COLUMBUS - Today State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and Democratic members of the Ohio House of Representatives Commerce and Labor Committee issued statements after being denied answers to questions on HB 466, legislation that would cap staffing agency charges to nursing homes and significantly increase Medicaid payments for Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/IID) using COVID relief dollars.
“There was no one there to answer our questions. This is frustrating. Ohioans deserve better,” said Rep. Willis Blackshear (D-Dayton). “Republicans just rushed this bill through committee.”
“I am disappointed with my Republican colleagues. This bill has serious financial implications for the state and its healthcare workers, and to have our questions dismissed out of hand was appalling,” said Rep. Shayla Davis (D-Garfield Heights). “The bill was amended twice and voted on without the sponsor answering the committee’s questions. Numerous important questions were left unasked and unanswered before the vote.”
“It’s problematic that no one is here to answer questions. You’re putting forth a bill that we know costs Ohioans tens of millions in taxpayer dollars. It’s our job to ask questions and properly vet these bills because they impact people’s lives,” said Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland).
Democrats’ questions regarding two separate amendments went unanswered. One amendment would dramatically change the funding formula for ICFs/IIDs, drastically altering the bill. Accordingly to the Legislative Service Commission (LSC), these facilities could potentially reap an increase in payments totaling $35.3 million in tax payer dollars in 2023.
“This bill raises a lot of questions. What are the requirements, metrics, or standards that show us this will improve patient outcomes,” said Rep. Monique Smith (D-Fairview Park). “I want accountability. I want Republicans in Columbus to demonstrate that this will help Ohioans instead of the pocketbooks of executives. This bill deserves further examination given the recent stories about private equity investors.”
A federal report found that 11% of U.S. nursing homes and 4% of hospitals are now owned by private equity firms. Ohio has one of the most profitable ICFs, with three large private equity investors operating in the state. A Congressional Investigation is currently underway to examine grossly substandard care and unsafe living conditions in group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The rushed committee hearing on HB 466 comes within days of news that an Ohio state lawmaker proposed a $300m handout to nursing homes after raising $52,000 from their agents.
“What an arrogant exhibition of legislative cruelty thrust upon Ohioans. All to divert tens of millions of tax payer dollars to nursing home execs while capping the wages of our front line heroes who rose to the occasion during a global health pandemic,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan, the Ranking Member of the Ohio House Commerce and Labor Committee. “No one was there to properly answer questions. It’s a disrespectful attempt to cover up corruption, jammed through committee and down our throats. What a disgrace.”