AHCA joins defense in feeding-assistant lawsuit

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The American Health Care Association has filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit that is seeking to stop the use of so-called "feeding assistants" in nursing homes. Since last year, the rule allows people with about one-tenth of the training time of a certified nurse's aide to help residents with eating and drinking.

The Resident Councils of Washington and the Washington
State Ombudsman Program are suing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, claiming the feeding assistants could be an impediment to highest quality of care. Plaintiffs also claim that no hard evidence of the assistants' effectiveness, only anecdotal accounts, were the basis for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services advancing the rule.

The AHCA jumped into the fray officially on Wednesday by filing a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle, where the class action lawsuit is pending.

The use of feeding assistants is left up to individual states' health departments. Numerous states have already approved programs for feeding assistants, while dozens of others have explored possibilities. AHCA President and CEO Hal Daub said field reports already show there is ample evidence that feeding assistant programs are improving quality of care.