decade. To address the discrepancy, the state granted an exception to the health plan in 2009 to allow Carespring to move 143 beds from Campbell to Boone County. But this decision didn’t sit well with competitor Baptist Life Communities, based in Erlanger. Baptist Life operates nursing homes in Erlanger, Newport, and Covington.
The legal challenges begin
Baptist Life says it doesn’t oppose new beds in Boone County, but it believes all operators should have a chance to bid for those beds. CEO Dr. Robert Long told the Enquirer the issue was about fairness; if the state was going to allow new long-term care beds in Boone, then all of the area’s nursing home operators should be able to bid for them.
Baptist Life challenged the exception to the state health plan through legal system and got it overturned. Then, in 2013, the Legislature nearly passed a law to help Carespring get the beds built, but Baptist Life was again able to block the action.
Earlier this year, the state tried again to amend its health plan to allow movement of already approved beds to another county under certain circumstances. The state again approved Carespring’s application to move the beds, but in March, Baptist Life sued again to block the move.
Carespring says it has spent about $1 million in legal fees on this dispute; Baptist Life estimates it has spent at least $200,000.