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Pallone and Neal Unveil Comprehensive Bill to Improve Nursing Homes for Residents and Workers

Sep 3, 2021
Press Release
The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Claimed the Lives of More Than 135,000 Nursing Home Residents and Workers

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) today introduced legislation to update federal nursing home policy to improve quality of care and oversight, after the COVID-19 pandemic took the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents and workers in nursing homes.  Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senate Aging Committee Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) released a companion version in the Senate last month.

“Americans deserve to know their loved ones will be safe and well-cared for while staying in long-term care homes,” Chairman Pallone said. “The COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call that we must do more to protect people in nursing homes. This legislation will increase oversight of nursing homes and provide the resources necessary to improve the quality of care across the nation. It’s time we act, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to improve care, help prepare long-term care facilities for future public health emergencies, and provide a much-needed raise for long-term care workers.

“Nursing homes have been at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, making an already vulnerable population even more susceptible to illness, insufficient care, and, for far too many, neglect,” Chairman Neal said. “As variants continue to devastate our seniors, the quality of care, inadequacies in staffing, and level of oversight over nursing homes must be addressed. By making significant, but commonsense improvements to federal nursing home policy, this legislation will keep residents safer and begin to restore public trust in these facilities. Patients and their families deserve accountability, transparency, and continued oversight–and that’s exactly what the Nursing Home Improvement and Accountability Act will do. I’m grateful to my colleagues for their partnership in this critical work and know that together, we will usher in a standard of care of which we can be proud.”

The “Nursing Home Improvement and Accountability Act” takes significant steps to modernize nursing homes by filling much-needed gaps in staffing, transparency, accountability, oversight, and the structure and culture of facilities. These steps will improve care for residents and ensure nursing homes are better prepared to face future public health emergencies.

The bill would require nursing homes to meet minimum staffing standards, ensure a Registered Nurse (RN) is available 24 hours a day, require a full-time infection control and prevention specialist, and provide additional resources through Medicaid to support these care and staffing improvements and raise wages. The bill also takes a number of steps to increase transparency and accountability by improving data collection, providing better information to residents and their families, and enhancing the effectiveness of state surveys.

The legislation comes as the world continues to fight the pandemic and account for the extremely high prevalence of COVID-19 deaths in America’s nursing homes. Almost one in three COVID-19 deaths in the United States were connected to nursing homes. Meanwhile, a report from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General found that 71 percent of the nation’s 15,295 nursing homes have not been surveyed on safety and quality of care since the pandemic began.

A one page summary of the bill can be found here.

A section-by-section summary of the bill can be found here.

A copy of the legislative text can be found here.