Nursing Homes and COVID-19 Crisis Front and Center on Senate Floor

Legislation | July 01, 2020 | by Marsha R. Greenfield

On June 30, Sens. Casey (D-PA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Hassan (D-NH), Shaheen (D-NH), and Blumenthal (D-CT) held the Senate floor urging passage of Sen. Casey and Whitehouse’s bill, “Nursing Home COVID-19 Protection and Prevention Act of 2020”, which LeadingAge has endorsed.

On June 30, Sens. Casey (D-PA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Hassan (D-NH), Shaheen (D-NH), and Blumenthal (D-CT) held the Senate floor urging passage of Sen. Casey and Whitehouse’s bill, “Nursing Home COVID-19 Protection and Prevention Act of 2020”, which LeadingAge has endorsed.

Sen. Casey spoke of the need to give nursing homes the resources to implement best practices, and that his bill provides funding for cohorting and other resources to ensure access to PPE and testing. Sen. Whitehouse pointed to the need for surge teams to support nursing homes confronting COVID cases. Sen. Hassan noted that 80% of the deaths in New Hampshire were in nursing homes, and addressed the lack of adequate PPE, including moldy materials in FEMA shipments. Sen. Shaheen reiterated the need to support nursing homes, and Sen. Blumenthal spoke eloquently of Congress’s obligation to focus on nursing homes, the needs of frontline workers for additional pay and benefits, and the physical and emotional isolation of staff and residents. He argued that the bill was a necessity not a luxury and that the Senate should not recess for 2 weeks, leaving nursing home residents vulnerable.

Sen. Casey concluded similarly, that this is a federal responsibility – the federal government is primary payer and sets the rules and regulations that nursing homes must follow. Everyone, he concluded, must do better, there must be a strategy or “do we want to stand here six months from now?” asking the same questions.

The bill was not able to pass by unanimous consent, as Sen. Johnson (R-WI) reserved objection (which meant he could withdraw after the speeches by proponents but he did not), arguing that the CARES Act was very generous, that nursing homes had already received around $5B, and that sufficient funds remained to address nursing home needs.

The Senate and House are not in recess for two weeks. We anticipate that during these weeks and until the end of July there will be negotiations on the next coronavirus package. We will be working to ensure that LeadingAge’s priorities for all our members are taken seriously and included in that bill, which is likely to be the last bill this summer to provide funding and resources to address the pandemic.