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Striking workers cheered a judge's ruling, which the NLRB says has not been honored.
Striking workers cheered a judge's ruling, which the NLRB says has not been honored.

Midwest

Tougher looks at owners

Illinois — Long-term care advocates are protesting a move to broaden background checks for prospective owners of healthcare facilities.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Service Review Board is mulling a new rule, under which the board would review detailed information on any officer, partner or owner with at least a 5% stake in a proposed facility prior to issuing a needed permit. The background check would require disclosure of juvenile incidents and expunged records, along with past misdemeanors.

The Illinois Health Care Association and Illinois Council on Long-Term Care have blasted the proposal as overreach. They say that it will waste state resources rather than protect residents, and argue that it may violate state law.

Quality standards disputed

Ohio — Gov. John Kasich (R) wants to hold nursing homes to having more stringent quality measures, but leaders of his own party in the General Assembly have blocked his efforts.

Currently, Ohio nursing homes must meet five of 20 quality standards to receive full reimbursement from Medicaid. Kasich proposed tightening the requirements for certain measures and mandating that facilities must meet at least one clinical standard, such as limiting pressure sores. Hospital readmissions tracking and eliminating overhead paging systems were also part of Kasich's plan.

Although they scaled back the governor's proposals, GOP assembly members said their plan holds facilities to appropriately high standards of care. 

The legislature also proposed boosting nursing home funding by $60 million over the next two years. 

Bill strips vaccine mandate

Wisconsin — Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) recently introduced a bill barring any employers in the state, including nursing homes, from mandating that employees receive influenza vaccinations. Wisconsin would be the first state to bar all employers from requiring workers to be vaccinated against the flu.

Under the measure, employers would be required to provide risk and benefit information about the flu vaccine, but they could not demote, punish or fire workers who refuse vaccination. 

Thiesfeldt framed this is a personal liberty issue. He questioned the flu vaccine's effectiveness and said “powerful influences” such as pharmaceutical companies are pushing for mandatory vaccination. 

Opponents include Dan Collins, ThedaCare health system director of quality. The bill sends the wrong message that vaccination is not important, Collins told local reporters. 

Northeast

Contempt of court latest HealthBridge twist

Connecticut — The National Labor Relations Board has sued HealthBridge Management for contempt of court, marking the latest development in a long-running dispute. 

Union workers at five HealthBridge-managed nursing homes went on strike in 2011 after contract negotiations fell apart. In December 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Robert N. Chatigny ordered HealthBridge to reinstate all striking workers under the conditions of their existing contracts. The five nursing homes subsequently filed for bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy court then allowed the homes to modify the contracts, which reduced pay rates. The contract changes are not allowed under Chatigny's ruling, the labor board argues. The board is seeking back pay and accrued interest for the workers.

HealthBridge argues that the five homes acted legally under bankruptcy protection and that the homes themselves — not HealthBridge — are parties to the disputed contracts. 

Centenarians set record

New Jersey — The Regency Jewish Heritage Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Franklin Township now holds the Guinness World Record for hosting the largest gathering of centenarians. Forty centenarians — only two of whom are men — gathered there, smashing the previous record of 28. Five centenarians live at the center. 

Southwest

Life insurance for LTC

Texas — Life insurance policies can be now converted to long-term care financing vehicles for Texas residents.

Under the new law, a life insurance policy holder can sell a policy worth more than $10,000 to pay for long-term care. The funds would not count toward Medicaid eligibility, and the sale of the policy would not bind the seller to any particular care provider.

The bill passed both houses of the legislature by wide margins before Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed it. The state's Health and Human Services Commission must now certify its feasibility and cost effectiveness.

Other states, including Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and New York are considering similar measures.