The U.S. Senate over the weekend narrowly approved a motion to begin debate on its version of healthcare reform. The legislation includes a significant expansion of the Elder Justice Act and other provisions affecting seniors and long-term care.

The 60-39 procedural vote fell along party lines. Full debate is expected to begin Dec. 1. The Senate’s healthcare reform package includes a version of the Elder Justice Act that is much more extensive than the House’s counterpart, according to Kaiser Health News. Though both would strengthen worker screening programs through a national background check database, the Senate version would include more federal aid for elder abuse identification. It also would require that long-term care providers report possible crimes and include new anti-abuse efforts coordinated through the Department of Health and Human Services.

Other important long-term care measures in the bill include implementation of the CLASS Act, a long-term care insurance program; approval for the full Medicare market basket payment update in 2010; and expansion of Medicaid coverage to home and community-based services. The future of the Senate’s healthcare reform is unclear. Christmas break will be cut short if the Senate can’t agree by then, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said on Sunday.