Numerous media outlets have been reporting the nursing home industry’s attack on unpopular Republican Governor John Kasich. The Columbus Dispatch reported that Kasich is cutting revenue for nursing homes in an effort to cut the state’s income tax in 2012.
Kasich accused the nursing home lobby of using political donations to win cash for votes and made a call to arms in the Senate to uphold $427 million in cuts to nursing homes that were approved as part of the budget. Medicaid is the state and federally paid healthcare system that serves about 2.1 million poor, elderly and disabled Ohioans. About 50,000 people live in nursing homes under Medicaid while another 30,000 are receiving assistance at-home.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the nursing home lobbyists responded with a 30-second television ad of an elderly woman in a bed and a picture of Kasich in the foreground. It ends with a condemnation of the "Kasich cuts," a hand pulling a plug out of the wall, a flat-line EKG and a message to call your state senator "before it’s too late."
The nursing homes said the proposed cuts will mean cuts to staff, as many as 7,000 jobs lost, and that will affect the quality of care offered to residents living at the facilities. However, 15 percent of the nursing homes beds in Ohio are empty and facilities could consider consolidation to lower their overhead costs. Currently nursing homes spend about 60 percent of their budgets on administrative costs and the rest on the care of residents.
Kasich, citing 7-year-old statistics from a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of spending on nursing-home care, said Ohio pays more per capita on nursing homes than all but five other states. Citing numbers his staff has collected from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Kasich said nursing homes and people affiliated with them have contributed $4.51 million to Ohio candidates and political-action committees since 2004. He said they donated $1.7 million to Ohio politicians and committees in 2010.
"The amount of money we spend per capita (on nursing homes) is through the roof, and they have used their political influence to run public policy," Kasich said. "No group should use political influence to run public policy in the state of Ohio."
Bloomberg Business Week also had an article with additional information showing Medicaid money paying for six-figure salaries for Administrators in 200 Ohio nursing homes, and the industry is spending millions of Medicaid dollars to employ owners’ family members and to hire related side businesses. About 1,100 family members of owners are employed around the state, according to reports. Overall, nursing facilities reported spending $44.1 million on businesses in which owners have an interest.
Cathy Levine, executive director of the Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio, an advocacy group, said nursing home expenses deserve review.
"We have terrifying unmet needs for basic human services like food and medical care that people are going without that need to be addressed through our government," she said. "So we need our lawmakers to scrutinize how every dollar is being spent on administration and overhead to make sure those resources are going to deliver care to the frail elderly and older adults."