HCN News & Notes

Elder Affairs Committee Advances Long-term-care Bill

BOSTON — Last week, the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs and Senate Vice Chair John Velis announced a favorable committee report on “An Act to Improve Quality and Oversight of Long-term Care.” This priority legislation enhances the quality of care for residents of nursing homes, ensures accountability of facility owners and operators, and improves direct-care staff recruitment and retention. The bill takes a comprehensive approach toward updating needed transparency and oversight reforms for the long-term-care industry while also providing additional supports for direct-care workers.

“Over the past year, four Western Massachusetts nursing homes closed, impacting hundreds of residents and families throughout the region. There are so many comprehensive measures included in this legislation, but I am especially proud of the initiatives focused on growing our nursing-home workforce and ensuring accountability of facility operators,” Velis said. “This legislation will go a long way to support our seniors and nursing homes.”

This legislation addresses the remaining recommendations from the 2020 Nursing Facility Task Force report, including establishing new career-ladder grants and new leadership training to support the development and retention of talent. Further, to increase the recruitment and performance of certified nursing assistants working in long-term-care facilities, the bill creates a tuition-reimbursement program for these direct-care workers who begin employment within 12 months of training completion.

Under the bill, the Department of Public Health (DPH) will have new tools to monitor and take punitive action on facilities, such as reviewing both the civil and criminal history of nursing-home license applicants and expanding the scope of suitability reviews to include management companies. The bill also strengthens DPH’s ability to limit, restrict, and suspend nursing-home licenses and install a temporary manager in instances of non-compliance. By providing DPH with additional oversight authority, nursing-home operators will be held accountable for the quality of care they deliver to their residents.

Other provisions of the legislation include:

• Increased penalties the attorney general may seek in instances of abuse and an expansion of the statute of limitations from two to four years;

• A process making it easier for small-house nursing homes — facilities designed similarly to residential homes with no more than 14 individuals per unit — to be licensed in the Commonwealth;

• A mandate for long-term-care facilities to develop outbreak-response plans to utilize in the event of future infectious-disease outbreaks;

• A directive for DPH to establish and implement a training and education program for facilities and staff regarding best practices and frequent deficiencies;

• A requirement for facilities to develop policies to prevent social isolation, with special consideration given to those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other disabilities; and

• A directive for DPH to issue an annual report examining cost trends and financial performance across the nursing-home industry.