House Democrats Unveil Measure that Would Mandate HHS-Recommended Nurse-Patient Ratios in Nursing Homes
A group of House Democrats yesterday unveiled a measure that would require nursing homes to maintain the nurse-patient staffing ratios recommended in a recent report by HHS, CongressDaily reports. The bill, which will be formally introduced next week, would require nursing homes to hire enough staff to "provide 4.1 to 4.85 hours of nursing care daily for each resident, including at least 1.7 hours of individual care by registered or licensed nurses" (Rovner, CongressDaily, 5/9). The HHS report, released in February, found that more than 90% of U.S. nursing homes do not have enough employees to provide adequate care for patients. The report stated that in order to reach recommended staffing levels, nursing homes would have to hire 77,000 to 137,000 registered nurses, 22,000 to 27,000 licensed practical nurses and 181,000 to 310,000 nurse's aides. Reaching adequate staffing levels would cost $7.6 billion per year, an 8% increase over current spending levels, according to the report (California Healthline, 2/19). To help offset the cost of hiring additional staff, the bill would raise federal Medicaid matching rates by 1.5% and would restore the Boren amendment, which required states to provide "reasonable and adequate" Medicaid reimbursement to nursing homes. The Boren amendment was repealed under the 1997 Balanced Budget Act (CongressDaily, 5/9). Patient advocates praised the new staffing measure. "This legislation would address the lax conditions responsible for substandard care," Barbara Kennelly, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said (NCPSS release, 5/9). But a spokesperson for the American Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, said that the bill is a "magic wand approach" to the problem of staffing shortages, adding, "The first step is to find the people. We hope not to get a mandate until the workforce is there" (CongressDaily, 5/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.