Biden administration announces new nursing home reform efforts

The Biden administration on Monday announced a round of new measures for nursing homes aimed at ensuring adequate care for seniors. 

Citing how the pandemic “highlighted the tragic impact of substandard conditions at nursing homes,” the White House announced it would be issuing new requirements through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to improve the “quality and safety” of nursing homes. 

Through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the administration will be proposing new minimum standards of care to be unveiled within the next year following a study to determine the level of care and staffing needed.

These new measures include reducing resident room crowding and reinforcing safeguards against unnecessary medications and treatments.

Along with these new measures, the administration will be enhancing the government’s ability to inspect nursing homes and issue penalties against those that are found to be unsafe. President Biden called for limits on financial penalties against poor-performing facilities to be raised from $21,000 to $1,000,000.

In order to enhance transparency, CMS will be making a database of owners and operators of nursing homes across states that will highlight previous issues at facilities.

HHS is currently conducting a three-part study into how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted nursing homes. The first report from the study published last year found that two out of five nursing home residents likely contracted the coronavirus in 2020 and overall mortality rates in nursing homes rose by 5 percent between 2019 and 2020.

The new efforts will also include policies to encourage adequate nursing home staffing, including new requirements to make nurse aide training more affordable, possibly enhancing pay to improve workforce sustainability and launching a nursing career pathway campaign with the Department of Labor.

According to a survey released last year by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, 99 percent of nursing homes said they were experiencing some staffing issues, with nearly 60 percent saying they had “high level staffing shortages.”

In a statement on Monday, Mark Parkinson, the president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, said he appreciated the Biden administration’s efforts.

“To make real improvements, we need policymakers to prioritize investing in this chronically underfunded health care sector and support providers’ improvement on the metrics that matter for residents,” Parkinson said.

“It’s time to stop blaming nursing homes for a once-in-a-century pandemic that uniquely targeted our residents and vilifying the heroic caregivers who did everything they could to protect the residents they have come to know as family,” he added. “Together, we should focus on meaningful solutions that can attract and retain the frontline heroes we need and strengthen delivering the quality of care and services that our nation’s seniors deserve.”

—Updated at 6:03 p.m.

Tags Federal assistance in the United States Healthcare reform in the United States Joe Biden Medicaid Medicare Nursing home Nursing home care in the United States

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