Elder Justice Issues Addressed by Senate Finance Committee

The Finance Committee of the United States Senate held a hearing on Promoting Elder Justice on Tuesday, July 23. Click here to access a video of the hearing, as well as the testimony of hearing witnesses. Elder Justice Coalition National Coordinator Bob Blancato, a past Chair of the ASA Board of Directors and one of the country's most respected elder justice advocates, provided testimony at the hearing.

The hearing was held to coincide with the release of a report from the Government Accountability Office on protecting nursing home residents from abuse. Megan Tinker, Senior Adviser for Legal Review, Office of Counsel to the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS OIG); and John Dicken, Director, Health Care, United States Government Accountability Office, offered testimony. Ms. Tinker's remarks also highlighted a report issued by the HHS OIG in June that found incidents of potential abuse and neglect at skilled nursing facilities were not always reported and investigated.

Bob Blancato's testimony supported renewal and updating of the Elder Justice Act. According to Blancato, the Elder Justice Act’s main goal of achieving dedicated and adequate funding for adult protective services has yet to be accomplished, citing a growing caseload nationwide for adult protective services. He also called for greater investment in elder abuse programs at the state and local level due to the fact that fewer than five percent of older Americans live in nursing homes, which are subject to federal oversight.

Blancato’s remarks were followed by Mark Parkinson, President and CEO, American Health Care Association, who recommended several additions to the Elder Justice Act, including improvements to the CMS National Background Check Program for facility staff. He also called for adding patient satisfaction to nursing home compare and addressing what he characterized as a massive shortage for nursing home staff.

Next, Lori Smetanka, Executive Director, the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, echoed Parkinson’s concerns on workforce and staffing. Specifically, she suggested minimum requirements on direct care staff, such as having at least one registered nurse available in a nursing home at any given time. Smetanka also called for establishing standards for ownership and operation of nursing home facilities, due to an increase in corporate and private equity ownership. She urged CMS to stop reducing standards and specifically coitized a final rule issued last week that will allow for pre-dispute arbitration agreements between nursing home facilities and patients. Smetenka additionally suggested making Nursing Home Compare more understandable and increasing funding to support elder justice activities.

A complete summary of the hearing prepared by Chamber Hill staff member Matt Gontarchik, is available here. Chamber Hill has been engaged by ASA since June of 2018 to support its policy and advocacy work at the federal level.