Bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) aims to make it easier for senior living facilities to screen potential workers by providing operators with access to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).

The bill, titled the Ensuring Seniors Access to Quality Care Act, would let nursing centers tap into the NPDB, an existing national criminal background check system, giving employers a heightened ability to screen and vet potential employees to ensure that caregivers do not have a history of behavior that could endanger the seniors under their care.

Currently, senior living facilities are not authorized to use the NPDB and instead must use state-level criminal background checks that often omit key details about an employee’s background.

Another section of the bill would amend “overly restrictive regulations” that bar certain senior living facilities from conducting training programs for in-house certified nurse assistants (CNAs) for a two-year period after a care facility is found to have deficiencies, such as poor conditions or patient safety violations.

Under existing regulations by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), senior living facilities that receive a civil monetary penalty (CMP) over $10,000 are automatically prohibited from conducting CNA staff training programs for a period of two years.

Specifically, the legislation would permit senior living facilities to reinstate their CNA training program if the facility has corrected the deficiency for which the CMP was assessed, the deficiency for which the CMP was assessed did not result in an immediate risk to patient safety and is not the result of patient harm resulting from abuse or neglect, and the facility has not received a repeat deficiency related to direct patient harm in the preceding two-year period.

In response to the legislation, Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, said the proposed legislation tackles two important areas.

“First, it will help ensure that long term care providers have the ability to provide training programs for CNAs. Just as important, it will allow skilled nursing facilities access to the National Practitioner Data Bank, providing a better way to conduct background checks on potential employees,” he said.

Parkinson added that “we applaud Sen. Warner and Sen. Scott for taking this important step to address the worker recruitment and retention challenges facing providers.”

He also stressed that CNAs are essential to the quality care provided in long term care facilities. “In addition, the jobs provided by nursing homes and assisted living communities are important to many communities, especially rural areas, where they are often a major employer,” he said.

In releasing the legislation, Warner said anyone with a loved one in a senior living facility should have the peace of mind of knowing that they are receiving care from compassionate, dependable, and well-qualified staff as they live out their golden years. “This bipartisan legislation will help provide these facilities with the tools they need to hire experienced staff and to continue to meet the demands of high-quality care without losing staffing levels,” he said.

Scott said senior citizens and their families know how important it is to have well-qualified, compassionate, and trustworthy caregivers in senior living facilities. “The Ensuring Seniors Access to Quality Care Act will help these facilities more efficiently hire the best candidates and, in turn, provide better care for seniors everywhere,” he said.​