A blue closed sign shows through a glass door

Three nursing homes in Cincinnati, OH, are closing, and sector advocates blame the stress that insufficient Medicaid rates and workforce challenges are putting on facilities. 

The program director of a seniors’ advocacy group told local news that the “voluntary closures” were business decisions with facility owners deciding to “right-siz[e] their businesses.” 

“In all cases, they own multiple facilities,” Linda Kerdolff, program director, long-term care ombudsman at Pro Seniors, a nonprofit seniors’ advocacy in Southwest Ohio, told WCPO. “There’s a lot of empty beds and so they’re shutting down and looking to consolidate.”

Pete Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association, said low Medicaid reimbursements and workforce problems are plaguing the state’s nursing homes. More than 30 skilled nursing facilities have closed there over the last three years. 

“It is mainly reimbursement that has not kept up with cost increases, as exacerbated by COVID-19,” Van Runkle told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Tuesday. “Most of it is the cost of labor and challenges in finding workers, which leads to reliance on hyper-expensive agency staffing.”

Van Runkle said Ohio Medicaid rates are based on 2019 costs. The association is working with state lawmakers to sway them into rebasing using 2022 costs, since costs have gone up an estimated 25%. That increase would come to more than $50 per day – on average – under language written into a bill in the state House of Representatives.

The gap between Medicaid reimbursement and the cost of care is approximately $80 per day, on average, Van Runkle said, noting that the association is encouraging state senators to make minor adjustments to the House bill. 

“Our request seems to be acceptable, but there’s a long way to go,” he said, adding that 60% of any increase would go toward a facility’s quality incentive payment. 

For now, many Ohio non-profit nursing homes must make tough decisions, such as closing beds and restricting services, to remain solvent, noted Susan Wallace, president and CEO of LeadingAge Ohio.

“When those solutions don’t prove enough and the feasibility of providing quality care grows dim, they’re forced to close their doors altogether, further restricting the care options in their communities,” she said. “The future of aging services in our state is in jeopardy unless action is taken in Ohio’s budget.”

Wallace said she was glad to see state stakeholders acknowledging problems in the system. The governor has convened a Nursing Home Task Force, of which both Wallace and Van Runkle are members. It held a scheduled meeting Tuesday.

The House also included what Wallace called “historic budget investments in aging care” that “should be safeguarded in the Senate.”

“We hope these are key indicators of upcoming movements in our state to help our aging providers care for our aging community,” she said.

But for some communities — including Cincinnati — any future action comes too late.

The three city facilities in the midst of closing are Highlands Post Acute, Judson Care Center, and Advanced Rehab of Clifton Park, which WCOP said is operating as Solivita of Oak Pavilion. Their closures will displace 200 residents.