Home health care agencies across Ohio are facing an uncertain future with looming state budget cutbacks and limited financial aid associated with federal COVID-19 funding.
One in four Ohioans receive health insurance through medicaid, the state program for low-income residents and the disabled.
And while a recently announced $210 million cut in Ohio's budget for medicaid is not expected to immediately impact care, anticipated future budget cutbacks are raising serious concerns about whether some home health care agencies can survive.
Meanwhile, $50 billion in federal CARES Act funding earmarked for home health care nationwide will help; it's coupled with terms and conditions, plus tax documents that must be provided before agencies can receive funding and is not expected to be nearly enough to offset rising expenses.
At the same time, many home health care agencies are still struggling to obtain vital personal protective equipment like masks and gloves.
Megan Coffy is a nurse who travels to clients home every day and sees the need first hand.
"We're it for some of these clients," says Coffy. "We're the only people going in to see them so it's a reassurance for them."
Coffy is employed by the Girard, Ohio based "Patriot at Home" Health Care that remains thriving despite the financial pressures facing many others as well as obtaining needed personal protective equipment — that remains in demand elsewhere.
Greg Davis founded "Patriot at Home" and says his conversations with agencies across the state paint a potentially bleak future.
"There are some that are really on thin ice at this point," says Davis. "So they could feasibly go under this month or in the coming months."
"Some companies cannot get right now the equipment they need to protect themselves and the patient — and that's a big concern right now," says Coffy.
Joe Russell is the Executive Director of Ohio Council for Home Care & Hospice that represents home health agencies across the state.
"What concerns me the most," says Russell, "is that we are facing a situation where we could be at the beginning of the end for medicaid home health."
Russell says many will be left without services or forced to into more expensive long term care facilities.
Russell says the stark financial reality facing many agencies lies in medicaid reimbursements that have not increased in years and the fact that agencies can make three times as much from medicare patients compared with medicaid for the very same services.