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Keeping elderly at home makes good economic sense

December 14, 2011
Salem News

Ohio state government is engaged in a delicate balancing act regarding the elderly and disabled who can't afford to pay their own health-care bills. While it will require constant monitoring to ensure those Ohioans do not suffer unnecessarily, changes now in progress are good.

Tens of thousands of Buckeye State residents rely on the Medicaid and Medicare programs to take care of them when they are unable to do so without help in their own homes. Traditionally, most of them have been sent to nursing homes.

But both the state and federal governments are cutting back on funding for such programs. Nursing home advocates in Ohio say that has been bad for them, their employees and those for whom they offer quality care.

About 2,800 jobs at Ohio nursing homes were eliminated during the past few months or will be cut soon, according to a survey of 385 institutions. As many as 20,000 more nursing home jobs may be lost because of federal cuts in Medicare spending.

But on the state's part, reduced support for nursing homes is part of a plan - one we have advocated for years.

Under Gov. John Kasich's administration, tens of millions of dollars in state funding is being shifted from providing nursing home care to supporting in-home or community-based programs for the elderly and disabled. Instead of going to nursing homes, thousands of Ohioans may be able to remain at home.

Many of them would prefer it that way - and the cost of in-home care usually is much less than for nursing homes.

Kasich and others in his administration, striving to keep state spending under control, are taking action that is both fiscally prudent and compassionate. It gives many elderly and disabled Ohioans an option to nursing home stays.

Nursing home advocates are right about one thing: Their facilities offer a level of care and supervision not possible with in-home or community care programs. But sometimes, that quality of care just isn't needed.

The Kasich administration is right to proceed with the shift - but it will require careful, objective monitoring to ensure it does not put some of the disabled and elderly at risk.



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