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.