Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9) and Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) will introduce two pieces of legislation to improve oversight of long-term care facilities and strengthen the laws governing their pandemic response. While only 0.5 percent of U.S. residents live in nursing homes, individuals in nursing homes account for 40 percent of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths.
The Promoting Restoration of Emergency Preparedness and Advancing Response to Epidemics in Long-Term Care Act (PREPARE LTC Act) codifies statutes to confirm and restore critical Obama-era regulations regarding infection control and emergency preparedness in skilled nursing facilities and nursing facilities. The legislation requires facilities to establish and maintain an infection prevention and control program and an emergency plan that ensures a proper response during an emergency situation. The bill prevents the Secretary from waiving or suspending staffing reporting and critical inspections during a pandemic. The PREPARE Act also requires reporting developed for COVID-19 and broadens that reporting to include any infectious disease outbreak within nursing facilities.
“While nursing facility residents are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, there were not only existing gaps and deficiencies that went unaddressed, but the Trump administration was actively rolling back many of the protections and rights of nursing home residents,” said Rep. Pascrell. “These actions have allowed long-standing issues to fester in nursing facilities, callously endangering millions of seniors. Our bills will not only protect residents in long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, they will also prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks, ensuring that we can safeguard our nation’s vulnerable long-term care facility residents.”
The Protecting Residents with Oversight, Transparency, and Enforcement for Compassionate Treatment in Long-Term Care (PROTECT LTC Act) provides $100 million to increase investigations and surveys, purchase personal protective equipment, and boost staffing levels. The bill also increases civil monetary penalties for outbreak-specific violations at nursing homes, including staff shortages, overcrowding, and insufficient PPE. Under this legislation, state agencies must complete a standard assessment within four weeks of an outbreak and every six months afterward. State survey agencies will have flexibility on timing and will prioritize follow-up assessments for facilities in areas with a high infection rate and those with a history of low staffing or that have previously been out of compliance.
“The rollbacks of protections by this administration made the spread of COVID in nursing homes far worse than it needed to be,” said Rep. Sherrill. “This bill will provide critical funding for the resources and direction needed to catch outbreaks early and hold bad actors accountable.”
More than 75,000 Americans have died from COVID in nursing homes. While nursing facility residents are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, existing gaps were exacerbated by Administration actions that rolled back protections for the rights of nursing home residents.
“Nursing home residents have been particularly vulnerable to the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Richard Mollot, Executive Director at the Long-Term Care Community Coalition. “The PREPARE Act and the PROTECT Act would put in place essential safeguards that would provide both immediate and long-term benefits for residents and their families. We applaud Representative Pascrell and Representative Sherrill for their leadership on these issues and urge other members of Congress to join as sponsors of these important bills.”