The Richmond Register

October 29, 2012

Small business owner says ‘Obamacare’ bad for Kentucky

By Jim Waters
Bluegrass Institute

— When Dennis Budlove arrived at the Fern Terrace personal long-term care facility in Bowling Green nine months ago, he said “I felt like I came home.”

But will Budlove, 50, who suffers both physical and psychological problems, still have a home in 2014?

If Obamacare’s employer mandates remain unchanged, 4,000 residents in Kentucky’s 94 personal care homes in 82 different counties could face desperate situations, including homelessness.

Obamacare mandates that once firms grow beyond 50 employees without offering health insurance benefits, they must pay a $2,000 annual penalty for each additional employee hired – employees who will end up receiving government-subsidized health insurance.

For Owensboro’s Jack Simpson, owner of Budlove’s home and four additional personal care facilities in Owensboro, Mayfield and Murray, the bill will simply be too high.

Having endured years of abuse from state regulators and pure apathy from nearly every politician he’s approached, Simpson says the $289,000 bill he will receive for not providing health insurance to the 200 caregivers whose jobs he created will cripple operations.

“The cost would be tremendous,” Simpson said. “It would be more than I intend to pay, so that would leave me nothing to do but close.”

While not all personal care homes in Kentucky are as well-maintained as Simpson’s, he is a philanthropic entrepreneur who’s done a remarkable job of building, staffing and providing for his facilities that care for Kentuckians who neither qualify for a nursing home vacancy nor can afford an assisted living facility – all for $38.60 a day.

It’s the Lord’s work.

“I pay $822 a month,” Budlove said. “If you add up what they’re giving me here – especially the medical supplies – it would cost you more than that on the outside. Here, my medical is taken care of; there’s no co-pay and they make sure that I take my medicines at the right time and in the right amount, and they get me to the doctor. Plus, I’ve eaten healthier meals – more fruits and vegetables – since I lived at home with mom.”

How would a shutdown at Fern Terrace impact Budlove and his fellow residents at the impeccably well-run indigent-care home?

“There’s a lot of people here that would be homeless,” he said. “If I had to move out of here, I’d pretty much be lost.”

Whoever said “what happens in Washington stays in Washington” has never met Budlove.

Don’t count on the current gubernatorial administration in Frankfort to ensure the most vulnerable among us – including Budlove – don’t end up “lost,” either.

Simpson has tried repeatedly through the years to get the Beshear administration to assist him in different ways, including helping get personal care facilities qualified for Medicaid funding. Other states, including neighboring Missouri, have already taken this step.

Not only has the Beshear administration refused to help, many of Frankfort’s bureaucrats seem openly hostile to Simpson, his personal care homes and the industry in general.

Including the personal care homes under Medicaid would result in higher reimbursements and save the commonwealth a ton of money.  

For instance, many patients in Simpson’s homes are indigent and suffer from poor mental health. Considering a patient’s daily cost at one of Kentucky’s regional mental health hospitals is $685 per day, the fact that Simpson’s facilities are providing that care for a paltry $38.60 a day accrues to thousands in savings each month for each resident.

To slap Simpson with a $289,000 bill would eat up so much of that already insufficient reimbursement rate that he could no longer afford to house, feed and provide medicine and care for the residents at his first-class homes.

It also would add hundreds to Kentucky’s unemployment lines.

Jim Waters is acting president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.freedomkentucky.org/bluegrassbeacon.