A new Health and Human Services policy law passed by legislators in the final hours of the 2022 Minnesota legislative session fails to address the state’s most pressing challenge for assisted living providers, according to state senior living association leaders.
Funding for staff wages remains a top challenge for providers, as evidenced by the 23,000 open positions in assisted living communities and nursing homes. Those open positions include nurses and aides as well as workers in areas such as laundry, dietary and housekeeping.
Although numerous changes to the assisted living licensure law are included in the state HHS policy bill — signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz (D) on June 2 — those changes were “technical in nature and not substantive,” Care Providers of Minnesota President and CEO Patti Cullen told McKnight’s Senior Living.
“The policy bill included an important extension of a deadline to process fingerprint background studies for staff across our settings and included a few technical changes to the assisted living licensure statutes,” LeadingAge Minnesota Vice President of Advocacy Erin Huppert told McKnight’s Senior Living. “Unfortunately, the bill does nothing to provide caregivers a career-affirming wage commensurate with their service to seniors.”
The bill extends the July 2 deadline to Jan. 1, 2023, for employees with emergency background studies to clear fingerprint-based studies. The Minnesota Department of Human Services continues to have authority to permit individuals to work without supervision while a background study is processed as providers continue to transition to fingerprint-based background checks.
The bill also eliminates the requirement for DHS to conduct background checks for individuals with valid licenses issued by a health-related licensing board and have completed the required background check, according to LeadingAge Minnesota. Those boards include the Board of Executives for Long Term Services and Supports, the Board of Nursing, the Board of Medical Practice and the Board of Social Work.
Along with several technical and language adjustments, changes included in the HHS bill affecting assisted living providers include specifying that fines collected from assisted living providers be appropriated for special projects to improve resident care and outcomes in those communities, and requiring providers to have delivered assisted living services to at least one resident during the preceding year to be able to renew a license.
Along with not addressing caregiver wages, the new law also does not increase the phase-in of 2017 Elderly Waiver rates. The EW program provides home- and community-based services for people who need a nursing home level of care but choose to live in the community. Improving the EW rate phase-in would have granted more older adults access to settings such as assisted living.
A lobbying effort this year aimed to increase the rate floor to the EW to expand eligibility for the program, according to LeadingAge Minnesota.