Bill to Ease Skilled Nursing Staffing Woes Receives Another Chance in Congress

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a bill that its supporters say would ease persistent staffing strains on the nation’s nursing home operators.

The Nursing Home Workforce Quality Act would remove a mandatory two-year ban on certified nursing assistant (CNA) training that the federal government currently levies on skilled nursing facilities that have received a civil monetary penalty (CMP) greater than $10,000.

Industry advocates argue that the automatic training ban, also known as a lockout, is too punitive, as it removes a key avenue for workforce development even if the facility proves that it has rectified the issues that led to the penalty.

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The bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Ron Estes of Kansas and Democratic Rep. Dwight Evans of Pennsylvania, would allow state surveyors to reinstate SNFs’ training privileges at their own discretion, with no mandatory waiting period — while also authorizing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to increase oversight of poorly performing buildings.

“This common-sense legislation would help nursing homes to fix problems that are identified, which would be a win for everyone affected — the patients, their families and the nursing homes,” Evans said in a statement. “It’s important to work across party lines on points of agreement so we can make progress for the people we represent.”

The effort marks the second such proposed law in less than a year: Former Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, a Republican who resigned this month, introduced a similar bill last fall.

At the time, the administrator of a facility that had received a two-year training ban — after one of its residents was able to leave the building — told SNN that the restriction had a direct impact on its staffing and operations.

“[The training ban] is so punitive, and it doesn’t do anything for your direct care,” Nate Glendening of Prairie Wind Villa Assisted Living/Phillips County Retirement Center in Phillipsburg, Kan., said. “We’ve been paying overtime, and we’ve been dealing with burned-out staff going on for two years. It just blatantly makes sense for a facility to be able to provide this training.”

LeadingAge, a national trade group that represents non-profit nursing homes, applauded the new bill’s introduction in a statement.

“Workforce development is the number one issue facing our members throughout the country,” president and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said. “We have advocated for changes to this aspect of federal law for many years. These bills are a critical linchpin in our continued effort to increase the number of well-trained staff available to care for aging older adults.” 

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