News Local/State

Champaign County Nursing Home Sale Finalized

Front entrance of University Rehabilitation Center of C-U in Urbana, formerly the Champaign County Nursing Home.

Front entrance of University Rehabilitation Center of C-U in Urbana, formerly the Champaign County Nursing Home. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

Champaign County government no longer operates a nursing home. The sale of the Champaign County Nursing Home to a private firm managed by William “Avi” Rothner was officially finalized as of 12:01 AM, Monday. On Tuesday, employees at the facility in Urbana were answering the phone by identifying the nursing home as University Rehabilitation Center of C-U, or University Rehab.

County Executive Darlene Kloeppel says the sale ends years of efforts to shore up the nursing home’s finances under county ownership. Those efforts included the construction of a new nursing home building, passage of special taxes to help pay for nursing home operations, the hiring of a management firm to run the nursing home and the creation of a Nursing Home Board to advise the Champaign County Board on nursing home operations.

“I would say it’s the largest issue the county’s dealt with, in terms of both time and effort and amount of meeting time and that sort of thing,” said Kloeppel. “They can now take a break from that, and start focusing on some other concerns.”

A county news release says University Rehab would continue its care for all residents of the nursing home as of the time of its ownership change, provided they have a “qualified payor source”. The new owner of University Rehab has committed to operating the facility as a 220-bed long term care facility for skilled nursing or assisted living until 2028 (Kloeppel says that just prior to its transfer to private ownership, the Champaign County Nursing Home had a census of 125). Champaign County residents will be given priority in admission, with at least 50% of the beds primarily reserved for Medicaid over the same time period. The buyer has also announced plans to invest more than a million dollars in the nursing home over the next few years.

The nursing home sale was supposed to be finalized last fall, but was delayed when the Illinois Department of Public Health identified problems at the facility.

The nursing home sold for $11 million. But the new owner is receiving about $1.3 million in credits from the county, to make up for the delay in closing the sale, and various physical plant issues.

Even with that reduction, Kloeppel says the payment from the nursing home’s new owner is enough to lighten the financial burden on taxpayers.

“The county taxpayers will see a savings in their tax bill, because two of the bonds will be paid off from the sale price,” said Kloeppel. “So therefore, we won’t be collecting taxes to pay those off any more. That will be approximately $70 over the next four years (subtracted from the property tax bill of an average home), due to early repayment of the bonds.”

Meanwhile, the Champaign County Board authorized millions of dollars in recent months to keep the nursing home running from month to month, and also to pay off a multi-year backlog of vendors’ bills and bad debt. Kloeppel says any remaining debts owed by the county from its operation of the nursing home are just from the past few months.

The sale of the Champaign County Nursing Home ends a period in which Champaign County government provided nursing care for low-income elderly people that goes back to the 1940’s and the development of nursing homes in Illinois, and back even further, to the days of county poor farms that provided a place to stay for poor people even after they became too old to work.

The sale of the Champaign County Nursing Home was controversial. Voters in 2017 approved a referendum allowing the county board to explore the option, while at the same time rejecting a special property tax to help fund the home’s operation. But critics of the sale said the quality of care, and access to care for low-income people, would suffer if the nursing home became a for-profit entity. The Champaign County Board approved the sale of the nursing home to companies controlled by the Rothner family in May, 2018. Approval came, despite questions raised by critics such as Champaign County Health Care Consumers about the quality of care at other Rothner-controller nursing homes.

County-owned nursing homes are becoming increasingly rare in Illinois. Besides Champaign County, Vermilion, Ford, DeWitt and Livingston Counties have all sold or leased out their nursing homes to private operators in recent years. County governments still own and operate nursing homes in Piatt, McLean, Peoria and Winnebago Counties.