Long-term care providers would be required to ensure essential caregivers have continued visitation access during future public health emergencies under a new bipartisan proposal.
The Essential Caregivers Act, or H.R. 3733, was introduced by Reps. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) and John Larson (D-CT) earlier this month. The two lawmakers on Wednesday hosted a press conference calling on Congress to pass the proposal.
The legislation would create the Essential Caregiver Program under the Social Security Act and allow residents to designate up to two individuals as essential caregivers in the event of a public health emergency, such as a pandemic. Those caregivers would be allowed to visit the resident for 12 hours each day.
The essential caregivers would be required to follow the same safety protocols as facility staff. Providers would be required to give a written justification to the resident and caregiver(s) within 24 hours if they’re denied visitation access.
“Essential caregivers are not just visitors. They are caregivers in every sense of the word. They help with activities of daily living and provide emotional support and companionship,” Tenney said Wednesday. “This support enriches the lives of residents, enhances their wellbeing, and helps them thrive physically, emotionally and socially.”
The law would apply to all skilled nursing and other care facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.
Essential caregiver programs have been a common tool used by several states to ensure visitation access to residents while federal restrictions remain in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Industry leaders in the past have called on the federal government to rethink federal visitation restrictions, while they were in place, to account for essential caregiver programs to help providers considering establishing similar programs.