Ohio's nursing homes get a boost in the state budget, but there's a bit of a catch
Ohio’s new two year state budget includes $1.4 billion for nursing homes to provide incentives for increasing quality of care and for more inspectors. And it also increases penalties for facilities that fail to provide quality care.
Much of the money is tied to specific measures outlined by federal Medicare and Medicaid, but there’s additional funds for private rooms and for patients on ventilators. There's also significant additional funding for skilled nursing facilities.
Pete Van Runkle speaks for the Ohio Health Care Association, which lobbies for nursing homes, and said that money is needed, since many facilities are still recovering from staffing losses during the pandemic.
“Our staffing numbers aren't great in Ohio. It's just a fact, and that's tied to reimbursement. If you don't have the money, you can't hire people," Van Runkle said. "We're very hopeful that the significant amount of additional funding that's coming to skilled nursing is going to really help us to be able to hire more staff, pay the staff that we have a better wage, and really improve the workforce."
Van Runkle said his group of 1,300 skilled nursing facilities, assisted living centers and other providers has asked the state how more inspectors will be hired.
"Quite frankly, they're having trouble filling even the existing positions that they have for the same reasons that our members are having difficulty filling their positions," Van Runkle said, adding that the state "declined to say how many additional people they might be adding."
Gov. Mike DeWine has touted the incentives for being well-staffed and providing quality care, but he also said in a press conference after signing the budget, "Consistently bad nursing homes will face greater penalties, and those that refuse to improve will be put out of business."
Van Runkle said he’s not sure how that will work, or why the state wanted to increase penalties when there are federal penalties in place for nursing homes that fail their residents.
“We'll just have to wait and see how much it gets used, and under what circumstances," Van Runkle said. "Our feeling is that they're probably not going to use it all that much, but they just wanted to have this extra weapon in their toolkit.”
The nursing home industry donated $1.4 million in Ohio’s last election cycle. But Van Runkle says the funding comes from increased need, not financial connections.
“It can't just be, okay we're friends with particular legislators, or a group or a large number of them. We also have to make the case of why this funding is needed. There's only so much to go around. We have more this year than usual, but there's only so much to go around.”
DeWine also announced the state will build an easy to navigate website with detailed information on facilities so families can compare options. But Van Runkle said there's no direct funding for that in the budget.