Senate committee approves long-term care background checks bill

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The Senate Finance Committee this week passed the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act (S. 1577), which would establish a nationwide system of background checks for potential long-term care employees, by a unanimous vote.

If passed by the Senate, the bill would allow nursing homes to weed out potentially abusive caregivers from the hiring pool. Bill sponsors Sens. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Pete Domenici (R-NM) in a statement called the bill an important step toward protecting seniors from mistreatment by those who care for them. Earlier this year, the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which Kohl chairs, announced that a three-year, seven-state background check pilot program had prevented thousands of potentially abusive candidates from gaining employment in the long-term care field (McKnight's, 8/11). Congress returned to session this week.

Congress, State Attorneys General across the country and many eldercare lobbying groups approve of the legislation. While no full vote is currently scheduled for the bill, proponents are hopeful it will pass before the end of the 110th Congress' legislative calendar.