How Ohio became the No. 1 state for nursing home assistant shortages

 

This story is from the Investigative Reporting Workshop in collaboration with Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join Eye on Ohio’s free mailing list or follow IRW on Facebook as this helps us provide more public service reporting. Ohio nursing homes reported more shortages of nursing assistants than any other state during the pandemic, highlighting a problem that has been festering for decades. 

An Eye on Ohio and Investigative Reporting Workshop analysis of weekly reported data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that Ohio reported the the highest number of shortages in the country for State Tested Nursing Assistants (STNA) in 2020 and through the first half of 2021, leaving critical care positions open and shifting work to other positions suffering shortages of their own.     

Ohio has the third highest number of nursing homes behind Texas and California, and tallied STNA shortages in 26% of reports to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS). That makes Ohio the 14th worst nationwide for the percentage of nursing homes reporting too few STNAs that same year. “We just have probably the worst shortage that we've had at least in my 35 years of doing this,” said Robert Applebaum, director of the Ohio Long-Term Care Research Project at Miami University’s Scripps Gerontology Center.

SIDE BAR: The long road for nursing home legislation in the Statehouse

This story is from the Investigative Reporting Workshop in collaboration with Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join Eye on Ohio’s  free mailing list as this helps us provide more public service reporting. As Ohio grapples with the highest number of State Tested Nursing Assistant (STNAs) shortages in the country and decades-long issues of pay and work conditions, legislation over nursing homes has become a lucrative battleground both nationally and in the state. 

The industry’s primary trade group representing two-thirds of nursing homes has spent more than $30 million on lobbying to Congress since 2010. The state affiliate, Ohio Health Care Association (OHCA), and its related entities have contributed millions of dollars in recent years to political groups that have supported various campaigns, including Gov. Mike DeWine’s. 

Unlike other states, Ohio legislators — not the state’s department of Medicaid — determine the funding formula for nursing homes. Federal legislation from 1987 mandated only that nursing homes provide “sufficient staffing” of nursing assistants.

Waivers now available for Pandemic Unemployment Overpayments

Officials say approvals will be ‘later this summer’; reaching a customer service rep still an exhaustive process

This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join their free mailing list as this helps them provide more public service reporting. Maggie Rose applied for pandemic unemployment assistance in April 2020 after the restaurant she was working in shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was quickly approved. 

Then a couple weeks ago, she received an email from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family services telling her to pay the balance owed on her account. 

Rose was overpaid $12,000 – something she said was extremely scary “for someone who’s just gone through a move, hasn’t gotten a job yet, I’m using the little bit of money I have left to bring my car here.” 

Rose recently moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and because she can’t afford to pay back the balance, she appealed. 

In April, nearly 1 in 5 PUA recipients got an anxiety-inducing letter in the mail: the state requesting money back. For many who needed pandemic unemployment assistance to tide them over in the first place, finding the time or money to appeal has been a struggle.

Covid Correctional: behind Ohio’s campaign to get prisoners vaccinated

When James Burris was sent to quarantine in a solitary confinement cell, the doctor wouldn’t tell him who allegedly exposed him to the coronavirus, citing laws protecting personal medical information. Burris said he and the four other men sent off to quarantine with him deduced who might have exposed them by comparing notes. 

“None of us knew each other,” Burris says. “The only thing we had in common was we all had been in [remote] contact with the Global Tel Link lady.”

Global Tel Link, or GTL, provides digital tablets inmates can use to buy music and rent movies. Burris’ signed up to see the GTL worker because his tablet was broken, but he said he hadn’t even met with her that day because he had been in dialysis. No one in the quarantine group caught COVID-19.

How one Ohio city lowered evictions and late rental payments

Early statistics from Cleveland's Right to Counsel program show promising results - but what will happen when that moratorium ends? East Side Cleveland resident Dennis Eads ran into some trouble paying rent last year. Eads, a father of five, said he was thankful to have kept his job at a warehouse in the Cleveland area despite the pandemic. But, some of his children got sick, which meant he couldn’t go to work. “I had to quarantine at the house; I couldn’t go outside, couldn’t go to work, couldn’t get paid,” he said.

Do you owe ODJFS because of a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance overpayment? You might be eligible for a waiver

State made $1.2 billion in accidental payments, which could be forgiven

This article is from Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join their free mailing list, as this helps provide more public service reporting. When Matthew Bishop started getting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance a year ago, it pulled him out of a tight spot. Bishop, who runs a small company called Gutenberg Author Services, lost all his customers when the economy imploded in March, and had moved out of his group house and in with his parents because he couldn’t make rent. PUA was a lifeline.

Sidebar— ‘Shut your Mouth’: Journalists Face a Rising Tide of Online Harassment

Exacerbated by a polarized political climate, an increasing number of reporters in the U.S. are facing unrelenting threats of violence and harassment from people online. Here in Columbus, several reporters have experienced harassment directly. “It was maybe a week after we ran the piece,” recalled Andy Downing, editor at Columbus Alive. “I started getting all these random calls on my cell phone, like from South Africa, just all over, leaving threatening voicemails.”

Downing said he then received a message from the other Alive editor who worked on the story, Joel Oliphint, telling him to check the homepage of The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website. Downing and Oliphint had spent more than four months in 2016-2017 reporting a story on Andrew Anglin, a Worthington native and founder of the Nazi website.