People enter the Farmingdale offices of Home Care for Maine on Monday. The nonprofit announced last week it would be closing April 30. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

FARMINGDALE — The care of 582 patients hangs in the balance following the announcement that Home Care for Maine, a Farmingdale-based nonprofit that provides in-home care for elderly people statewide, will be closing April 30.

The nonprofit’s attorney Newell Augur told the Kennebec Journal on Monday that the nonprofit has been hurt by low reimbursement rates from MaineCare, which often causes the company to lose 40 to 50 cents for every hour of service it provides. He said the rising minimum wage has also compounded the fiscal issues. The expansion of background checks and fingerprinting also added to the nonprofit’s costs.

“The minimum wage has gone up and there’s been no increase in the Maine Care reimbursement rate,” Augur said. “We’re trying to pay (our employees) a little more than (the minimum wage). We ought to be paying them more than that, but we’re losing money for each hour of service we provide at this rate.”

Augur said the rate of reimbursement for Personal Support Services, what he called the “backbone of the service,”  is $5.13 for per 15-minute increments, or $20.52 an hour.

He said there is no further MaineCare reimbursement for travel between patients for care providers, meaning the large rural swaths of the state that are covered eat up any profit margin. Augur said the Department of Health and Human Services has issued a request for proposals for a reevaluation of the reimbursement rates, but he worried that action may not come fast enough.

“By the time they get that in place, there’s going to be (damage) to the infrastructure,” he said. “It needs attention immediately.”

Augur called the company’s closure a “crisis” for its patients, who come from each of the state’s 16 counties. He said it might be difficult to find agencies to take on those clients, especially in more rural areas of the state.

He said the company is working to help find new jobs for its 365 employees, who will likely be able to find new jobs because there is a workforce shortage in the home-care industry.

“We’re working very hard so that our employees all land on their feet,” Augur said. “Given the workforce shortage, our hope … is that our workers are going to be able to find work if they want it.”

Jackie Farwell, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement that the department was disappointed to hear about the closure of Home Care for Maine. She said the department “stands ready to assist as needed with the transition of clients to other agencies and the Maine Department of Labor is prepared to provide Rapid Response resources to affected employees.”

SeniorsPlus president Betsy Sawyer-Manter, who said her company is one of two service coordination agencies in the state that help elderly people find the right service provider for them, said the loss of Home Care for Maine is a “huge loss to the industry.”

“It’s a huge loss to the state of Maine because they’re a reputable, well-run company,” she said. “In particular, it’s a huge loss to … people who are potentially losing that resource.”

Sawyer-Manter said her company provided 460 clients to Home Care for Maine and helps 4,400 find services statewide. Among the agencies they provide clients to, Sawyer-Manter said there are 10,000 unfilled hours each week of in-home care.

Representatives from the Office of Aging and Disability Services were not immediately available for comment. Home Care for Maine CEO Dawn Palmer was also not available for comment.

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