OKLAHOMA CITY – A large coalition of Oklahoma groups who advocate on behalf of seniors has endorsed a state legislative proposal entitled “The Nursing Home Quality Assurance Initiative.” The proposal aims to improve the quality of care in Oklahoma’s nursing homes and improve the quality of life for residents. The proposal has been introduced in the Oklahoma House of Representatives as House Bill 1902, by Speaker Charles McCall, and in the State Senate as Senate Bill 280, by Senator Frank Simpson.
Supporting groups include the Oklahoma chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, AARP Oklahoma, Care Providers Oklahoma, LeadingAge Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Alliance on Aging, the Oklahoma Nurses Association, the Oklahoma Silver-Haired Legislature Alumni Association, the Oklahoma State Council on Aging, and the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.
Speaker McCall said the large coalition in support of the bill reflects the urgent need for improvement in eldercare.
“We are hearing from our constituents that it is time to act,” McCall said. “Our seniors and our Oklahomans with disabilities deserve the best care possible. I am excited to be a part of this solution.”
With one of the lowest Medicaid nursing home payment rates in the country, Oklahoma currently ranks 48th or below in Quality Measures among Nursing Home Residents, and among the five worst states in the U.S. for life expectancy. The Nursing Home Quality Assurance Initiative aims to improve these rankings and make Oklahoma a top ten state for the care of the elderly.
“When we talk about pursuing ‘Oklahoma’s turnaround,’ we are talking about a state that is a great place to live for everyone, including our most vulnerable residents,” said Simpson. “This legislation gives us a path to get there and provides our seniors with the care they need and deserve.”
Critical quality improvements within the Nursing Home Quality Assurance Initiative will ensure that new funding will be directed to increased staffing, vital staff training, competitive wages and benefits, reducing staff turnover and improving care. The initiative would:
Incentivize improvements to care by establishing a pay-for-performance initiative based on four proposed quality measures: improving outcomes and rankings focused on pressure ulcers, urinary tract infections, use of antipsychotic medications, and weight loss among nursing home residents;
Increase direct care staffing by improving the staff to resident ratio by 20 percent to enhance resident care and reduce staff turnover;
Improve resident’s quality of life by increasing the Personal Needs Allowance from $50 per month to $75 per month;
Improve the safety and well-being of residents by increasing needed mandatory Alzheimer’s/Dementia training for all clinical staff to a minimum of 4 hours every year;
Increase resident protection and advocacy with five additional Ombudsmen; and
Maintain language that ensures provider accountability and transparency for any new funds to encourage provider investment in direct care staffing, employee benefits and training, all of which will reduce staff turnover.
Rep. Marcus McEntire, an original co-author of HB 1902, said the legislation is designed to maximize the incentives for quality improvements and to make an immediate impact in the lives of nursing home residents.
“We want this to be a piece of legislation that has an immediate and tangible impact,” said McEntire. “Nursing home residents and their families will be able to see the difference and experience an increase in quality of care.”
To help fund the improvements and to support the state’s struggling nursing homes, the proposal would increase the nursing home Medicaid reimbursement rate by approximately $23 per day for each resident.
Sen. Roger Thompson, who is supportive of the plan and has authored similar legislation of his own, said the funding will help to improve quality and also to provide stability within the nursing home profession.
“Nursing homes, especially in rural areas, are struggling to keep their doors open,” said Thompson. “This will help provide some financial stability and – more importantly – some peace of mind to residents who are afraid their facility might be otherwise forced to close.”
Both bills are making their way through the legislative process. SB 280 was passed unanimously in the Senate Appropriations Committee, and HB 1902 was passed unanimously in the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.
LeadingAge Oklahoma Executive Director Mary Brinkley said seniors, advocates, and providers are all engaged in this initiative and truly appreciate the support this important legislation has received. LeadingAge Oklahoma advocates for the state’s not-for-profit long term care communities.
“We are very early in the process, but we are incredibly grateful to see such a high level of support as we work together on a purposeful plan to improve the quality of life for the thousands of Oklahomans who rely on the care of skilled nursing facilities,” said Brinkley.