John O’Connor

Workplace violence is a very real and horrific problem across all healthcare settings. Pending federal legislation offers several innovative ways to help.

The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309) has many commendable components. But it also has one not-so-minor flaw. Specifically, it places a new and unfair cost burden on skilled nursing facilities and other healthcare organizations.

How much of a burden, you ask? Well, according to an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, carrying out the measure would cost private facilities $2.7 billion in compliance costs during the first two years. Thereafter, the tab will be about $1.3 billion a year. Yes, that’s billion, with a ‘b.’

Workplace violence can take several forms. But the worst of it involves guns. Or more accurately, the carnage that results when guns are fired. So if these weapons are largely responsible for causing such damage, doesn’t it make sense to put gun makers — rather than nursing homes — on the hook for the cleanup costs?

Some might say that’s mixing apples and oranges. Well, there’s plenty of precedent for burden sharing on the taxation front.

Consider: Here in Illinois, people pay a hefty gas tax when they fill up at the pump. The resulting funds are used for road repairs and other needed services (at least, that’s what the lawmakers who keep pushing additional gas taxes claim).

But until recently, drivers who switched to Teslas, Bolts and other electric vehicles avoided this surcharge. But not any more. Under a law that took effect in July, electric vehicle owners in Illinois must now pay a $248 annual registration fee.

Why? Because fair is fair.

To be clear, I am not opposed to measures that will help reduce or eliminate workplace violence. But I am opposed to forcing skilled care operators to pay for a problem caused by another entity. Which is exactly what will happen if this bill becomes law in its current form.

A new tax on weapons manufacturers to cover the costs of this new legislation won’t stop unstable people from using guns in horrific ways. But it will help ensure the cleanup bill doesn’t go to the wrong address.

  John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s