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Congress Takes on Nursing Homes and Elder Abuse
For the first time in 20 years, Congress is showing strong, bipartisan interest in establishing new protections for victims of elder abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It is currently considering several bills that would significantly strengthen federal laws. CANHR supports the following bills and encourages you to express your support.
Introduced this year, the Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act of 2008 (S.2641, H.R.5799) would increase public transparency and accountability of nursing home owners and operators – including nursing home chains – by requiring them to disclose the corporate entities that own nursing homes and the affiliated entities that operate, manage or control them. The bill would also provide consumers important new information through new reporting requirements on nursing staffing levels, turnover and retention and the amount of funding spent on direct care. S.2641 is sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley (R–IA) and Senator Herb Kohl (D–WI).
Introduced on April 9, 2008, the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act (S.2838, H.R.6126) would invalidate mandatory arbitration agreements that nursing homes and assisted living facilities commonly pressure new residents to sign upon admission. These agreements – which are usually buried in admission papers and offered on a take–it–or–leave–it basis – force people during one of the most stressful events in their lives to surrender their right to sue the provider, even for severe neglect and abuse. The bill would not prohibit arbitration, but rather would ensure that the resident and his or her representative could voluntarily choose the option of arbitration after a dispute arises.
S.2838 is sponsored by Senator Mel Martinez (R–FL) and Senator Herb Kohl (D–WI). H.R.6126 is sponsored by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D–CA) and Rep. Ileana Ros–Lehtinen (R–FL).
The Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act of 2007 (S.1577, H.R.3078) would establish a nationwide system of background checks for long term care workers. Introduced in June 2007 by Senator Herb Kohl, the bill would greatly improve the current patchwork system of background checks that primarily focus on nursing assistants. The bill would require national criminal history background checks, including an FBI fingerprint check, for individuals seeking employment with Medicare or Medicaid (Medi–Cal) funded long term care providers. By so doing, the bill would keep workers with histories of criminal abuse from escaping detection by moving from job to job and state to state.
The Elder Justice Act (S.1070, H.R.1783) would make the fight against elder abuse a national priority. It would establish a wide range of programs to improve detection and handling of elder abuse, including actions that would better protect nursing home and assisted living facility residents from abuse. This bill, which has been building support for several years, was reintroduced in 2007 in the Senate by Senator Orrin Hatch (R–UT) and Senator Blanche Lincoln (D–AR). Senator Barbara Boxer of California is one of 29 Senate sponsors. Support and action are most needed on the House side, where the companion bill, H.R. 1783, is sponsored by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D–IL) and co–authored by Rep. Peter King (R–NY).
Contact Your Congressional Representatives
Although introduction of these bills is a good start, none of them will become law without strong, vocal consumer support. Please contact California Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and the U.S. Representative for your district and urge them to support each of these bills. Your contacts can make a great difference.
Not sure who your current Representative is? Visit www.house.gov/writerep/ for a feature that will let you identify your Representative, give contact information, and allow you to send an e–mail message if you wish. Contact information for both Senators Feinstein and Boxer is available on their web sites: www.feinstein.senate.gov and www.boxer.senate.gov.