This story has been updated to include comments from the American Health Care Association and Ilene Warner-Maron, Ph.D.

A skilled nursing advocate is praising a renewed effort by U.S. lawmakers that would allow providers to reinstate certified nursing aide training programs at facilities that have been assessed significant monetary penalties during annual surveys. 

Reps. Dwight Evans (D-PA) and Ron Estes (R-KS) introduced the Nursing Home Workforce Quality Act (H.R. 4468) on Thursday. The legislation has been referred to the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees. 

Currently, providers who are fined more than $10,000 during their annual surveys lose the ability to conduct CNA training for two full years — even if they’ve fixed the problem that caused the fine. The legislation would allow providers to resume in-house CNA training once they’re compliant. 

Similar legislation also was introduced earlier this year. 

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said the efforts serve as a “critical linchpin in our continued effort to increase the number of well-trained staff available to care for aging older adults.” The organization also had high praise for the bill’s authors. 

“This legislation reflects the growing understanding by Congress of the importance of increasing the number of well-trained certified nurse aides or direct-care workers in nursing homes, and we thank Rep. Evans for his leadership in this area,” added Adam Marles CEO of LeadingAge Pennsylvania. 

Debra Zehr, CEO of LeadingAge Kansas, said the organization is “grateful to have a bill that faces our nurse aide training needs head on, while also upholding nursing home quality standards. We thank Rep. Estes for supporting strong, common sense solutions to improve the well-being of older Americans.”

Clifton Porter II, senior vice President of government relations for the American Health Care Association, applauded the legislation and said the organization will encourage congressional efforts to help “recruit, retain and attract high-quality workers.” 

“This is an incredibly important piece of legislation that will provide our members with the ability to combat the existing workforce challenges. Workforce recruitment and retention, particularly in rural areas, is one of the most pressing challenges confronting long-term care providers today,” Porter said in a statement. “The health care system has experienced a shortage of trained caregivers for critical roles for some time; nurses and nurse aides are among the fastest growing occupations, but supply is not keeping pace. This piece of legislation will help ensure our nation can support the workforce needs of the long term care profession.”

The legislation aims to address a “critical” shortage of CNAs. Nearly 300 skilled nursing facilities had their training programs suspended in 2017 due to the current law, preventing about 2,900 students from starting training programs, according to the lawmakers

“This common-sense legislation would help nursing homes to fix problems that are identified, which would be a win for everyone affected — the patients, their families and the nursing homes. It’s important to work across party lines on points of agreement so we can make progress for the people we represent,” Evans said. 

Estes added that the legislation would ensure that “nursing homes continue to meet high standards without losing staffing levels that are needed for quality care.”

Alden Geriatrics Consultants President Ilene Warner-Maron, Ph.D., RN-BC, CWCN, CALA, NHA, FCPP, told McKnight’s the proposed changes should help skilled nursing facilities address CNA workforce issues. 

“Staffing is the single most important factor in a facility’s ability to deliver quality of care, meet the needs of residents, comply with regulations and establish an environment in which residents’ needs are primary. The current law preventing facilities with a negative survey history from having a CNA program fails to provide an appropriate remedy and only serves to further worsen the staffing issues,” Warner-Maron said.

“The proposed changes would enable facilities to develop their own CNA education program, which would (help) SNFs recruit staff, educate their new CNAs in the philosophy of the building and provide orientation to care consistent with the needs of the facility.”