Providers could have better access to background check data on long-term care applicants if newly proposed legislation is approved by U.S. lawmakers. 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced the new legislation Tuesday, which would expand access to the National Practitioner Data Bank to include long-term care providers. 

The access would be a “significant step toward helping long-term care providers more effectively and efficiently screen potential employees for histories of disciplinary problems from all 50 state licensing boards and any prior terminations for abuse,” said David Gifford, MD, the American Health Care Association’s senior vice president of quality and regulatory affairs and chief medical officer.

The Promote Responsible Oversight & Targeted Employee background Check Transparency for Seniors (PROTECTS) Act (S.2574) would permit Medicare and Medicaid providers to access the data bank to conduct background checks on potential employees. 

The database is current inaccessible by some Medicare and Medicaid providers, according to Gillibrand. She said the policy is aimed at improving hiring practices for healthcare workers and protecting seniors and long-term care patients from abuse. 

“This system allows hospitals, medical boards, and law firms to screen health professionals for a history of malpractice, but long-term care facilities are not allowed to use this important tool … which would change these rules and ensure that long-term care facilities can access critical information,” she said. 

The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. An August report by the Office of Inspector General found that more than 25,000 potential LTC workers were deemed ineligible through a federal background check program over the last two years.