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Pascrell, Sherrill Lead Legislation to Increase Oversight in Pandemic-Plagued Nursing Homes

Members spurred by ghastly death tolls across Garden State and nation

Paterson, NJ, October 7, 2020
Tags: COVID-19

U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ-11) will introduce two pieces of legislation to improve oversight of long-term care facilities crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While less than one percent of U.S. residents live in nursing homes, they have accounted for 40 percent of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths, including more than 7,100 in New Jersey.

The Promoting Restoration of Emergency Preparedness and Advancing Response to Epidemics in Long-Term Care Act (PREPARE LTC Act) would restore critical President Obama-era regulations regarding infection control and emergency preparedness in skilled nursing facilities and nursing facilities. This legislation would require facilities to establish and maintain an infection prevention program and an emergency plan to protect residents during an emergency situation. The bill prevents the Secretary of Health and Human Services from waiving or suspending staffing reporting and critical inspections during a pandemic. The PREPARE LTC Act would also mandates that any reporting developed for COVID-19 include information on infectious disease outbreaks within nursing facilities.

“Nursing facility residents are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. The Trump administration made the existing gaps and deficiencies in these facilities worse by rolling back essential protections and rights of nursing home residents,” said Rep. Pascrell. “Trump’s actions have allowed long-standing issues to fester in nursing facilities, callously endangering millions of seniors. The PREPARE LTC Act and PROTECT LTC Act would protect residents in long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our bills would also prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks, ensuring that our nation’s vulnerable long-term care facility residents are safeguard.”

Additionally, the members will introduce the Protecting Residents with Oversight, Transparency, and Enforcement for Compassionate Treatment in Long-Term Care (PROTECT LTC Act). It would provide $100 million for increased oversight of nursing homes. The bill would increase penalties for nursing homes that do not provide adequate protection to residents. Under the PROTECT LTC Act, state oversight agencies would be required to complete a standard assessment within four weeks of an outbreak and every six months afterward. The bill would allow for state survey agencies to have flexibility on timing and ability to prioritize follow-up assessments for facilities in areas with a high infection rate, with a history of low staffing, or that have previously been out of compliance.

“The rollbacks of protections by this administration made the spread of COVID in nursing homes was far worse than it needed to be,” said Rep. Sherrill. “This bill will provide critical funding for the resources and direction needed to catch outbreaks early and hold bad actors accountable.”

More than 75,000 Americans have died from COVID in nursing homes. While nursing facility residents are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, existing gaps were exacerbated by Trump administration actions that rolled back protections for nursing home residents.

“Nursing home residents have been particularly vulnerable to the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Richard Mollot, Executive Director at the Long-Term Care Community Coalition. “The PREPARE Act and the PROTECT Act would put in place essential safeguards that would provide both immediate and long-term benefits for residents and their families. We applaud Representative Pascrell and Representative Sherrill for their leadership on these issues and urge other members of Congress to join as sponsors of these important bills.”

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