Elder Abuse Subject of US Senate Hearing

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee this morning took a rare look at timely topics affecting care center quality, safety, workforce and regulations by holding a "Not Forgotten: Protecting Americans From Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes" hearing in Washington DC.  

The issue is front and center this week as a personal interest from the Committee's Chair, Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa) who opened the hearing comparing how current reports showing a third of American nursing home residents experience harm remains similar to reports he read 20 years prior as well as in the 1974 Senate report on this topic.


"I will continue to make this a priority," noted Grassley. "We will shine the public spotlight on this issue as long as it takes." 


Acknowledging the topic of elder abuse is seen as a "common ground" issue across the aisle, as ranking member Ron Wyden (D-OR) used the opportunity to lay a foundation against presumed cuts to Medicaid in the forthcoming Trump budget.


"I'll fight this [anticipated] cut with everything I've got, because it would turn back the clock on efforts to improve care, and it would inevitably lead to more nursing homes closing their doors,” said Wyden.


Wyden was joined by senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Maggie Hasson (D-NH), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) who raised respectful, yet concerned questions for testifiers, primarily rooted in the recent "Sheltering in Danger" report issued by the minority staff outlining how poor emergency planning and response put residents at risk during hurricanes Harvey and Irma.


The hearing included emotional examples of abuse seen around the country, but also delved into exploring and understanding the crosscutting implications of workforce pressures and regulatory oversight in prevention efforts with experts from academia to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.


Testimony from Harvard's Dr. David Grabowski framed the 1.5 million people receiving care in the nation's 16,000 nursing homes at a cost of $170 million. He went on to explain what he sees as four key drivers in quality:


  1. We get what we pay for and Medicaid rates don't cover costs;
  2. Unenforced regulations lead to quality gaps;
  3. Certificate of Need in 34 states limits competition; and
  4. Transparency of quality for all involved.

Committee discussion continued to focus on these themes, and soon another theme arose-- the workforce crisis. Several Senators expressed concerns regarding the workforce shortages aging services providers face and the devastating impact it is having on access to quality care – particularly in rural areas of states.


LeadingAge Minnesota sent a letter to our congressional delegation prior to the hearing. We look forward to sharing more details on the partnership that is needed from regulators, lawmakers, providers and families to provide safe, quality care, services and support to aging Minnesotans when we are in Washington DC this month for the LeadingAge Leadership Summit.


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