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Published: Tuesday, 9/6/2005

Save home health care

THE state is proposing to sock licensed practical nurses in the Ohio Home Care Program under Medicaid with a 30 percent pay cut.

That s outrageous, and the nurses cannot afford that. But if enacted, this harebrained proposal wouldn t hurt only the LPNs. It also means the families of the disabled they help will have to find other means of care.

There is still time to stop this ridiculous move. The proposal is subject to action by the legislature s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, which should rule in favor of the LPNs and the families they care for. What this all stems from is a 4 percent annual growth cap state lawmakers put on Medicaid in June. Higher expenses means projected spending must be trimmed by $2.3 billion.

Medicaid has been criticized as a huge drain on the state budget. That may be, but butchering nurses salaries is unfair and will hurt families under their care, putting the burden of budget cuts on the most vulnerable Ohioans.

The program provides in-home care and through community-based services to more than 10,700 residents with disabilities. That will cost $222 million this year. The cuts would take effect in January, and if it happens, it will wipe LPNs from the program. Last year they helped care for more than 900 patients.

The state s reasoning for its proposal is unusual. While registered nurses typically earn more than LPNs, the home care program pays both the same amount: $55 for the first hour and then $22.28 after that. The proposal is to slash the LPNs rate to $38.50 and then $15.96. What that will mean is that LPNs will have to get second jobs to make ends meet if they stay in nursing at all. And how much money will the state save if the proposal is approved? No more than $8 million. The legislative committee should step back from the brink, see how ridiculous this policy prescription is, and reject it.

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