August 17, 2010
Living in limbo
The closure of Motion Picture Home makes the future uncertain for residents
(Page 3 - Previous Page)
By contrast, the Motion Picture Home resettled a dozen residents on its campus but said that integrating the entire long-term care population elsewhere on campus would not be feasible; the need for full-time care is still too costly.
“It cost us money,” the Jewish Home’s Forrest said. But, “we were concerned that we could not evict them, because they would have no place to go.”
Both homes are nonprofit providers, which means their residents tend to be less affluent; most of those residents — Forrest estimates about 80 percent — are dependent on government subsidies. “They are not the ones who are going to go to Sunrise and Belmont, [private facilities] because they’re poor, and you can’t get into those places if you’re poverty-stricken.”
Even if the Motion Picture Home has a glamorous reputation, in reality it serves Hollywood’s needy. “A lot of their people are not, frankly, the movie stars and the elite of Hollywood,” Forrest said. “They are the people who worked within that industry, and they may have a pension, but for the most part, they’re not money people.”
With a swelling elderly population in need of full-time care, and a paucity of working-age adults available to care for them, many Americans have no other choice but to turn to a nursing home.
“Most Americans believe that the government pays for nursing-home care and yet, nursing-home care is not covered by the government,” Forrest said.
This new, stark reality has many predicting a demand for social reforms that include long-term care benefits. But, for the time being, Forrest says, the reimbursement rates for skilled nursing care are so low (especially in California), the costs of building and maintaining facilities for that kind of care so high, and the regulatory environment so tough, it discourages nonprofits from entering the industry. “No one would choose to build a nursing home for people who are poor in California, and yet there is a huge need for poor people to be able to have 24-hour skilled nursing care. It is a societal problem,” Forrest said.
The MPTF’s promotion of “aging in place” has its own set of challenges - namely, how average working families can physically and financially support such care. And, yet, the fund has cause to be concerned about its bottom line: Unlike the Jewish Home, the MPTF also runs seven other health centers, providing a wide range of outpatient care throughout Los Angeles, serving an estimated 60,000 people per year. Ultimately, the MPTF has had to weigh its ability to provide long-term residential care to, at most, 165 people at a time, against serving 60,000 others. To put it bluntly, what are a couple of hundred elderly patients really worth when the fund has responsibilities to thousands?
Where It All Began
No one could have imagined this outcome when the fund began in 1921 with a passing of the hat to raise money for industry colleagues in need. Afterward, a group of wealthy stars established the Motion Picture Relief Fund, which operated on tzedakah box-style giving at first, providing a range of services from health-care assistance to help with mortgage payments. Studios and unions soon bought into the fund, in many cases instituting compulsory giving for industry members at the highest end of the earnings spectrum. And in 1940, actor Jean Hersholt found the 48-acre property in the San Fernando Valley that would become the Motion Picture Home.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I had a fantasy that someday I would wind up in the Motion Picture Home,” actress Renee Taylor said last April. “I had this romantic idea that I would write shows and end my days there.” Taylor and her husband and collaborator, Joe Bologna, have been working to save the home over the past year, including hosting a fundraiser at their Beverly Hills residence, which drew actors Elliott Gould and Alan Rosenberg and raised $30,000. Taylor said the proceeds were offered to MPTF with the condition that they keep long-term care open; the fund refused the money.
The reason? Beitcher, the fund’s CEO said, “$30,000 keeps LTC [long-term care] open for one day, so why would we accept the money on the condition of keeping it open forever?”
When Beitcher took over from former CEO David Tillman in February 2010, he immediately made efforts to clean up the mess.
Beitcher quickly issued a mea culpa to the press: “Clearly, we just sprang [the closure] on everyone. We can now look back and say we f—-ed up,” he told TheWrap.com. “We communicated it incredibly poorly, and it just made people crazy. We still haven’t been able to clarify it.”
Film producer Sid Ganis, vice president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as well as its former president, said that bringing Beitcher on board was a good move for MPTF.
“I know [Beitcher] well, and I know the kind of person he is, and I also know what’s preceded him, what’s happened at the home,” Ganis said. “They have a running start with him as head, because he’s a wonderful, ethical family man and devoted to the elders in his life. On top of that, he’s a very good businessman, so if things are changing, they couldn’t have picked a better guy to effect the change.”
When Beitcher was asked, for this article, whether the board ever considered reversing its decision in the face of the community’s outcry, he responded by e-mail: “At no point have we ever considered reversing our decision. The fact that it wasn’t popular with the residents and their families isn’t surprising, nor is it a valid reason to reverse course.”
Irma Kalish, who served on the MPTF board for 27 years and has writing credits on shows like “I Dream of Jeannie” and “All in the Family,” resigned from the board in March 2009 in protest. She felt the fund was abdicating responsibility to its founding principles, giving itself over to a hardened corporate philosophy.
“I don’t know whether it’s business first and morality second — I think it’s business first and everything else second,” Kalish said. “The corporate mentality does not think in humanistic terms. They only think in dollars and cents and the bottom line,” she said from her home in Rancho Mirage.