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Daily nursing home rates look healthy

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Two out of six area nursing homes are charging patients below the state average, according to a report released by the North Dakota Department of Health this week.

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Good Samaritan Nursing Center in Mott and St. Benedict's Health Center in Dickinson consistently came in lower than the average in each category, according to the report.

Daily rates across the region range from $121 to $376 a day, compared to the statewide average of $139 to $323.

Jon Frantsvog, the administrator/CEO at St. Benedict's, said the report gives a snapshot of the larger picture.

"The list is really for consumers," Frantsvog said, adding the pricing involved is very complex and difficult to explain.

Frantsvog said when rates are set by North Dakota there are four categories of costs taken into account:

* Direct costs -- nursing and food

* Other direct costs -- activities, social services

* Indirect costs -- administration costs

*r Property costs -- equipment and the actual physical location

Once the cost reports are submitted, the state determines what the cost per day, per resident will be at each nursing home. These costs vary depending on the level of care needed.

Karen Boulden, the administrator/CEO at St. Luke's Home in Dickinson, said it depends on certain management decisions the nursing home makes and how many residents it has.

"It's so complicated and every nursing home is different and it is something set by the state," Boulden said. "In fact, we're trying to be very careful stewards of our residents money because we realize it's not only their money, it's the taxpayer's money."

Medicaid and Medicare provide reimbursement to help cover some patients' costs.

Frantsvog said there are several advantages that St. Ben's has that St. Luke's doesn't that effect the cost. St. Ben's is owned by a larger corporation, Benedictine Health Systems. This helps keep costs down, Frantsvog said, including their insurance, which is provided by the corporation, not an outside provider.

Another factor in the higher rates between St. Luke's and St. Ben's is the number of residents. St. Ben's has about twice the residents of St. Luke's and therefore its costs can be spread between more people.

"We have a very good nurse-to-residents ratio and of course that costs," Boulden said. "That's the most expensive one we have, is the nursing."

Frantsvog said all they can do is do their best to serve their residents.

"There's nothing wrong with people having incredibly high expectations of us and us having to work very hard to meet those expectations everyday," Frantsvog said.

LINK: http://www.ndhealth.gov/hf/pubs/NursingFacilityCharges/2009.pdf

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