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SANDUSKY — Gov. John Kasich visited a Sandusky retirement home Monday to highlight a part of the new Ohio budget that expands choice for senior citizens in Ohio.
Governor Kasich said the state’s 2012-13 budget will allow seniors freedom to receive care in their own home or at a community facility.
“In the past if somebody wanted to stay in their home, there were limited opportunities for them to do it. That day is gone. I can’t think of anything more important to a senior than to be able to stay in their home with assistance rather than being put in a facility that they’re not comfortable with,” Mr. Kasich said to a small crowd of bureaucrats and residents at the Viewpoint Apartments.
The apartment complex, owned by National Church Residences, houses seniors and people with disabilities and is on the Sandusky waterfront, overlooking a marina.
A dozen of the 117 residents receive services in their apartments from PASSPORT, the state’s Medicaid program that assigns social workers and nurses to help people care for themselves at home.
Under Mr. Kasich’s $55.8 billion, two-year budget, nursing homes will lose about $360 million because of a reduction in the daily rate paid to nursing homes for each Medicaid-eligible resident.
The daily rate was $177.53. It falls to $167.25 in the 2012 fiscal year that began July 1 and rebounds slightly to $168.84 in the 2013 fiscal year.
Total Medicaid spending on nursing facilities is budgeted at $2.5 billion in 2013, down from $2.7 billion in 2011.
At the same time, funding for PASSPORT is set to increase more than $55 million, from $146.4 million in 2011 to $201.8 million in 2013.
The program shifts the total spending to 42 percent on home care and 58 percent on institutional care from 36 percent on home care and 64 percent on institutional care.
An administration spokesman said the change, which appears incremental as a percentage, will allow an additional 12,890 seniors to choose home care because of the lower costs.
The governor and his director of the Department of Aging, Bonnie Kantor-Burman, called the shift to home health care as a major achievement of the administration.
Ms. Kantor-Burman said the administration has made technical changes to give agencies more flexibility to assign seniors to receive in-home care rather than treat nursing home care as the default care setting.
The administration said it is creating financial incentives to encourage caregivers to do things that improve quality of life, such as allowing seniors to get out of bed or eat breakfast when they want rather than at an assigned time.
Mr. Kasich, a Republican, is traveling around the state to talk about his budget, which has been attacked by Democrats, public employee unions, social services advocates, and local government officials.
They contend the budget provides the wealthy with tax breaks while forcing local governments to raise taxes.
A woman told Mr. Kasich during the meeting that he was exaggerating the value of the additional health choices seniors will gain under his budget, especially when he extolled efforts to get seniors to exercise more.
Marilyn Dillon, 61, of Wakeman, Ohio, told Mr. Kasich, “these programs have already been in place.” She asked, “Is that $8 billion hole really filled?”
Mr. Kasich assured her the budget was “balanced, done, finished, fixed.”
In an interview later, Ms. Dillon said Mr. Kasich was not addressing important issues, such as Senate Bill 5, which restricts public employee collective bargaining, and two proposed changes in election law that critics say will make it harder for low-income and minority voters to cast ballots.
The governor said he didn’t notice the two dozen protesters who greeted his car with jeers, signs, and chants of “Kill the bill” when it drove through the entrance of Viewpoint Apartments.
He said he has no plans to revisit Senate Bill 5 at this point.
“We’re trying to save cities from going bankrupt and if cities want to keep raising taxes and driving jobs out that’s up to them. And secondly a little balance, I don’t think a public employee should get a better deal than a private sector employee,” he said.
Opponents of Senate Bill 5 are waiting for confirmation from the Ohio secretary of state that they raised enough signatures by means of a petition drive to put a question of the law’s repeal on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
Billie Johnson, president and chief executive officer for the Area Office on Aging for northwest Ohio, who attended the event, said her office will be cut by 5 percent in 2012 and another 5 percent in 2013.
She said it’s a less drastic cut than the 15 percent that was initially proposed.
Ms. Johnson said she hopes she can avoid layoffs among the nurses and social workers employed by the Area Office on Aging.
Chris Murray, director of economic and policy analysis for the Ohio Academy of Nursing Homes, told The Blade cutting reimbursement rates just shifts resources from people living in nursing homes with higher needs to people who live at home with lower needs.
“Our focus is on long-term care. Our concern is that when you’re going to cut almost $400 million out of the system we think there’s going to be some impact on the quality of care,” Mr. Murray said.
AARP Ohio, a branch of the lobbying organization for older Americans, issued a statement applauding the changes.
“Provisions in this budget ensure Ohioans will be able to get the most appropriate services to meet their needs, allowing them to avoid unnecessary and more expensive institutional care,” Jane Taylor, state director for AARP Ohio, said.
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