Ohio House Approves $615 Million for Nursing Homes

Lawmakers in the Ohio House attached an amendment to a bill that would send $615 million to skilled nursing facilities to assist with staffing shortages and keep establishments open.

The amendment was attached to Senate Bill (SB) 110 sponsored by State Senators Sandra O’Brien (R-Ashtabula) and Steve Wilson (R-Maineville) which already appropriates $465 million for rental assistance programs.

State Representative Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) said this amendment will bring critical short-term relief to skilled nursing facilities which have been having funding and staffing challenges since COVID-19.

“We’re seeing them shut down across the state, all over the place. They’re bleeding and we have to stop the bleeding,” Edwards said.

The nursing home industry has asked lawmakers to evaluate the state’s share of funding. The reimbursement rate is set at pre-pandemic levels, which advocates say is not enough to keep the facilities from closing.

According to Ohio Health Care Association Executive Director Pete Van Runkle, when Ohio re-adjusts its new Medicaid reimbursement rates, the state needs to start reimbursing at a higher level for services. That would require a change during the “rebasing” process, where the state updates reimbursement rates every five years based on new cost data. Van Winkle said rates were last updated in 2021 based on 2019 pre-pandemic costs. And he said reimbursement is based on what the lowest 25 percent of facilities are paying. He wants that percentage raised to 50 percent.

According to a March 2022 report produced by CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, the cost of care and other operations in nursing homes is far exceeding their reimbursement rates, resulting in a projected 4.8 percent negative margin. The industry is also facing a historic workforce crisis and significant declines in occupancy as a result of the pandemic. The unprecedented challenges have reduced access to care for seniors and individuals with disabilities across the country.​

Chris Murray, CEO of the Academy of Senior Health Sciences Inc. said that additional funding will drive better care.

“The problem you run into are the residents in those facilities that are suffering because they don’t get the care they need,” Murray said.

House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) said there is an obvious urgency for many nursing homes, some of which had to shut down.

“I think there is a clear urgency, and many nursing homes are having financial difficulty. It’s important to preserve the capacity so that when people actually need to be there, they have someplace to go,” Cupp said.

Edwards noted that the money, which is $204 million in state revenue funds and $411 million in federal matching funds, is a short-term solution while lawmakers consider a long-term in the next year.

According to Edwards, of the money, 40 percent goes through the funding formula for nursing homes set in state law based on direct care, ancillary support, capital, and tax costs. The other 60 percent goes to homes that meet certain quality of care incentives based on four health outcomes. The four health outcomes are the rates of residents who experience pressure ulcers, urinary tract infections, lost movement ability, and catheter insertion.

State Representative Bride Rose Sweeny (D-Cleveland) said she wants to ensure elder care is properly funded but has concerns about the lack of clarity in the bill’s language that the funds will definitely go toward better care outcomes or more money for nurses and other laborers in the future.

“The concern I still have is clarity and making sure the money goes directly to the needs,” Sweeny said.

The bill passed in the House 63-18 and continues back to the Senate for review.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Sandra O’Brien” by State Senator Sandra O’Brien. Photo “Steve Wilson” by State Senator Steve Wilson. Background Photo “Elderly Man Sitting Beside Woman by the Window” by Kampus Production.

 

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