Saturday, May 24, 2003

Lawmakers listen to nursing homes

For-profit sector has campaign money

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The Legislature has been helpful to the operators of Ohio's 1,000 nursing homes that house 80,000 sick or elderly residents.

When the operators wanted automatic reimbursement increases, the Legislature put it into law. Two years ago, operators were successful in removing a freeze on those state reimbursements.

When the industry wanted to slow soaring insurance premiums, lawmakers last year put limits on how much time residents and families have to file lawsuits and what evidence they can use to get compensation for abuse and negligence.

Gov. Bob Taft again wants to freeze state reimbursement rates for nursing homes. He also wants to make it easier for families to find alternatives such as assisted living and the state's Passport program, which helps seniors to stay in their homes.

Those ideas have met resistance - inside the Legislature and from the industry. The trade groups that represent the nursing homes carry considerable clout at the Statehouse.

The Ohio Health Care Association and the Ohio Academy of Nursing Home Operators - trade groups representing for-profit nursing homes - contributed a combined $322,270 to Republicans in the GOP-controlled Ohio House and Senate from 1998 through 2002, campaign finance reports show.

Experts in disability policy say they know of no other state that has a similar law mandating an annual increase in nursing home spending. Federal law requires that states provide a nursing home bed for anyone who needs one.

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