New bills would provide nursing homes with funding for disaster relief and sprinkler systems

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One new federal bill would expand the scope of disaster relief to include for-profit nursing homes, while another would help fund the installation of sprinkler systems.

The Nursing Home Emergency Assistance Act (H.R. 1494), which recently was introduced by Texas Republican Congressman and former presidential contender Ron Paul, would update the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. The new bill would include all nursing homes, regardless of tax status, in emergency disaster relief funds allocated by the president, in the event of a disaster. The American Health Care Association, as well as other long-term care industry representatives, support of the legislation.

Meanwhile, the Nursing Home Fire Safety Act of 2009 (H.R. 1642) was introduced late last week. In this version of the bill, introduced by Rep. John Larson (D-CT), lawmakers would make available $450 million in direct loans and $100 million in assistance grants over the next five fiscal years for retrofitting and installation of sprinkler systems in all nursing homes. It had unsuccessful showings in the two most recent sessions of Congress.

In June of 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services mandated that all nursing homes participating in the Medicare or Medicaid systems be required to have sprinkler systems. But at the time, the agency was offering no federal financial assistance for providers (McKnight's, 6/18/08).