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Seniors, Aides Protest Planned Cuts to Medicaid

Seniors, Aides Protest Planned Cuts to Medicaid

The Blade

July 02, 2009

Margaret Bryant would rather die than live in a nursing home.

For more than a decade, the 67-year old spitfire has lived in her own quarters in an apartment center for senior citizens on Arlington Avenue.

She is independent but not alone.

Four times a week for three hours at a time, a home health aide comes to assist her — among other things, preparing meals and changing the water in her humidifier.

A skilled nurse comes to check her twice a week. And she has an emergency button — just in case.

“I have my own, individual space,” she said of life at the senior center. “It’s not like someone else controlling my life, telling me what to or not to do.”

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But if Governor Ted Strickland has his way, it will become significantly more difficult for people such as Mrs. Bryant to receive the long-term care they require while maintaining their independence.

As part of his plan to trim $2 billion from Ohio’s budget, the governor is considering cuts of 18 percent of funding from the PASSPORT Medicaid Home Care program for seniors, the program that has allowed Mrs. Bryant and thousands of senior citizens across Ohio to maintain their independence.

Cuts in PASSPORT funding would force more senior citizens to enter nursing homes, putting additional strain on the state’s Medicaid budget, according to Northwest Ohio’s Area Office on Aging, a private, nonprofit corporation.

“Our PASSPORT consumers do need to meet a nursing-home level of care,” said Pam Wilson, vice president of long-term care with the Office on Aging. “They are unable to take care of their own body and need assistance doing things like bathing, getting dressed, feeding themselves.”

She explained that if the proposed cuts go through, it would be much more difficult for PASSPORT to admit new members and that it is not yet clear whether the cuts would affect the services that PASSPORT provides to its existing consumers, a source of consternation for members.

Ms. Wilson said she was not able to say which taxes should be raised or what cuts should be made to other agencies to avoid cuts to the PASSPORT program.

After the governor’s announcement, an elderly woman with a history of heart problems needed to go to the hospital because the proposed cuts so upset her, Beth Czajka, a caseworker with PASSPORT, said.

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