By Mike Linn
The city of Portales received payment for Heartland Continuing Care Center’s water bill on Thursday, nullifying the city’s threat to cut off the nursing home’s water because of delinquent payment.
City clerk Joan Martinez-Terry said the city received payment in full — $10,760 — for the bill that was about five months overdue. City officials recently sent a letter to the nursing home, saying the water would be cut off on Monday unless the bill was paid.
Nursing home officials said delays in receiving funds from state agencies for Medicaid patients has placed them in a financial strain, forcing them to prioritize bills.
Heartland officials said Thursday they are waiting on roughly $160,000 in outstanding monies from the state for 12 of the 72 residents living in the home.
While waiting for those state funds, they’ve had to pay for more important services first — including those that relate directly to patient care — said Ranelle Tweedy, the home’s administrator.
“It wasn’t that we singled out the water company; we were just prioritizing our bills,” Tweedy said.
The Portales city attorney sent several letters seeking payment from Heartland, but Martinez-Terry said Heartland personnel did not respond to the letters.
Officials at Heartland, the only 24-hour assisted nursing home in Roosevelt County, said delays in Medicaid reimbursements have progressively gotten longer.
“Why does it take so long to get funds for our people?” asked Judy Greer, the director of nursing at the home.
For one of their Medicaid residents, it took 11 months to receive reimbursement, she said.
“Maybe it’s a staffing thing in this county — too many are applying for Medicaid (for the amount of people trying to process and arrange the applications),” Heartland office manager Cindy Westerman said.
Officials at Roosevelt County’s Income Support office could not be reached Thursday afternoon to comment specifically on delays for Heartland residents. Income Support is a state agency that helps those in need of financial assistance, including those applying for Medicaid.
However, nursing home personnel in the area said the application process for Medicaid is distinct for each applicant: some applications take longer than others based on an applicant’s needs and how long it takes to gather files.
In the past, the process typically has taken three months, Greer said, but lately that time has been extended considerably for many applicants.