Friday, March 5, 2004

Blackwell shouldn't blame nursing homes

Guest columnist: John Alfano

Although I applaud Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's effort to control taxpayer dollars and to support home- and community-based services, I find it unfortunate that he has chosen to beat up on those who care for our state's most frail and elderly. His column ("Ohio's seniors deserve more modern, less costly care," Feb. 1) paints a broad brush of greedy nursing home operators capitalizing on federal and state payments for institutional care. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Association of Ohio Philanthropic Homes, Housing and Services for the Aging represents not-for-profit providers of senior services. Our members provide everything from home and community based services, independent housing, assisted living to skilled nursing care. Our members have long supported choices of where the growing numbers of Ohio's seniors receive needed services. Fortunately, many of our members have foundations that assist needy residents by raising money to help offset inadequate government reimbursement that plagues all long- term care settings, including the home- and community-based care that Blackwell advocates. Ohio nursing homes provide 24-hour nursing care, housing, food and medications at about $7 an hour, or $160 a day. Compare that with state-run facilities in bordering states, and I think Blackwell will find he's getting a bargain.

I invite Blackwell to visit one of our member facilities. He could then tell the care team what the residents actually need, as he indicated in his column.

What he did not say is that state and federal governments dictate most nursing home required services. I also invite Blackwell to offer his suggestions to Rep. Shawn Webster, chair of the Nursing Facility Reimbursement Study Council. The council is exploring both funding for long-term care along with cost efficiencies. Finally, I invite Blackwell to be part of a solution that provides adequate reimbursement for quality care in all extended-care settings. That's what Ohio's seniors deserve. Is that what they'll get if the penny sales tax is removed prematurely?

John Alfano is president and chief executive officer of the Association of Ohio Philanthropic Homes, Housing and Services for the Aging.

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