Senator presses U.S. Attorney General on nursing home painkiller legislation

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

This story was updated Thursday to clarify the American Health Care Association's position on Sen. Kohl's legislation.

Lawmakers pushed U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder to work more expediently with the Drug Enforcement Agency to resolve delays in the dispensing of painkillers in nursing homes.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), who last year introduced legislation that would allow designated nursing home staff to administer controlled substances to residents while acting on a physician's verbal orders, pressed Holder for assurance that the Department of Justice is working with the DEA.

“We have reached agreement on most of the bill, but there are a few outstanding differences between industry and the DEA that we continue to work through, specifically related to the penalties nursing homes would face for minor technical errors,” Kohl said during the hearing.

Holder said he hopes to reach a solution with the DEA by the end of this year.

Kohl's proposal eases regulations that restrict nurses from ordering and administering controlled substances to residents based on a physician's verbal orders. When Kohl's legislation was first proposed, the American Health Care Association expressed concern that it would create undue paperwork burdens for nursing home staff. However, progress is being made, according to AHCA spokesman Greg Crist. He says Kohl's office has "shown acknowledgment of concerns that we have and a willingness to work with the larger community."