Return to February, the State of the State address by John Kasich, performed in Lima. At one point, the governor has this to say: “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 — where they could stay in their homes, where they could be more independent, more healthy, more independent at a much lower cost. For 25 years, this was, this effort was made to fix this. We did it, didn’t we? We got it done. … We won that battle.”
The subject is the PASSPORT program, designed to do just what the governor describes. The impression he invites is that his administration has accomplished something in which others fell short, that a breakthrough has been achieved.
This wasn’t the first time the governor made such a pitch. He often has done so, even on Sunday morning as a talking head on NBC’s Meet the Press. The problem with the claim is that it has much to do with exaggeration and little to do with reality.
To be sure, the objective is worthy, and the governor’s enthusiasm for the program helps. PASSPORT got its start during George Voinovich’s years as governor. By the time Bob Taft left the office in December 2006, 26,127 older moms and dads were participating in the program.
Under Ted Strickland, the number climbed to 32,694 at the end of his final budget, a 22 percent increase. And today, at the end of this most recent budget cycle? The count stands at 33,533, Kasich presiding over an increase of 839, or 2 percent.
That’s not to diminish what the governor and his team have achieved in advancing Medicaid overall, making the program more efficient and effective. It does put the governor’s boast in context. He rightly talks about Ohio doing better in keeping seniors out of costly nursing homes. His administration hasn’t “won that battle.” Actually, progress in PASSPORT has slowed on his watch.