Look out, Medicaid battle about to begin

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Well, it's happened again. Elderly Ohioans have targets squarely planted on their backs again.

That's right, elderly, cast the walker aside and duck down behind the wheelchair, the political powers in Columbus don't care about your pains, aches and suffering - at least not now.

Right now we've got more important things about which to worry. A political battle is under way. And the winners need to spin and twist words, truths and perception together in an attempt to sway the fence-perched people to their side.

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As our state leaders begin to resurrect the long-standing debate over exactly how the state should trim down the ever gluttonous Medicaid program, the political spin has begun in earnest.

This week, Gov. Bob Taft issued a warning to the state's nursing home facilities that cuts would be likely - major cuts.

If Taft's warning of a 3-percent cut are proven correct, that could mean a reduction of approximately $90 million in funds for nursing home residents.

That is a serious potential cut.

The entire issue is serious.

Reforming Medicaid is a critical piece - a huge piece - to the greater budgeting picture.

Last year, even with an already bursting-at-the-seams budget, the state's portion of the Medicaid picture featured double-digit growth rates and no promise of those astronomical increases coming down on their own.

Something needs to be done.

Ohio needs quick, meaningful Medicaid reform.

But unfortunately, what we think we're about to get is yet another budget-year shootout in which the politicians - on both sides of the issue - constantly fire with the fear of the absolute worst possible outcome and publicize it heavily for their own cause.

What a better way to get seniors on your side than portraying your opponent as seeking to rip seniors from their nursing home beds. Is that possible? Perhaps. Is it likely right this second? No.

But the targets are still firmly in place and the shooting is just about to begin. We just hope there's enough room for all the seniors behind those wheelchairs and walkers.