Image of male nurse pushing senior woman in a wheelchair in nursing facility

A new proposal by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) would encourage nursing homes to voluntarily downsize by participating in a bed buy-back program. 

State officials unveiled the $50 million program as part of an overall two-year budget proposal released by DeWine earlier this week. The idea is a nursing home reform initiative in response to the underutilization of licensed nursing home beds in Ohio, according to the state.

The state fund would be used to buy back licensed nursing home beds from providers in appropriate regions, the Dayton Daily News first reported. The hope is that the initiative will encourage facilities to shrink, move to single-patient rooms and “remove the costly excess unused beds from the system,” a fact sheet explained.

“As Ohioans demand more community-based care options, this initiative will help rebalance the services available and improve the quality of care for all Ohioans, regardless of setting,” the fact sheet noted.

The state’s nursing home payment structure requires its Medicaid program to cover a portion of expenses for unused bed days. About 11,000, or nearly 20% of its eligible nursing home beds, were vacant prior to the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to state officials. 

Bed buy-back programs have been previously proposed by the Ohio Health Care Association, according to CEO Peter Van Runkle. He added that the association was not involved in the development of this state proposal, but said a key question will be how much the state plans to pay per bed, according to the report 

“That will drive providers’ level of interest in selling beds, and if there is interest, the number of beds that the state can buy back,” Van Runkle said.