The poorest of Ohio’s growing elderly population might soon find it easier to stay in their homes before going into a nursing home.

An effort by several state and national agencies to make Medicaid benefits easier to apply to long-term, in-home care could come to fruition Feb. 2 when Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland releases his two-year budget plan.

Strickland supports a proposal to change how Medicaid funds long-term care.

Now, nursing-home care is the automatic entitlement program for elderly people who qualify for Medicaid and need long-term help.

Advocates want to remove waivers required to apply that public money to in-home or assisted-living options and take away the label of discretionary that they say make these programs vulnerable to cutbacks.

Ohio faces a $7.3 billion budget shortfall. The monthly savings of in-home care compared to nursing-home costs are significant. The average stay in a nursing home costs $4,800 a month, but $1,100 for in-home care through Ohio’s Passport program, according to the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio.

The program is for people 60 or older who are low-income and qualify for skilled or immediate care, such as dressing and eating. 

In five counties – Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton and Warren – about 3,000 people are involved in Passport; 30,000 are enrolled throughout Ohio.

“We cannot afford to sustain a system that is three times the cost,” said Barbara Riley, director of the Ohio Department of Aging, which supports the push to help more people receive assistance to stay in their homes.

A change in Medicaid accessibility could speed a trend toward in-home care that still finds Ohio well behind national levels.

Nationally, 36 percent of Medicaid dollars are spent on in-home care, 64 percent for nursing homes.

In Ohio, 21 percent of Medicaid for long-term care is spent on home care, 79 percent for nursing homes.

Home care in Oregon accounts for 70 percent of Medicaid, and 30 percent goes to nursing homes.

In Ohio, the move toward more in-home options has the support of the group that represents more than 750 nursing homes, the Ohio Health Care Association.

“We need more funding for home and non-institutional settings,” said Pete Van Runkle, the group’s executive director. “There are going to be a lot more eligible people as we go down the road.”

By the year 2020 in Southwest Ohio, people age 60 and older will increase to 350,000, a 75 percent jump compared to 1980. Ohio ranks sixth in the nation in its number of people ages 60 or older – more than 2 million. Every month, another 12,000 Ohioans turn 60.

By keeping people in their homes longer with support services, the Medicaid rolls actually could stay smaller. 

Twenty percent of private payers who go into nursing homes are eligible for Medicaid. After one year, with an average cost of $58,000 a year for nursing-home care, 61 percent are eligible for government assistance.

“We’re about providing choice and options for seniors who need long-term services,” said Suzanne Burke, chief executive officer for the local Council on Aging.

By Mark Curnutte

Tender Hearts at Home Senior Care of Cincinnati, Ohio provides the best non-medical home care services with compassionate caregivers. They provide home health care, elder care, live in care, personal care, companion care, respite care, errands, transportation, home helper and senior helper services and all many other types of non-medical senior care. A family owned and operated company in Cincinnati, Ohio serving Hamilton, Butler, Warren, and Clermont counties. Please call us when your loved one needs help at 513-234-0805

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