House Democrats fight for seniors and families by delivering on Promise of Care

HARRISBURG, March 20 – House Democratic lawmakers, in response to widespread concerns about patients and clients in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and long-term care homes not getting the quality care they deserve, announced a comprehensive package of bills to protect seniors and give family members the vital information they need to make the right choice for their grandparents and parents.

As pension plans increasingly become a thing of the past and families become smaller and unable to care for elderly relatives in their own homes, House Democrats believe people need to know the long-term care options for their loved ones are the best possible – because, someday, we’ll all need a place to call home.

While most facilities do a good job caring for patients and clients, as well as providing a stable place of employment for healthcare professionals, seniors, families and potential employees need the facts and protections these bills would deliver.

The Promise of Care package includes:

  • Making a Home truly a Home (Sponsored by Rep. Angel Cruz):

A long-term care home shouldn’t feel like a hospital ward. This bill creates a voluntary Culture & Quality of Life Certification Program that would reward homes that go the extra mile to offer a rich, life-affirming program that treats residents like the individual people they are.

  • Reporting Requirements when a Resident Passes (Two bills sponsored by Rep. Frank Burns):

People pass away in long-term care homes, but not always from purely natural causes. It shouldn’t be up to the individual home to report patient or client deaths to the proper authorities so investigations can be conducted when questions arise. This legislation would require all deaths at nursing homes or assisted-living facilities and personal care homes to be reported to the county coroner, who would then determine if the death requires more investigation due to neglect, abuse, or criminal activity.

  • An Informed Choice (Sponsored by Rep. Angel Cruz):

With more than 700 homes operating in the state, it’s a challenge for seniors and families to choose a facility to truly be “home.” This bill requires every home to publically post its Nursing Home Compare star rating so people are informed and the good homes get the attention they deserve.

  • Facts Matter – You Need the Best Facts You Can Get (Sponsored by Rep. Jennifer O’Mara):

Choosing a home is one of the most stressful and traumatic decisions seniors and their families will ever face. That choice should be made with the most accurate, objective information possible. This resolution would charge the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a comprehensive study on nurse staffing and ratios, with an emphasis on person-centered care and qualifications to become a licensed administrator.

  • One-Stop Information Shopping (sponsored by Rep. Mike Schlossberg):

Families count on state government to protect seniors in homes, but people don’t always know where to get the facts. This bill requires the Department of Health to post online the latest results of surveys and inspections conducted on personal care homes, assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

  • History Matters (Sponsored by Rep. Gerald Mullery):

Be it an isolated incident or a pattern of neglect, people need to know, and a long history of poor performance should be held against homes not putting people first when a court of law is involved. This bill would ensures past performance may be used in civil actions involving patient care to show a pattern or course of conduct.

  • Your Right to Know (Sponsored by Rep. Ryan Bizzarro):

All homes charged with the responsibility of caring for seniors and delivering peace of mind to their loved ones must make sure the Department of Human Services gets full, publically available reports on:

  • Civil or criminal negligence concerning patient or resident care.
  • Any out-of-state violations of laws or regulations for out-of-state homes under the same ownership or management.
  • Any arrests or prosecutions of home employees, management or contractors for criminal homicide, aggravated assault, sexual offenses, or drug offenses.                                                                                                               
  • Professionals Sharing Best Practices (Sponsored by Rep. Melissa Shusterman):

Home operators are struggling to fill jobs with qualified, caring professionals ready to put people first. With fewer than 110 state inspectors charged with protecting 80,000 citizens at more than 700 homes, something needs to be done to make sure the homes doing it right set the standard for fellow caregivers. This bill would create an annual meeting administered by the Department of Health to improve communication between providers and the department.

  • Make Sure the Fine Fits the Violation (Sponsored by Rep. Kyle Mullins):

Unfortunately, even in what seems to be the perfect nursing home violations can happen. Right now, the state is capped at fining these facilities no more than $500 per violation, even when the violation was extreme and caused injury. This bill would create tiers of fines to protect the good homes, crack down on the dangerous ones and give families peace of mind.

  • Nursing Homes are Healthcare Providers (Sponsored by Rep. Austin Davis)

Nursing homes are staffed with healthcare professionals providing vital lifesaving care to patients, but those homes aren’t covered by the state’s Patient Safety Authority. This bill would expand the role of the authority to include those homes, which would then be required to report incidents and serious events, keeping the state and families informed.

  • Save Lives, Save Our Nurses (Sponsored by Rep. Sara Innamorato)

Nurses are amazing, hard-working professionals who put care first, but there comes a point where even hard work and dedication can’t make up for a nurse overloaded with too many patients – and everyone suffers. This resolution would urge the Department of Health to review the nurse-to-patient ratio to save the lives of our loved ones and prevent stress and burnout for those providing the care.

  • More One-on-One Time Means More Care (Sponsored by Rep. Tony DeLuca)

Right now nursing home residents only get 2.5 hours of direct one-on-one care a day, and that’s just not enough to make sure our loved ones are getting the care they deserve, considering the high cost to families and society. This bill would increase the number of staff and increase the required hours to 3.5 hours per day to improve outcomes, prevent injuries and provide a safer environment for patients.

  • Delivering Medicaid Dollars for Our Loved Ones (Sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler)

Caring for aged loved ones and our family members with disabilities costs about $10,000 per month – a staggering expense beyond the means of most working families – and more than ever, Medicaid is paying to keep residents in care. This resolution would ask Congress to act and deliver increased, protected funding to pay for long-term care.

The individual bills in the package will be formally introduced in the near future.