The Affordable Health Care For America Act, passed by the US House of Representatives this past Saturday evening contained several provisions extremely beneficial to the elderly, and in particular the elderly who reside in nursing homes. These provisions included:
The Nursing Home Transparency Act;
A requirement that long-term care workers undergo criminal background checks ;
A voluntary payroll deduction system that would provide benefits for long-term care services. The bill, H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, can be downloaded at http://thomas.loc.gov.
The nursing home transparency provisions are particularly significant, requiring:
• Public disclosure of individuals and entities that own, govern, operate, finance, provide services to, and/or control the nation’s nursing homes.
• Compliance and ethics programs and internal quality assurance programs in nursing homes, and pilot projects to test ways to improve oversight of chains.
• Collection and reporting of staffing information based on payroll data, including hours of care per resident day, turnover and retention rates, and facility expenditures for wages and benefits.
• A review of Nursing Home Compare and addition of information about sanctions against facilities and the number of adjudicated crimes occurring in them.
• A categorical breakdown of expenditures on cost reports to show how much facilities spend on direct care versus other expenses.
• An improved state complaint process to help protect complainants against retaliation.
• An increase in federal civil monetary penalties and a process to hold CMPs in escrow during appeals (although only after an independent informal dispute resolution process was completed).
• Adequate notification when facilities decided to close, including the option for the government to continue reimbursement until relocation was achieved.
• Training of nursing assistants in dementia care and abuse prevention.
In the coming weeks, the focus of health care reform will be on the Senate, where Senate leaders are trying to meld bills passed by the Finance (S. 1796) and HELP (S. 1679) committees and to find enough votes to pass the resulting bill. Any bill that passes the Senate will have to be reconciled with H.R. 3962 to create a final health care reform bill to be voted on by both houses. Nursing home transparency and other long-term care provisions will remain at risk of being amended or dropped as this delicate and highly political process goes forward.
Please encourage your Senators to support these provisions of the House bill.