Keeping Nursing Homes Open


By U.S. Senator Deb Fischer

Almost 10,000 Nebraskans live in certified nursing facilities. These facilities are a home for our seniors, a community where they receive care, meet friends, and visit with family.

For years, the number of these facilities has dwindled. Since 2015, 44 nursing homes and 35 assisted living facilities across our state have shut their doors. Those closures deprived Nebraskans of over 3,000 beds. And unfortunately, the staffing challenges plaguing the nursing industry are not going away any time soon. Many facilities are struggling to stay open.

A Biden administration rule finalized this month would only worsen this problem.

The rule, released by the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS), will burden nursing homes across rural America with unrealistic staffing requirements. It requires a registered nurse to be on hand every hour of every day. To put that in perspective, nine Nebraska counties don’t even have one practicing registered nurse available. The rule also requires about three and a half daily hours of dedicated nursing care for each resident.

Eighty percent of Nebraska’s counties don’t have a nursing home that meets these requirements. Especially in rural areas, we don’t always have the resources to meet the stringent requirements that work for big cities on the coasts.

After CMS proposed the nursing home rule in September, I sent a letter with the rest of the Nebraska congressional delegation expressing our concerns to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. But CMS still plowed ahead with the rule. It was finalized this month, and it will go into effect this summer.

This mandate will do the exact opposite of what it intends. CMS wants to provide seniors with better care, but unrealistic standards will force nursing homes to shut down in the rural communities that need them most. The result in those areas is not better care — it’s no care.

Nursing homes are few and far between in rural areas of our country. Fifteen of Nebraska’s counties have no nursing home. If one facility closes, the next closest one could be many miles or even hours away. Just one closure could be detrimental to seniors in some of our communities. But if our nursing homes stay open, seniors won’t have to face upheaval in their final years. They won’t have to leave family and loved ones behind to find a new home. They won’t have to experience the loneliness, uncertainty, and depression that can come along with moving to an unfamiliar place.

I’m pushing back against the CMS rule on behalf of those who need care. Congress has the power to pass a resolution called a Congressional Review Act (CRA) that overturns a rule instated by the presidential administration. My colleagues and I are working on a CRA now that will stop this staffing rule.

If it goes into effect, this rule could harm our own parents and grandparents by forcing nursing homes to shut down. It could harm hundreds of people across our state and thousands across our country. I’m determined to keep our nursing homes open, and I’ll do everything I can to stop this mandate.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.