House panel passes measure blocking Biden administration from finalizing nursing home staffing rule

The GOP-controlled House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday passed a bill that would block the Biden administration from implementing rules requiring minimum staffing levels for nursing homes.

The bill would “prohibit the Secretary of Health and Human Services from finalizing a proposed rule regarding minimum staffing for nursing facilities.”

It passed through the committee by a vote of 26-17 mostly along party lines, with Republicans voting to pass the bill and Democrats voting against it.

Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell (Ala.) was the only member of her party who joined Republicans in voting to block the rule.

The Biden administration unveiled the proposed minimum staffing standards in September to address “chronically” understaffed facilities and a lack of adequate care. If finalized, the rule would require nursing homes to have a registered nurse on site 24/7 as well as a minimum number of registered nurses and nurse aides.

The rule has not been well received across the board, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle arguing this rule cannot be implemented at a time when there is a nursing shortage in the U.S.

The American Health Care Association, a trade group representing about 14,000 nursing homes, warned that nearly all nursing homes would fail to meet at least one of the three standards set by the Biden administration.

Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), chair of the Ways and Means Committee, blasted the proposed rule at the markup hearing on Wednesday, saying it “won’t result in better care for seniors. Quite the opposite.”

“If this rule takes effect, nursing homes around the country will be forced to downsize or close their doors for good,” Smith said. “In just the last four years, over 400 nursing homes have shut down. How can we not expect more to follow when the administration is about to place a giant $40 billion unfunded mandate on nursing homes.”

Smith added that the rule would disproportionately impact rural nursing homes.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents nursing home workers, spoke out against the bill on Thursday following its passage in the committee.

“When nursing homes are understaffed, it is both patients and workers who suffer. Only the nursing home industry would benefit from this bill as it would allow them to continue to place profit over patient care,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement.

“The UFCW urges members of Congress to vote against this bill and support the administration’s efforts to finalize the proposed rule. A federal minimum staffing requirement is necessary for millions of families across the country whose loved ones deserve skilled, quality care.”

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