By JESSE SAMPLES
and BRUCE YARWOOD
Many of the laws passed by the U.S. Congress offer a short-term solution to our nation's more systemic problems.
That is not true of the recently introduced, bipartisan Long Term Care Quality and Modernization Act of 2007 that is co-sponsored by Representatives Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) and Tom Allen (D-Maine).
Instead, this bill takes a look at the big picture, and as a result, has the potential to make a tremendous difference in the lives of frail, elderly, and disabled West Virginians and millions more Americans who need long term care.
The Long Term Care Quality and Modernization Act of 2007 takes an intelligent, rational approach toward ensuring West Virginians can continue to access high-quality care in nursing homes, assisted living residences, and other long term care settings. As our profession is responsible for the care and well being of our nation's oldest, most vulnerable seniors, we believe that Representative Capito's bill finally begins to resolve the structural and financial roadblocks now threatening our ongoing quality improvement efforts.
The federal government estimates that as many as 60 percent of Americans reaching 65 years of age will need long term care services at some point during their lives. Thousands of frail, elderly, and disabled West Virginians currently rely on the services provided by our state's long term care providers -– 2.5 million citizens do so nationally -– and this population will grow exponentially in the decades ahead as the leading edge of the boomer retirement wave enters a system in need of structural stability.
Specifically, the Long Term Care Quality and Modernization Act would enhance long term care quality by promoting investment in capital improvements, encouraging improved collaboration between providers and surveyors, assisting in the creation of a stable and well-trained workforce, and addressing care-access and financing concerns.
Moreover, the bill begins the process of modernizing the fragmented, inefficient and unstable Medicare payment system. The key priorities of the legislation are as follows:
Modernize Medicare Payment Policies -– The bill would require the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to update billing rules annually to take into account the rapidly-evolving practice of medicine, and clarify that Medicare may provide additional services such as freestanding Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and radiation therapy services, certain chemotherapy medications, and all ambulance services;
Facilitate Long Term Care Facility Capital Improvements – Congress would establish a statutory 15-year depreciation schedule for long term care facility improvement and modernizations;
Alleviate the Workforce Shortage – To help alleviate the long term care nursing workforce shortage, the bill would amend the Nurse Reinvestment Act to permanently remove the exclusion on loan repayment for nurses working in for-profit health care settings, and set-aside funds to create a national nursing database to forecast future supply and demand changes;
Improve Training of Surveyors, Providers, and Nurse Aides – The bill would create a demonstration project allowing states to jointly train surveyors and providers as changes are implemented. The bill would amend current law to allow nursing facilities to resume their nurse aide training program when deficiencies that resulted in the prohibition of the training have been corrected and compliance demonstrated.
Each of these priorities is critical in meeting the needs of West Virginians who rely, or who are going to rely, on the long term care profession for quality care. On behalf of our state's most vulnerable population of seniors, we thank Representative Capito for the thoughtful effort and intelligent reasoning behind this important bill, and for looking to the future of long term care. The bill should be passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush as soon as possible.
Samples is CEO of the West Virginia Health Care Association (WVHCA), and Yarwood is President and CEO of the American Health Care Association (AHCA) based in Washington, D.C.