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Nursing home fee should go

Gov. Ted Strickland had a daunting task of creating a budget that tightened the state’s proverbial belt, fixed a flawed educational system and maintained crucial services.

Strickland’s proposed plan got it right in so many places, but sadly, may be off the mark on one change that would hurt many Ohioans who are most in need of help.

The governor’s proposal is intended to shift a larger portion of Ohio’s Medicaid costs to the state’s nursing homes, a good idea in theory but one that doesn’t seem to have been well thought out and structured fairly.

Medicaid is the health insurance program for individuals or families with low incomes. But unlike Medicare, which is solely a federal program, Medicaid is a joint federal-state program funded through combined state and federal tax dollars. Medicaid currently provides health coverage to more than 1.8 million people in Ohio at a cost of nearly $12 billion a year.

Strickland has proposed increasing the Ohio Nursing Home Franchise Permit Fees by a whopping 80 percent as a way to help offset some of this expense.

Currently, nursing homes pay $6.25 per day, per bed. The governor’s proposed increase would inflate the daily bed rate to $11.50. Nursing homes have to pay this even when beds are unoccupied.

This exorbitant increase is unacceptable and simply doesn’t make sense.

While it may fill the state coffers with an estimated $285 million in additional revenue in 2010 and 2011, it will also jeapordize the future of many nursing homes that simply won’t be able to keep up.

The increase will undoubtedly create job layoffs, higher costs to patients and potentially reduce levels of available care.

We hope to see the Legislature and the governor come together to correct this before the budget is adopted.

Our state may be facing a financial crisis but, for the sake of our future, we simply cannot afford this fee increase.