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The Statehouse News Bureau provides educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations.

Ohio's nursing homes hope for more money soon - and in next year’s budget

[Kiselev Andrey Valerevich, shutterstock.com /  ]

A lobby representing Ohio’s nursing homes is asking the state to give them another $600 million to help them offset increased costs for providing care to Ohioans at nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and assisted living facilities.

State lawmakers who are considering the request for increased funding know the money could come from the state’s allocation of federal COVID dollars. That money must be spent soon. And the nursing facilities want a good chunk of it to go to them.

Ohio Health Care Association Executive Director Pete Van Runkle said nursing facilities statewide need millions more to stay afloat due to the increased costs for staffing.

"The cost of everything has certainly gone up in the past year or two," Van Runkle said.

Van Runkle said most nursing homes are hurting right now and said some are not breaking even because of the increased costs, many of which came about as a result of the pandemic.

“They’re just upside down in terms of revenue versus costs. The costs have gone up so much starting with wages but really going on to every other thing that they have to buy," Van Runkle said.

Van Runkle said most of the cost is for staff. And he said some have had to resort to getting staff from agencies because they can't hire enough staff on their own for their facilities.

And while Van Runkle said nursing homes need those COVID dollars now, he said they also need a dedicated funding stream that will sustain them longer term. He said when Ohio resets its new Medicaid reimbursement rates, the state needs to start reimbursing for services at a higher level. 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 says rates were last updated in 2021 based on 2019 pre-pandemic costs. And he said reimbursement is based on what the lowest 25% of facilities are paying. He wants that raised to 50%.

Van Winkle said he doesn't know what state lawmakers might do for nursing homes in the near future. But he said the facilities he represents need more money soon because many of them are not able to sustain the costs on their own.

During the past year, nursing homes contributed nearly $1.5 million in campaign contributions, mostly to Republicans who now have control of state government.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.