Elder Affairs Committee Advances Long-Term Care Bill

(BOSTON) – The Joint Committee on Elder Affairs, co-chaired by Rep. Thomas M. Stanley (D-Waltham) and Sen. Patricia D. Jehlen (D-Somerville), is pleased to announce 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, originally filed in the House by Rep. Stanley and House Vice-Chair Kate Lipper-Garabedian (D-Melrose) and in the Senate by Sen. Jehlen, takes a comprehensive approach towards updating needed transparency and oversight reforms for the long-term care industry while also providing additional supports for direct care workers.

“Nursing homes serve some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable populations,” said Rep. Thomas Stanley. “As such, the quality of care individuals receive in these settings is paramount. The career ladder and loan repayment provisions in the bill for direct care staff will help address the workforce crisis in nursing homes. The licensure and suitability reforms will ensure owners and operators never compromise on providing high-quality care to their residents. The increased fines and doubling of the statute of limitations will help the Attorney General’s Office investigate and punish bad actors. I am proud of the work my co-chair and this Committee have done to produce and advance this bill.”

“For well over a decade, we have been working to address the gaps in quality of care, funding, staffing, and housing and service options available to our aging family members, friends, and neighbors.  With this bill, we address many of the needs expressed to us by nursing home residents, their families, workers, nursing facility administrators, and state agencies. It is time to move these policies forward.  And I look forward to further collaboration on strengthening the entire continuum of care for older adults,” said Sen. Jehlen.

“No group has endured more loss and hardship during the pandemic than our seniors and those who care for them,” said Rep. Lipper-Garabedian. “The pandemic taught us hard lessons about what is and who are ‘essential’ to a thriving, healthier future for our older residents. Even before the pandemic, we have known that there are significant health and wellbeing challenges for our seniors, their families, and the workforce who cares for them. And with an average of 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day in the country, it is imperative that state laws meet the moment. This bill, endorsed by the Committee, reflects robust collaborative engagement among legislators, executive branch offices, advocates, and other stakeholders and will affect critical reforms in nursing homes.”

“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,” said Sen. John Velis. “This legislation will go a long way to support our seniors and nursing homes, and I am grateful for the work of Chairs Jehlen and Stanley, Vice-Chair Lipper-Garabedian, and all the members of the Elder Affairs committee.”

This legislation addresses the remaining recommendations from the 2020 Nursing Facility Task Force report in several ways; among them the bill establishes 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 (CNAs) 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, or suspend nursing home licenses, and install a temporary manager in instances of noncompliance. By providing DPH with additional oversight authority, nursing home operators will be held more 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 2 to 4 years.
  • A process making it easier for “small house nursing homes” to be licensed in the Commonwealth which are facilities designed similarly to residential homes with no more than fourteen individuals per unit.
  • 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, dementia, and other disabilities.
  • A directive for DPH to issue an annual report examining cost trends and financial performance across the nursing home industry.