A sick nursing home resident lies in bed
Credit: RUBEN BONILLA GONZALO/Getty Images Plus

Nearly $1 billion in grant funding aimed at helping long-term care providers improve wages and benefits, as well as infection control efforts, is on the table in the Senate’s latest version of the Build Back Better Act.

The Senate Finance Committee released updated text of the social spending plan that President Joe Biden is eager to push through. House lawmakers gave the measure their stamp of approval in late November. Biden, who hoped to pass the spending package by Christmas, on Thursday noted that it could take “weeks” to get a deal done.  

Among several provisions specific to nursing homes and long-term care, the Senate’s version calls for $800 million in grant funding to: provide wage or benefit enhancements to staff who care for residents; improve and develop training and career development opportunities, including training for infection control; and expand staffing for care of residents to increase staffing ratios. 

The above proposal was not included in the House’s version but a provision included in the draft text calls for enhanced funding to support staffing and quality care in nursing facilities, according to an analysis by the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

The Senate’s version also still calls for the calls on federal health officials to conduct a study to determine the ideal minimum nurse staff-to-resident ratio for SNFs, but took out a House proposal that then mandated those minimum requirements for facilities.

The measure, as in the House version, would require SNFs to have an RN present 24 hours per day, which would be an increase from the current federal requirement of eight hours. 

“Nursing homes support a requirement to have a registered nurse (RN) on-staff 24 hours a day, but it will require hiring at least 21,000 more RNs and cost at least $2.5 billion a year,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, said in a statement Wednesday. “Without the necessary resources, senators must remove this unfunded mandate.”

Other provisions in the Senate’s version include: $325 million toward conducting reviews of survey enforcement and processes; $100 million toward ensuring no less than 3.5% of all facilities are participating in the Special Focus Facility program; and revisions to temporary increase of FMAP funding approved for COVID-19 relief measures. 

“Fully funding our long-term care sector, incentivizing providers to do the right thing, and working together to enhance quality care should be our focus,” Parkinson said.