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St. Lawrence County CHHA discharges last patient

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CANTON — The St. Lawrence County Certified Home Health Agency discharged its last patient Friday, but the county’s Long-Term Health Care Agency will remain open for a while longer.

The county CHHA was a casualty of last year’s budget discussions because legislators did not think it would be able to compete with other agencies that were planning to offer the same services. The county began winding down the agency this year.

However, the county cannot end its long-term health care program until another agency is ready to accept its clients. Long-term care covers patients with chronic conditions whose bills are paid by Medicaid. Medicaid reimbursements are typically lower than those paid by Medicare, insurance companies and self-pay clients who use home health care.

The county agency has 48 long-term care clients. “That’s going to be a pretty static number because the state won’t allow us to take on any more people,” Public Health Director Susan J. Hathaway said.

A committee of the state’s Public Health and Health Planning Council recently approved the application of Health Services of Northern New York, one of the county’s existing CHHAs, to take on long-term care clients. The full council is scheduled to meet April 11.

However, the transfer of patients will not be immediate, Ms. Hathaway said.

The state Department of Health must approve policies and procedures of Health Services of Northern New York, which also must receive a Medicaid rate.

“We don’t know how long that will take,” Ms. Hathaway said. “It might be a four- to six-week transition.”

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