August 10,2021

Wyden, Casey Unveil Comprehensive Bill to Improve Nursing Homes for Residents and Workers

The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Claimed the Lives of More Than 184,000 Nursing Home and Long-Term Care Residents and Workers

Bill from Committee Chairmen Improves Staffing, Quality, Oversight of Nursing Homes

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Senate Aging Committee Chairman Bob Casey, D-Pa., along with Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, 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.

“Families must have faith that loved ones receiving long-term care or care after a hospital stay will be safe and receive good-quality care,” Wyden said. “The pandemic, myriad reports of abuse, and critical failures during natural disasters have shattered that foundation of trust and safety. This legislation represents a big step towards nursing home care that is safer, higher quality, more accountable and more supportive of the workers who care for our most vulnerable. I look forward to working with my colleagues on making these proposals a reality and preventing another tragedy like this from occurring.” 

“I have been advocating for the safety of nursing home residents and workers in Pennsylvania and across the Nation since before I was elected to the U.S. Senate. The profound loss of life in nursing homes from COVID-19 was a tragedy within the broader tragedy of the pandemic. The residents, workers and families who suffered through it are owed solutions, to ensure we prevent such tragedies in the future. This legislation provides the transparency and accountability that families deserve, expanding staffing, technical assistance and oversight efforts across the board,” said Chairman Casey.

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 HHS 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 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that only 25 percent of facilities met staffing thresholds the federal government has said are needed to avoid quality problems. The bill directs the federal government to create a minimum requirement of staff per residents at a given facility.

A 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.