Over the past several years, concerns about the nursing home environment have increased dramatically. Between 2013 and 2017, complaints of neglect and abuse more than doubled, according to a June 2019 report by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO).
To address many of the most frequent concerns, Representative Jan Schakowsky and Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced the Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents Act of 2019 on Nov. 22, 2019.
In a press release, Schakowsky stated:
“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 that seniors deserve.”
Adding to her statement, Blumenthal explained:
“Our legislation will institute a clear minimum standard for the level of care our seniors deserve at a nursing home…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.”
What Problems Does the Bill Address?
First and foremost, the proposed law addresses the pervasive problem of understaffing in nursing homes. Many long-term care facilities are overcrowded and there are simply not enough present and properly trained professionals to provide adequate care to all residents.
- The Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents Act of 2019 would tackle this problem by requiring nursing homes to provide at least 4.1 hours of direct care nursing time per resident per day. This one-on-one care will help personnel identify and prevent potential ailments in each resident. It is established by minimum nurse staffing levels and increased requirements for training and supervision.
In addition to expanding requirements for the number and quality of nurses, the new bill creates whistleblower protections for nursing home staff and residents. This means that if someone notices a problem, they will not be penalized for reporting it. Lawmakers expect self-regulation and accountability to improve the nursing home environment.
Another hot-button issue in the nursing home world is forced arbitration agreements. Under H.R.5216 and S.2943, nursing homes would be prohibited from forcing arbitration agreements on residents and potential residents. If the law passes, residents will never be required to waive their seventh amendment right to a trial by jury in exchange for admission into a nursing home. Once again, this measure is meant to strengthen nursing homes’ sense of legal accountability.
Finally, Schakowsky and Blumenthal’s legislation addresses the rampant misuse of antipsychotic drugsin the nursing home environment. All too often, patients with dementia are provided antipsychotic medications without their consent and/or knowledge. Not only are nursing homes engaging in the off-label use of these drugs, but they are also increasing their patients’ risk for serious injury and death by almost 100%.
By developing a standardized protocol for nursing facilities to obtain informed consent for residents’ treatment, the Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents Act of 2016 hopes to reduce the involuntary sedation of elderly residents with psychoactive drugs.
Will the Bill Be Passed?
The Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents Act of 2019 was originally proposed with 25 cosponsors in the House and 2 cosponsors in the Senate.
It has also been endorsed by the following organizations:
- 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
- Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
That being said, many providers are pushing back, claiming that the bill does not consider the financial realities of nursing facilities, nor propose realistic solutions.
At McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP, we have seen firsthand the devastation improperly staffed nursing homes can cause. Fortunately, we’ve been able to hold negligent and abusive facilities accountable and provide our clients with compensation and a sense of justice.
Our attorneys remain actively engaged and informed with all existing and upcoming nursing home legislation.
For regular updates, be sure to visit our blog.
If you have questions about your rights or need assistance with a nursing home case, please call us at (909) 345-8110 or request a free consultation online.