A pair of Pennsylvania elected officials on opposite sides of the aisle are teaming up for a bipartisan effort to bolster the workforce pipeline for essential healthcare workers.
On Monday, Reps. Fred Keller (R-Snyder) and Susan Wild (D-Lehigh) introduced the Nurses CARE Act, (H.R. 8874). The bipartisan legislation aims to prevent workforce shortages in long-term care facilities and allow America’s essential healthcare workforce to do its important work uninterrupted.
According to a press release, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued Section 1135 waivers to provide states with greater flexibility to direct personnel and resources to patients in need, in response to COVID-19. Although the release touts this regulatory flexibility as being “an essential tool” in preventing health care shortages by employing Temporary Nurse Aides (TNAs) to offer care during the pandemic, it is set to expire when the national emergency declaration is lifted.
The Nurses CARE ACT works to build on the success of CMS’s Section 1135 waivers and provide states with the necessary flexibility to ensure that “competent TNAs” who provided critical services during the pandemic can retain their certification after the national emergency declaration has expired.
The release also adds that this legislation would allow states and facilities to offer on-the-job experience as a partial substitute for certification courses, testing, and other evaluations, “thus providing a pathway to full-time employment for TNAs who answered the call during the COVID-19 pandemic and have already received extensive on-the-job training.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much about how we deliver health care at nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and long-term care centers,” Keller said. “We need to do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable populations, like our seniors and those with pre-existing conditions. I am proud of this bipartisan legislation that gives American families across our nation the peace of mind that their loved ones in long-term care are receiving the care they need to remain safe and healthy.”
“Throughout this entire pandemic, so many have selflessly joined the front lines in our nursing homes and long-term care facilities to get our most vulnerable through this health care crisis—and they deserve their work and on-the-job training to be fully recognized,” Wild said. “I’m proud to join this bipartisan, commonsense effort to help prevent critical health care shortages or gaps in Pennsylvania and ensure those who answered the call in this emergency have a pathway for full-time employment once this pandemic ends.”
The bill also has received praise from the head of the Pennsylvania Healthcare Association.
“Since the temporary nurse aide position was formally approved in the Commonwealth, more than 4,000 Pennsylvanians have completed the training program, and many have been hired to assist long-term care providers in their response to COVID-19,” said Zach Shamberg, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Healthcare Association. “This legislation not only recognizes the heroic and compassionate work these caregivers have performed since the pandemic began, but also puts them on a path to full-time employment as certified nurse aides.
“We are grateful to both Congressman Keller and Congresswoman Wild for their bipartisan leadership and united approach in standing up for our long-term care providers and healthcare heroes on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania and throughout the country,” Shamberg continued.