Biden Sets Sights on Overhauling Nursing Home Standards and Safety

White House sources indicated Monday that President Joe Biden will announce a dramatic revamp of nursing home standards in his State of the Union address, describing a set of changes long sought by campaigners but opposed by the industry.

The steps, when taken collectively, would raise the bar on quality, strengthen government monitoring, and keep COVID-19 out of nursing facilities.

A new need for minimum staffing levels for nursing homes is at the heart of Biden’s idea. He’s given the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services a year to complete a staffing analysis and submit suggested regulations.

According to experts, staffing levels are a key indicator of nursing home quality, and many facilities lack enough numbers of nurses, nursing assistants, and other professionals who provide direct care to patients.

Congress has been discussing legislation that would impose minimum federal requirements on hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments, which almost all do. The initial goal was to include new requirements in Biden’s domestic agenda bill, but since that bill has stagnated, the administration appears to be relying on its regulatory authorities to effect change.

In addition, Biden’s proposal asks for nursing facilities to transition to private rooms for its inhabitants, as well as for federal regulators to look into ways to phase out living arrangements that house three or more individuals in the same room.

Another objective is improved oversight. Biden’s plan asks for a $500 million increase in the budget for nursing home inspections, an almost 25% increase. In most cases, states conduct nursing home inspections in accordance with Medicare criteria. In addition, Biden will push Congress to grant Medicare additional legal authority to filter out nursing home organizations that run inferior facilities.

According to the independent Kaiser Family Foundation, the COVID-19 epidemic has killed more than 200,000 residents and workers of long-term care homes. While nursing home patients and employees make up a small percentage of the population in the United States, they account for almost one in every five fatalities.

According to Biden’s strategy, the government should continue to focus on vaccinating and strengthening nursing home residents and staff, as well as conducting frequent testing. While the omicron wave resulted in an increase in cases and fatalities in nursing homes, institutions were mostly spared from the horrors of previous winter.

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