May 22 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Scott (R-SC) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to protect seniors by empowering nursing homes to better screen and vet potential employees. The Ensuring Seniors’ Access to Quality Care Act would allow nursing home operators to access the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) – a national criminal background check system – to verify the records of potential caregivers and ensure they do not run the risk of endangering the seniors they are employed to look after. Currently, senior living facilities are not authorized to use the NPDB and instead must rely on state-level criminal background checks that can often omit key details about an employee’s background.
“Seniors are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. As they get older and come to rely on assistance, they deserve quality and compassionate care from professionals who have the adequate experience and temperament,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation will provide senior living facilities with the tools they need to hire staff without sacrificing quality care.”
“Skilled nursing facilities across the country care for thousands of Americans as they live out their golden years. Ensuring these facilities can hire and train the best caregivers and provide exceptional service to for seniors - at no cost to the taxpayer - is a common sense, life-changing solution for our loved ones,” said Sen. Scott.
This legislation also amends overly restrictive regulations that bar certain senior living facilities from conducting training programs for in-house Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) – individuals who assist patients with their daily activities. Under existing regulations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), senior living facilities found to have deficiencies, such as poor conditions or patient safety violations, are automatically prohibited from conducting CNA staff training programs for a period of two years, even if they have fixed the problem.
This lockout period can make it more difficult for senior care facilities to properly train new employees and retrain existing staff – a particularly concerning challenge given projections by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, which estimates that the need for nursing assistants and orderlies is projected to rise 5 percent from 2021 to 2031. With this growing need for caregivers, in-house CNA education at senior living facilities often helps meet the need for CNAs.
Specifically, this legislation would allow a senior living facility to reinstate its CNA training program if:
- The facility has corrected the deficiency for which the CMP was assessed;
- The deficiency for which the CMP was assessed did not result in an immediate risk to patient safety and is not the result of patient harm resulting from abuse or neglect;
- And the facility has not received a repeat deficiency related to direct patient harm in the preceding two year period;
This legislation has the support of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, LeadingAge, LeadingAge Virginia, and LeadingAge South Carolina.
“I started my career as a CNA in a facility training program. I know how important it is to keep this pathway for hands-on training open to ensure we have caregivers for seniors,” said Derrick Kendall, Chairman of Virginia Health Care Association – Virginia Center for Assisted Living (VHCA-VCAL), and President & CEO of Lucy Corr of Chesterfield. “The demand for CNAs has never been greater, so it’s time to end this barrier to training more, especially when a facility has addressed the reason for the lockout.”
“Having access to the National Practitioner Data Bank would be extremely beneficial for us. It would help prevent bad actors from hopping from state to state,” said Melissa Green, Chief Clinical Officer of Trio Health Care, LLC, Hot Springs, VA, and a nursing home operator who has facilities close to neighboring states. She cites an incident when it was revealed that an employee had stolen an identity to work as a nurse—without access to the NPDB there was no way to know the actual nurse’s identity was stolen even though the nursing home completed the required background checks.
“We commend Senators Warner and Scott for reintroducing this important legislation at this critical moment for the long term care workforce. In the midst of a historic labor crisis, we need solutions like the Ensuring Seniors’ Access to Quality Care Act to help nursing homes vet and train crucially needed caregivers. By allowing facilities the ability to offer CNA training programs and access to the National Practitioner Data Bank, we can ensure our nation’s seniors receive high quality care delivered by highly-trained and dedicated caregivers,” said Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living.
“Certified nurse aides (CNAs) are integral to the quality care that nursing homes provide; more are desperately needed. LeadingAge and our nonprofit mission-driven members support every opportunity to recruit and train new CNAs. This legislation will do just that by helping to alleviate a longstanding barrier to training and by ensuring the availability of onsite programs to build potential employees’ knowledge and skills,”said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge. “In addition to providing a solid educational foundation, these training programs also serve as an introduction to aging services, exposing students to nursing homes’ daily work routines and community cultures. They’re critical. Particularly now, when nursing homes are in dire need of more staff, we must leverage every possible opportunity to bring qualified workers into the sector and build workforce pipelines to help deliver quality care for our country’s aging population. This Senate bill is a much-appreciated recognition of these issues and will help to resolve longstanding workforce shortages. We appreciate the support of Senators Warner and Scott, and we are eager to work with them and their House colleagues in moving these bills forward.”
“The dedication and compassion of CNAs are crucial in ensuring that older Americans receive the best possible care and quality of life. Part of our role is to provide training and essential services so they can continue to provide daily care, comfort, and compassion. We appreciate both Senators Warner and Scott’s work on alleviating this strain on our mission-driven providers,” said Dana Parsons, Vice President and Legislative Counsel of LeadingAge Virginia.
“CNAs are the backbone of caring for older Americans, providing essential services that allow seniors to live with dignity and independence. It is necessary for them to continue to have the hands-on training they need as they are the heart of long-term care,” said Josh Bagley, Executive Director of The View Alexandria by Goodwin Living, Alexandria, VA.
“It is through Senator Tim Scott’s determination and vision of a better future for our citizens that we can begin to correct the antiquated barriers to quality care that this bill seeks to address. Innovation and creation is cultivated through sound policies that give the freedom to our nation’s providers to enrich our field of service in ways uniquely appropriate for our diverse nation. This bill would be a meaningful and powerful catalyst to ensure proper training for those who care for our nation’s older adults, particularly as we continue to face workforce shortages in the long-term care sector. I remain proud of Senator Scott’s support and focus on a better path forward for all,” said David Buckshorn, Chairperson for LeadingAge South Carolina, and CEO of Wesley Commons.
Full text of the bill is available here.