By Representative Michelle Fischbach (MN-07)
It is understandable to worry that Members of Congress may be disconnected from the people they are hired to serve. But I assure you, feedback from constituents has a huge impact on our priorities and the legislation we introduce. For example, seniors across Minnesota’s 7th District have been talking to me about two things in particular: they want to be able to contribute to their health savings account (HSA) for all of their working years, and they are concerned about a proposed staffing requirement that threatens the very existence of many nursing homes. Thanks to those conversations, I have introduced two pieces of legislation to address their concerns, the Hardworking Seniors Act (HSA) and the Protecting Rural Seniors Access to Care Act.
Today, people are working later and later in life. We can thank advancements in medicine for the ability to work longer or blame a harsh economy forcing people to work longer, but it seems to be a trend that is not going anywhere. Currently, working seniors that have begun receiving Medicare Part A are unable to contribute to their HSA. The Hardworking Seniors Act (HSA), which I introduced with Congresswoman Malliotakis (NY-11), is straightforward legislation that helps America’s working seniors who are enrolled in Medicare Part A to continue making contributions to their HSA and receive tax benefits. I am happy to say that this bill was included in a package that has passed the House Ways and Means Committee and is waiting to be brought to the Floor for a vote.
As I mentioned, the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) proposed a rule to establish elevated minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes. I am deeply disappointed that, despite a report that outlined their own reservations regarding its efficacy, CMS is moving forward with implementation. Many facilities, particularly in rural areas, are already struggling with staff shortages. These facilities would be forced to turn residents away or even close their doors entirely, leaving those patients with no options. Most notably, the CMS report said there was "no single staffing level that would guarantee quality care." Of course, we all want the best quality care in the nursing homes across the country, but we should not risk the existence of facilities implementing an arbitrary measure. I, along with Congressman Pence (IN-6), introduced the Protecting Rural Seniors Access to Care Act to stop this mandate from moving forward.
Specifically, the bill will keep CMS from implementing this rule until it can prove it will not result in the closure of skilled nursing facilities, will not harm patient access, and will not make workforce shortage issues worse in areas that are already struggling.
Nursing homes are a vital part of the U.S. healthcare industry, and it is important that they are empowered to deliver the highest quality care without sacrificing their ability to serve new residents. Rather than a one-size-fits-all requirement, I have been encouraging CMS to work alongside stakeholders to develop innovative ways to boost recruitment and retention of qualified nursing professionals.
None of this legislation would be possible if not for the feedback I received from constituents across my district, and I am grateful for the seniors, providers, and stakeholders that have taken the time to talk with me about their concerns and their ideas. Thanks to them, I am confident these pieces of legislation will have a true and positive impact on those we in Congress are here to serve.
Michelle Fischbach is a wife, mom, grandma, attorney, and the U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District. Get updates from Rep. Fischbach’s congressional office on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Statements contained in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect positions of The Senior Citizens League.