Kansas, Missouri lawmakers plan to attack nursing home problems 'indicative' of facilities nationwide

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Kansas and Missouri legislators currently are faced with nursing home problems that are "indicative of a crisis found in facilities around the United States," said Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois Democrat sponsoring the Elder Justice Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Instead of sweeping the many citations homes in both states have received under the rug before the upcoming elections, several legislators have stepped up and proposed solutions to improve the safety of residents in problem facilities by holding them accountable for any citations received, improving inspection practices and reducing staff turnover.

The proposals have come in response to a news series showing that most nursing homes in the states rarely received the maximum state or federal penalties for cited offenses.

Missouri Senator Charles Wheeler said he plans to work on a bill that would increase sanctions against nursing homes that commit serious violations and also strengthen background checks on facility employees. Another bill in planning would increase the number of inspectors to allow for more in-depth investigations of nursing homes, bringing state inspections in line with federal inspection practices.

In Kansas, proposed legislation would lower nursing home staff turnover by helping to provide employees with health insurance. If passed, state Sen. Henry Helgerson, also running again in the election, says the bill would support state payments with contributions from facilities and the federal government, with the brunt of the cost carried by the federal government.