Canton Rep reported on Ohio’s attempt to reduce the theft of prescription drugs in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The attempt is one of several state initiatives aimed at reducing the abuse of prescription painkillers, which has led to record numbers of accidental overdose deaths in Ohio.  Another proposal targets emergency room doctors and their role in the large numbers of prescription painkillers disbursed in the state.

 

The News-Messenger had a good article on how new regulations in Ohio will require nursing homes to show that they’re providing quality and comfortable care for their residents or risk losing  funding.  Future funding for nursing homes could be tied to whether they reduce the number of times their residents go to the hospital, for instance, or increase the number of bathrooms that are wheelchair accessible.

For now, effective July 1, nursing homes must meet any five out of 20 standards or risk losing nearly 10 percent — $16 per patient per day — of their full Medicaid payments for services they provide.  Some of the standards are based on staffing levels, facilities and resident satisfaction.

The Mansfield News Journal had an interesting article on how Medicaid cuts in Ohio will affect staffing and thus the qualit of care provided to the most vulnerable among us. Nursing homes across Ohio have fired hundreds of staff after the state reduced Medicaid reimbursements to facilities on July 1.   Other chains have cut workers’ pay, as well as freezing or cutting benefits to insure profits.  Exactly how many nursing home jobs have been cut since the change in reimbursement rates isn’t certain. A survey by the two trade groups for the state’s for-profit nursing homes found 2,800 jobs lost at 333 facilities (roughly a third of the statewide total) since July. The survey by the Ohio Health Care Association and the Academy of Senior Health Sciences said about 80 percent of the 2,800 dismissed workers provided direct care to residents.

Complaints have increased including a jump in the most serious kinds of violations during the third quarter.  Republican politicians passed the reimbursement cuts in the state budget to "rebalance" the amount of money spent on seniors and people with disabilities.

Robert Applebaum, director of the Ohio Long-Term Care Research Project at Miami University’s Scripps Gerontology Center. "Research has shown … that more staffing results in better quality."

 

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."

 

 

Ohio’s Newsnet5.com had an article about their investigation into Ohio nursing homes.  Working with their partners at Scripps Howard News Service, NewsChannel5 spent three months researching care homes.   NewsChannel5 found poor ratings for a number of Cleveland-area nursing homes. In fact, a quarter of the facilities in Cuyahoga County rated just one star on Medicare’s five-star scale. Five other ManorCare properties in the area garnered just one star.

"There should be two kinds of nursing homes the excellent and non existent," said Larry Minnix, chief executive officer of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

Long-term care ombudsman, Gerald Kasunic, said, "If you smell urine or feces, or what I call the chemical hidden smell, something that may be a serious chemical odor, those are kind of bad signs."

According the SHNS and WEWS study of death records maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 19,000 people died in area nursing homes in 2005 and 2006. Of those deaths, 651 people died of accidents, skin infections or other potentially avoidable causes.