Senior care advances beyond nursing homes

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 8:47 p.m.

Joan Marcinko moved in unison with other senior citizens raising barbells above their heads during a chair-exercise class.

The group of about 50 laughed when their instructor, Michelle Vivio, said: “Smile — two more left.”

They took the class at Providence Point, a continuing care retirement community that opened in 2009 in Scott.

Its upscale atmosphere and wide range of offerings — a full activities schedule, billiards room, cocktail lounge, movie theater, skilled nursing, independent-living homes and four restaurants — drew Marcinko and her husband, Andy, more than three years ago. The Marcinkos sold their Mt. Lebanon townhouse and moved into a Providence Point apartment.

“I mean, I feel like I'm on a vacation constantly. It's like a five-star resort,” said Joan Marcinko, 75.

Living at Providence Point isn't inexpensive.

Entrance fees for the LifeCare program, which covers the cost of long-term care, start at $198,500, and monthly fees start at $1,895. Residents pay out of pocket or use long-term care insurance, but the entrance fee is up to 90 percent refundable if a resident moves or dies and someone else takes his or her place.

Providence Point is an example of care moving forward: alternative services, such as assisted living; day services; fee-based personal care; and market-rate or government-subsidized housing with services, which is less expensive for providers than care in traditional nursing facilities, industry experts said.

Some care providers in the state are limiting 24-hour skilled nursing care, which can be paid with Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor, and free personal care, said Ron Barth, president and chief executive officer of LeadingAge PA, a Mechanicsburg-based association of 350 not-for-profit organizations that provide care for senior citizens.

The trend is being spurred by insufficient Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements from the government; more seniors in need of free care; and an increase in the demand for alternative services that allow seniors to remain at home as they age, senior-care industry officials said.

The average nursing home costs $8,000 to $9,000 monthly at the private rate. Medicaid, which 65 percent of nursing-home residents receive, covers 85 percent of the cost, Barth said.

Providence Point is owned by a Mt. Lebanon-based nonprofit, Baptist Homes Society. The organization operates another campus for seniors, Baptist Homes in Mt. Lebanon, where 45 percent of residents receive Medicaid, said President and CEO Alvin Allison Jr..

Founded in 1910, Baptist Homes has faced financial challenges in recent years.

It provides a significant amount of free care — $1.5 million worth in the last fiscal year to supplement Medicare and Medicaid shortages — and it expects demand to rise with the influx of baby boomers who will need some skilled nursing care, the nonprofit reported.

“In 102 years, we have never asked anyone to leave because they were unable to pay,” Allison said in December.

Baptist Homes Society had an $11.4 million deficit in 2010, an $18.3 million deficit in 2009 and a $246,088 deficit in 2008, according to its tax returns. Allison attributed most of the deficits to the cost to build the $145 million Providence Point campus on 32 acres in 2009.

One reason it built Providence Point was to expand its independent-living program, lessening the effect of rate reductions in government reimbursements, he said.

With about 700 people at both campuses, Providence Point and Baptist Homes' Mt. Lebanon campus have occupancy rates of slightly more than 90 percent, he said.

Skilled nursing care will become a smaller portion of Baptist Homes' business as home and community-based services grow.

“Our goal is to provide seniors that we serve with a very rich quality of life and in whatever setting they happen to live in,” said Allison.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or

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