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 AHCA, Allies Take Aim at Nursing Home Drug Bill

The American Health Care Association is taking aim at a bill that would expand penalties for long term care workers who improperly dispense pain medication.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the Nursing Home Resident Pain Relief Act of 2011 on Thursday. The bill was introduced by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), who was angry at the Drug Enforcement Administration for its crackdown on dispensaries. 

But the bill the Judiciary Committee will take up “does more harm than good,” AHCA President and Chief Executive Officer Gov. Mark Parkinson says in an open letter released late Tuesday.

“We are disappointed that, after three years of efforts to correct its critical flaws, the bill as it stands today does not provide a solution to the problem,” Parkinson says in the letter. “In fact, it exacerbates the original problems of excessive delays and paperwork.”

Parkinson says he takes exception to the bill’s paperwork requirements—especially its requirement for “log books”—which “adds to the bureaucracy that has caused delays in delivering medically necessary medications.”

He also objects to the parts of the bill that would make nurses criminally and civilly responsible for paperwork errors. Nurses can be sentenced to up to five years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines for improperly dispensing pain meds under the legislation.

Finally, Parkinson says he objects to the premise of the legislation, which he says is based on the straw man assumption that heavy-duty meds are being “diverted” away from the patients who need them.

“Long term care professionals understand and support the DEA’s role in preventing the diversion of controlled pharmaceuticals through the sale or theft of prescription medications to drug deals or abuses and other types of drug diversion,” Parkinson says.

According to the government’s bill-tracking website,, Kohl’s bill has only an 8 percent chance of getting out of the Judiciary Committee and a 1 percent chance of being passed by the full Senate.

Nonetheless, AHCA and its allies are lobbying furiously on the issue. One veteran lobbyist told us that long term care advocates are pressing several members of the committee to adopt AHCA’s draft of the bill in lieu of Kohl’s version.

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