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The nation’s two largest long-term care provider associations and more than 1,100 cosigners threw their support behind a federal bill that would block the nursing home staffing mandate proposed in September by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

The groups — including at least 16 national organizations, dozens of state organizations, rural provider advocacy groups, and hundreds of individual providers — made their appeal in a joint letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday, urging the lawmakers to support HR 5796, known as the Protecting Rural Seniors’ Access to Care Act

The act, which is also being deliberated in the Senate, would prohibit CMS from implementing the proposed rule and would instead create a nursing home workforce advisory panel to investigate staffing challenges faced by the sector. 

Providers have largely been unified in their opposition to the staffing mandate since its announcement last fall — regularly citing concerns of increased labor costs with little to no additional funding assistance and a “one-size-fits-all” approach that could disproportionately affect rural facilities. 

These problems with the pending regulation could lead to facility closures that would displace up to 300,000 seniors, according to the joint letter.

“This mandate will neither improve care nor address the workforce crisis,” the signers wrote. “Without workforce development programs and funding, a staffing mandate will not create more caregivers. This impossible standard only threatens to shut down more nursing homes – creating further hospital backlogs – and severely limit access to care for our nation’s most vulnerable seniors.”

The joint message in support of the bill was organized and sent by the American Health Care Association.

“Nursing homes are a critical part of our health care continuum, which is why the number of stakeholders speaking out against this flawed policy continues to grow,” said Clif Porter, senior vice president of government affairs at AHCA. “We are extremely proud to have led this effort and grateful for the support of these organizations.”

Support from nonprofits

The country’s most prominent nonprofit nursing home association acknowledged the need to increase staffing, but vocally supported the joint advocacy push Thursday.

“Ensuring access to quality care for older Americans is paramount, but CMS’ proposed nursing home staffing requirement is simply unfeasible,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge in a statement. “The financial burden it imposes threatens nursing homes already strained by insufficient Medicaid reimbursement. Our estimates reveal a staggering $7.1B price tag in the first year alone, far beyond CMS projections. Nursing homes cannot bear the burden of those costs alone.”

LeadingAge and more than 30 of its state and regional affiliates were among the many signers of the joint letter.

Support for the act in Congress has broken down largely along partisan lines. Representative Michelle Fischbach (R-MN) sponsored the house bill and all cosponsors are also Republicans. In the senate, however, the legislation is cosponsored by moderate Democrats John Tester (D-MT) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), as well as Independents Angus King (I-ME) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), who caucus with the Democrats.