Nursing home providers can expect even more scrutiny from Congressional lawmakers this year due to the pandemic’s devastating impact on the sector — and the first piece of reform legislation is already gaining traction, according to a leading regulatory expert. 

“[The Nursing Home Improvement and Accountability Act] is a piece of legislation to really watch,” Cynthia Morton, executive vice president of the National Association for the Support of Long-Term Care, said Monday. She was speaking during the opening session of the SimpleLTC Virtual Symposium.

The legislation was introduced in early August by Democratic lawmakers on the Senate Finance and Aging committees. Minimum staffing requirements, increased Medicaid funding  and a ban on pre-dispute arbitration agreements are among the proposals included.

Morton explained pieces of the legislation are being copied, adapted and written into other pieces committee bills, which later could be included in the broader budget reconciliation bill later this year. 

“It’s not a done deal yet. It’s just preliminary, but just to kind of give you a feel that this Nursing Home Improvement and Accountability Act definitely has traction, definitely has legs,” Morton said. “We may be seeing some provisions [from] there this year in real, legitimate legislation.”  

She added that the industry should expect other types of nursing home reform measures and proposals to arise from Congress, as well as the Medicaid Payment Advisory Commission, consumer groups and the public. 

“We know that because of the pandemic impact on our sector — I’m not faulting — because of the impact we are going to undergo quite a bit of scrutiny with Congress and with [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services],” Morton said. 

“But provider groups will have their voice, as well. I think it’s pretty significant that LeadingAge and AHCA came out with their joint legislative proposal,” she said. “Again, whereas we don’t know exactly where some of the specific reform is going to come … in the weeks to come, we certainly will begin to get more flavors about that.”