Of all the exaggerations John Kasich sprinkled through the State of the State address on Tuesday, none invited raised eyebrows like his claim about the PASSPORT program. The governor pushed the impression that his administration had accomplished what previous governors had tried and failed to do — allowing seniors to stay out of costly nursing care and remain independent in their homes.
“For 25 years, this state wanted Mom and Dad to have the resources to stay in their own homes if they were able and not be forced into a nursing home … ” the governor relayed. “For 25 years, this was, this effort was made to fix this. We did it, didn’t we? We got it done. … We won the battle.”
No question, the governor rightly wants to travel this path of higher quality and less cost. Ohio must accelerate in a big way the availability of the option. Yet the effort didn’t begin with the Kasich team. Go back to the 1990s, and George Voinovich championed the program. So did Bob Taft.
And they succeeded in keeping seniors out of nursing homes. By the time Taft left office at the start of 2007, caseloads exceeded 26,000.
Measure Ted Strickland from the beginning of his first budget to the end of the biennium in June 2011, and the caseload climbed to 32,694, or by 5,919, 22 percent. Again, not at the rate of leading states, but far from a challenge waiting for a new governor to deliver a revelatory idea.
And how has John Kasich done? A rapid acceleration now that the battle has been won? Mind you, the administration has performed much good work in improving Medicaid. The PASSPORT caseload? Under the governor’s budget, 386 cases have been added, or an increase of 1.2 percent.
The numbers hardly open the way to such boasting. It might be fair to ask: What got fixed?