Reform of U.S. Nursing Homes in President Biden State of the Union Address

March 15, 2022 Insights

President Joseph Biden delivered his first State of the Union Address before Congress on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, and discussed an issue very close to our hearts at Circeo Law Firm.

In his speech, President Biden unveiled his plans for a major overhaul of nursing home quality, laying out a series of measures long sought by advocates of the industry. As lawyers that specialize in nursing home abuse and negligence, we are hopeful that these new changes will reduce the victimization of vulnerable elders living in long-term care facilities.

As reported by the Associated Press, the more than 20 steps would improve staffing and care quality. Some of the main changes in the reform include:

Minimum Staffing Standards

Requirements for minimum staffing are central to Biden’s nursing home plan. He has given the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services one year to run studies and publish new regulations on staffing.

Most experts agree that staffing levels are an important indicator of quality in nursing homes. However, many facilities do not have enough nurses and nursing assistants to adequately care for patients. In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, many nursing home workers left the industry despite increasing wages, so new federal staffing requirements may take some time to implement.

Private Living Arrangements

Biden’s plan also calls for phasing out living arrangements that accommodate more than three residents in the same room in nursing homes and directing federal regulators to offer private rooms for nursing home residents.

According to a White House policy document that outlined Biden’s plan, “Despite the tens of billions of federal taxpayer dollars flowing to nursing homes each year, too many continue to provide poor, substandard care that leads to avoidable resident harm.”

Improved Oversight 

Biden also wants to improve oversight. As part of his plan, the inspection budget for nursing homes will be increased by $500 million, a nearly 25% increase. Nursing home inspections are generally conducted by the states according to Medicare guidelines. Biden intends to implement a special inspection program focusing on low-performing facilities, to increase fines for failing nursing homes, and, if necessary, to cut off Medicare and Medicaid funding to them.

COVID-19 Testing, Vaccinations, and Boosters

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of nursing homes, a neglected part of our health care system. Nursing home residents represent a disproportionate share of fatalities in the coronavirus pandemic, contributing to more than 1 out of 5 deaths.

In Biden’s plan, the government will focus on vaccinations and staff training, as well as regular testing of nursing home residents. With infection control being a perennial problem in nursing homes, Biden is directing Medicare to require that nursing homes have infection prevention specialists on-site.

Investigation of Private Equity Investors 

The Administration is concerned about the growing trend of private equity firms acquiring nursing homes. More than half of the nation’s nursing homes are owned by for-profit companies.

According to the White House policy document, “Private equity has too often put profits before people, a particularly dangerous model when it comes to vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities.” Federal agencies will be asked to examine the role of private equity investors in the nursing home industry and inform the public when corporations are not providing the best care for residents.

Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer at Circeo Law Firm 

The decision to place an elderly family member in a nursing home is difficult for every family, and it becomes a nightmare to discover your loved one is suffering abuse. Our Kentucky nursing home abuse attorneys have passionately represented thousands of clients in several states, uncovering the facts, analyzing the evidence, and helping residents and their families pursue justice. Contact Circeo Law Firm at 1-833-929-HELP if you or someone you love has suffered negligence or abuse at a nursing home or assisted living facility.