Health Care

Johnson Pushes for Medicare Funding at Windsor House Tour

CANFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Amid the shutdown of the federal government, there’s another concern over funding that U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson has his eye on: Medicare.

“If we don’t reform that program, there’s not going to be a Medicare. We need to protect Medicare, as well as Social Security, for seniors and those that are in the retirement window,” Johnson said Monday morning during a tour of Windsor House at Canfield. “That is an obligation, a promise made by the federal government to those folks.”

Every day, some 10,000 Americans turn 65 and start receiving Medicare benefits, Johnson said, a figure Pew Research Center projects to remain accurate through 2029.

In a report last year, the Medicare Trustees projected the number of people receiving benefits that year from the agency to reach 78 million – a 30% increase from 2017 – while the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, which covers Medicare Part A payments, will be depleted by 2029 if no funding changes are made. The fund covers 12% of Medicare’s bills.

“For future generations, we’ve got to understand that if we want those safety net programs to be around, we’re going to have to reform them,” Johnson said. “There’s always going to be that element of our society – our seniors that need a helping hand as they age – and they ought to be able to age gracefully and with dignity.”

Part of that is providing them with a place to live that meets their needs, whether it be medically or socially. Windsor House at Canfield, 6445 State Route 46 in Canfield, has long-term skilled nursing care and short-term rehabilitation services. Residents have their own rooms and access to dining rooms, a beauty salon, church services and an activity room. One of the courtyards features a putting green, while the rehab center is focused on helping develop strength for day-to-day activities. It has a small indoor deck so residents can work on stairs, as well as a Chevrolet Cruze for help with getting in and out of vehicles.

“This is the kind of place I’d want my parents to be in,” said Johnson, R-6 Ohio, during his tour of Windsor House. “Or myself, when that time comes.”

“I don’t think you’re quite there yet,” replied Windsor House’s J.P. Daliman. “You’ve still got plenty of time.”

The purpose of inviting the congressman to Windsor House at Canfield, Daliman said, was twofold. First, the company wants to show lawmakers the impact of decisions made outside the area and have them meet those directly affected. Second, he said, was to highlight Windsor House as one of the larger employers in the area, with roughly 1,500 employees.

“There’s no question. Nursing home work isn’t the easiest. You drive down the street and see ‘Help Wanted’ signs all over the place,” Daliman said. “We have to make it attractive with the environment at work, as well as with wages and benefits.”

Added Johnson: “It’s a challenge across industry, whether it’s in health care, manufacturing, energy, law enforcement, you name it. Trying to find qualified workers for the number of jobs that we have is an increasing problem.”

The congressman added that he’s talked with career and technical centers, community colleges and businesses in his district on what can be done to address such issues.

With the area’s aging population, Windsor House is examining expansion opportunities, but isn’t committed to anything yet, he added. Windsor House at Canfield has been open a little over a year and has 72 residents.

“We don’t have anything definite yet, but there may be some additional need in Canfield,” Daliman said. “We’ve touched a lot of areas in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties and we need to assess the elder-care needs.”

Throughout his district, which includes southern Mahoning County, one of the most common issues he hears from constituents is the rising cost of health care, Johnson said, as well as many counties in his district having just one insurance provider.

“Those are problems when government tries to run our health care. We need to put private sector competition in so insurance carriers can develop methodologies and products that consumers want to purchase,” he said. “We don’t need to force health care on people that they don’t want and can’t afford.”

On the topic of government, Daliman said Windsor House has not yet seen an impact from the federal shutdown, which is now in its third week.

“But I haven’t talked to our billing and receiving people today yet,” he said with a laugh. “It doesn’t seem to be affecting us yet.”

Pictured: U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (center) talks with Windsor House’s Paul Fabian and J.P. Daliman during a tour of Windsor House at Canfield Monday morning.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.