Congressmen ask health agency to assess feeding assistant rule

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Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services asking to collect "adequate and reliable" data through payroll records and invoices on the number of hours worked by feeding assistants in nursing homes. The Congressmen want to make the data available to the public on the Nursing Home Compare Web site, administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid.

The aim is for Congress and outside experts to assess the impact of a September 2003 rule that allows feeding assistants, rather than highly trained personnel, to feed residents. The data would aid the policymakers to determine whether nursing homes that hire large numbers of feeding assistants are reducing or increasing staffing in other areas, or whether they are more or less likely to violate federal nursing home standards.

"On behalf of nursing home residents and their families, we want to make certain that the more relaxed rules do not result in malnutrition and dehydration in nursing homes," wrote Grassley, who is also the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
The letter said Nursing Home Compare should provide an easy-to-understand comparison of the number of hours worked by feeding assistants, registered nurses, licensed nurses, and nurse aides. The letter asked HHS to respond by May 5.