Nursing homes must boost staffing levels under new Biden plan

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(WASHINGTON) — Nursing homes that accept Medicaid and Medicare must adhere to new federally required staffing levels in order to keep receiving taxpayer money, according to a rule announced Friday by the Biden administration that would apply to some 15,000 centers.

It’s an unprecedented move by the federal government aimed at improving care for more than 1.2 million Americans.

Under Biden’s plan, a registered nurse must be on-site at all times and spend a minimum of .55 hours — about 33 minutes — of care per resident a day. A nursing aide would be needed to provide another 2.45 hours of care to each resident.

“Establishing minimum staffing standards for nursing homes will improve resident safety,” Health Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “When facilities are understaffed, residents suffer.”

The new rule, which requires public comment and could take years before it takes effect, is expected to receive pushback from the industry. Nursing homes have long struggled with staffing shortages, exacerbated by pandemic restrictions, vaccine mandates, grueling work and lower pay compared to other health sector jobs.

Biden’s plan would include $75 million in financial incentives for nursing home staff, including tuition reimbursement and scholarships.

The idea of mandated staff levels was a promise Biden made in his 2022 State of the Union, in which the president blamed the industry’s problems on investors who cared more about profits than caring for patients.

“As Wall Street firms take over more nursing homes, quality in those homes has gone down and costs have gone up,” he said. “That ends on my watch. “

“Medicare is going to set higher standards for nursing homes and make sure your loved ones get the care they deserve and expect,” he added.

ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett contributed to this report.

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