Schakowsky, Blumenthal Introduce Bill To Improve Quality Of Care At Nursing Homes

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Aging Committee, have introduced the Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents Act of 2019. This legislation is vital to guarantee the human right to high quality, long term care for the seniors and individuals with disabilities who depend on nursing home facilities to survive. 25 Representatives and two Senators joined Congresswoman Schakowsky and Senator Blumenthal as original cosponsors of the legislation.

I consistently read horror stories from around the country of nursing homes that could have done better to protect their residents. I am introducing the Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents Act of 2019 to make sure that our nursing homes provide a level of care our seniors deserveThis legislation will provide more adequate staffing, better training for our hardworking nurses, and enhanced protections for the legal rights of nursing home residents,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky.“Putting a loved one in a nursing facility is always a difficult decision. We must ensure nursing home residents are not harmed because of deficiencies in the facilities they rely on to survive. Every person in the United States deserves the right to age with dignity and respect.”

Senator Blumenthal stated, “Our legislation will institute a clear minimum standard for the level of care our seniors deserve at a nursing home. When nursing homes don’t maintain adequate staffing levels, it harms both the dedicated professionals who are trying to provide the best care possible, and the seniors receiving it. Seniors and their families shouldn’t have to live in fear that inadequate staffing at their nursing home could result in injury, illness, or worse.”

The Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents Act of 2019 is the first comprehensive legislation to ensure that residents of nursing homes are guaranteed their right to appropriate and high quality care. The bill:

  • establishes higher minimum nurse staffing levels for nursing homes under Medicare and Medicaid;
  • expands training requirements and supervision for all nursing staff;
  • creates whistleblower and other protections for nursing home residents and personnel;
  • prohibits the use of forced arbitration agreements between residents and any nursing home entity; and
  • develops a standardized protocol for nursing facilities to obtain written informed consent from residents for treatment with psychotropic drugs.

Nursing homes provide essential care for more than 1.3 million Americans every year—older Americans, individuals with disabilities, and patients with physical and mental health concerns all depend on these facilities for quality care to survive and to live a fuller life.

However, nursing homes in the United States are too often understaffed and mismanaged, preventing residents from receiving the care they need. A June 2019 Government Accountability Office reportfound that understaffing and insufficient staff training increases residents’ risk of experiencing abuse. In fact, the number of nursing home resident abuse citations more than doubled between 2013 and 2017, and investigative reports by ProPublicaand CNNin particular have found hundreds of cases of residents who were maltreated or even sexually assaulted by nursing home staff.

More stringent minimum staffing requirements could not be more urgent.  Over the past two decades, the medical intensity and complexity of care for nursing facility residents has increased dramatically. Medical innovation has helped patients to be discharged from hospitals sooner and live with previously fatal conditions longer.  These patients are often discharged to a nursing home. The absence of adequate staffing could mean that there is nostaff present who can respond when residents’ medical conditions suddenly change or deteriorate, putting residents in extreme danger.

Inadequate staffing and training can lead to a host of negative health consequences, from untreated bedsores to avoidable hospitalizations and even death. Some grim examples include: a resident in Iowa who was given an overdose of a potent seizure medication by an aide who did not know how to measure the drug properly; a Florida resident who died from an infection that spread from his untreated, rotting genitals; and a 97-year old woman in Illinois who was so uncared for that she had bedsores on both buttocks the size of a golf ball with no treatment.

Representatives Jahana Hayes (CT-5), John Garamendi (CA-03), Tim Ryan (OH-13), André Carson (IN-07), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), Karen Bass (CA-37), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Danny K. Davis (IL-07), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ayanna Pressley (MA-7), Judy Chu (CA-27), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Barbara Lee (CA-13) andPaul Tonko (NY-20) were all original cosponsors of the legislation in the House.

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) are original cosponsors of the legislation in the Senate.

The Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents Act of 2019 has been endorsed by the Alliance for Retired Americans, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), Caring Across Generations, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Justice in Aging, Long Term Care Community Coalition, Medicare Rights Center, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, andService Employees International Union (SEIU).

A section by section summary of the legislation is available HERE.

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11/22/2019
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