Warner, Scott reintroduce bipartisan legislation to improve hiring of caregivers for seniors

Warner (left) and Scott (right)

~ The Ensuring Seniors’ Access to Quality Care Act will ease overly restrictive regulations and give employers greater ability to screen potential staff ~

 U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Scott (R-SC) have re-introduced the Ensuring Seniors’ Access to Quality Care Act, which would provide nursing home operators with access to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) – a national criminal background check system. This move would give employers greater ability to screen and vet potential employees to ensure that caregivers do not have a history that would endanger the seniors they are employed to look after. Sens. Warner and Scott first introduced this legislation 2019.

 “Our seniors are owed compassionate, qualified caregivers as they age and depend more and more on professional assistance,” Sen. Warner said. “This legislation will provide senior living facilities with the tools they need to hire experienced staff and to continue to meet the high demand for workers without sacrificing quality care.”

 “South Carolina is home to around 200 skilled nursing facilities that serve thousands of individuals in their golden years,” Sen. Scott said. “At zero cost to taxpayers, this bill will help ensure these facilities hire the best candidates, improving the quality of care for seniors across the nation.”

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.

Additionally, the bipartisan legislation 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 – for a two-year period after a care facility is found to have deficiencies, such as poor conditions or patient safety violations.

Under existing regulations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), senior living facilities that receive a civil monetary penalty (CMP) over $10,000 are automatically prohibited from conducting CNA staff training programs for a period of two years.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the need for nursing assistants and orderlies to care for the growing aging population is projected to rise 8 percent from 2020 to 2030. With this growing need for caregivers, in-house CNA education at senior living facilities often helps meet the need for CNAs. However, the existing two-year lockout period can make it more difficult for senior care facilities to properly train new employees and retrain existing staff.

 “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,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, said.

 “Our nation’s long-term care system is facing a dire workforce shortage that has only intensified in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO, LeadingAge, said. “CNAs provide essential care in nursing homes across the country, and we need strong training programs to ensure older adults have access to critical long-term care services.  Without workers, there is no care, which is why every possible lever to build the direct care workforce must be pulled. LeadingAge applauds Senator Warner and Senator Scott for championing this much-needed legislation to address the nurse aide training lockout. We pledge to work with them to get this bill passed.”

 “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,” Derrick Kendall, Chairman of Virginia Health Care Association – Virginia Center for Assisted Living (VHCA-VCAL) and President & CEO of Lucy Corr of Chesterfield, said. “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.”