clipboard with criminal background check paperwork
Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA)
and Tim Scott (R-SC)

Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Scott (R-SC) re-introduced legislation Monday designed to help nursing homes improve their vetting and training of caregivers to help ensure resident safety.

A staff member at Warner’s office told the McKnight’s Business Daily that the Ensuring Seniors’ Access to Quality Care Act died in the Senate Finance Committee when it was introduced three years ago, never making it to the Senate floor.

“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,” Warner said in a press release, referring to nursing homes. The bill would have “zero cost to taxpayers,” Scott said.

Nursing homes currently are not authorized to use the National Practitioner Data Bank and instead must rely on state-level criminal background checks that often omit key details about an employee’s background, Warner said. American Health Care Association President and CEO Mark Parkinson said that by allowing facilities access to the NPDB, “we can ensure our nation’s seniors receive high-quality care delivered by highly-trained and dedicated caregivers.”

“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,” Parkinson said.

The legislation also would amend what the senators described as “overly restrictive” regulations that bar some nursing homes from conducting training programs for in-house certified nursing assistants for two years after deficiencies such as poor conditions or patient safety violations are discovered.

Under existing Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services regulations, nursing homes that are assessed a civil monetary penalty of more than $10,000 are automatically prohibited from conducting CNA staff training programs for two years. The legislation, if passed as written and signed into law, would allow nursing homes to reinstate their CNA training programs if:

  • The facility has corrected a deficiency for which a civil monetary penalty was assessed;
  • The deficiency for which the civil monetary penalty was assessed did not result in an immediate risk to patient/resident safety and is not the result of harm resulting from abuse or neglect;
  • The facility has not received a repeat deficiency related to direct patient/resident harm in the preceding two years.

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said that, with a dire workforce shortage, CNAs are especially needed to provide essential care in nursing homes.

“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,” she said.