Nursing home inspector holding a clipboard
Credit: LumiNola/Getty Images Plus
Nursing home inspector holding a clipboard
Photo credit: LumiNola/Getty Images Plus

A bill that would require the Pennsylvania Department of Health to hold yearly meetings to collaborate with nursing homes on survey practices and results passed through the state House Monday. Sector leaders have praised the measure as a unique way of fostering much-needed collaboration between regulators and providers.

If the bill is eventually signed into law, it would require the DOH to invite providers to a meeting at least once a year. This gathering would be used to promote communication and cooperation about the survey process between providers and the department, according to lawmakers. 

HB 1853 passed the House comfortably (124-77). The Democrats control the chamber 102-100. The bill is now under consideration in the Senate.

“House Bill 1853 will strengthen … collaboration by bringing Department of Health surveyors and providers together to enhance care outcomes,” said Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. “This legislation is another important step forward as we continue to prioritize the care of our state’s elderly and adults with disabilities.”

Tim Ward, director of advocacy and government affairs at PHCA, worked directly with the bill’s bipartisan sponsors to develop the legislation. 

“This legislation is essential to creating a relationship that doesn’t quite exist, where providers can learn from regulators to better understand a surveyor’s interpretation of a regulation so caregivers can continue to improve resident care outcomes,” he told McKnight’s Tuesday.

The proposed requirement wasn’t based on any other state’s existing laws and, to the PHCA’s knowledge, would be a unique requirement — though some states have enacted or proposed other methods of increasing collaboration between providers and regulators.

Ward told McKnight’s that the required meetings would be an important step in fostering collaboration that should be the default. 

“If this legislation becomes law, it will require collaboration to take place and better ensure there is a uniformed understanding of regulations,” he explained. “We, at PHCA, feel collaboration is key to supporting resident care, especially in a heavily regulated industry like long-term care … The hope is that line of communication remains open throughout the year to create more clarity and a universal understanding of regulatory interpretations.”

Nonprofit group LeadingAge Pennsylvania echoed that statement in a comment provided to McKnight’s Thursday.

“LeadingAge PA is encouraged by the passage of HB 1853,” the statement read. “Communication between regulators and the regulated community is essential in bridging the gap to most effectively and consistently administer policy while receiving regular feedback. We are hopeful that this proactive step will foster collaboration and open dialogue between nursing homes and the department, ultimately leading to enhanced care for our seniors. LeadingAge PA advocated for additional protections to ensure that providers can address inconsistencies with the department without concern for retaliation, and we’re pleased to see that added to the bill.”