Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Taft wants more for seniors and disabled

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Gov. Bob Taft in his State of the State speech today will push for changes in the way Ohio cares for senior citizens and mentally retarded people.

        Mr. Taft is expected to ask lawmakers to support expanding state services that would help more elderly and developmentally disabled Ohioans live as independently as possible.

        The governor's initiatives will be more fully detailed in his state budget proposal, which will be released Monday.

        An administration official said Mr. Taft will seek more money for the state's PASSPORT program, which lets seniors stay in their homes with help from Medicaid instead of living in nursing homes.

        The governor is expected to ask for more money to expand the number of individual options waivers, which use Medicaid funds to let mentally retarded and developmentally disabled Ohioans live outside state-run or state-licensed facilities.

        “We will not lose sight of our obligation to care for those in need — our youngest, our oldest and persons who are physically, mentally or developmentally disabled,” Mr. Taft says in one draft of the speech.

        The announcement follows an Enquirer investigation that showed the state gives millions every year to nursing homes to pay for beds and medical services that many older Ohioans never use.

        State records show more than one out of every 10 nursing home beds went unused on any given day last year. Daily Occupancy rates for Ohio's 980 nursing homes has fallen from 93.5 percent in 1993 to 86.7 percent last year.

        One reason for the decline is the state's PASSPORT program, which uses Medicaid funds to pay for services and assistants to help seniors live in their own homes. Membership in the program has risen from 7,600 seniors in 1992 to 24,250 last year.

        PASSPORT and other programs like it cut costs for the state. The state spends an average $47,000 a month for a nursing home bed, but only $8,800 each month per PASSPORT client.

Officials seek heat solutions
- Taft wants more for seniors and disabled
Education, economy dominate Taft State of the State agenda

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