Monday December 22nd 2014

Congress at the half-way mark

Despite turmoil, ANA’s legislative agenda moves forward

Debt ceiling talks, sequestration and ultimately a government shutdown made 2013 one of the more tumultuous years on record for Congress. Fortunately, its members were friendlier to nursing issues than to each other. With the beginning of 2014, the American Nurses Association (ANA) is taking stock of its legislative progress during the first half of the 113th Congress, and how we can accomplish more — with your help.

Updates on ANA’s legislative agenda:

Home Health Planning and Improvement Act (H.R. 2504/S. 1332): This bill was introduced by Reps. Greg Walden (R-OR) and Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), and Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY). It would allow advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants to order home health services and meet the face-to-face requirement under Medicare in accordance with state law.

The House bill currently has 79 cosponsors, while the Senate bill has garnered 11. Supporters sent more than 8,500 letters to Congress on this topic through RNaction.org.

Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act (H.R. 2480): Conventional practices of manual lifting, repositioning and transferring patients have contributed to work-related injuries and musculoskeletal disorders in nurses and other health care workers. ANA supports the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2013 (H.R. 2480), introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI,) designed to decrease the potential for injury to health care personnel and patients, while reducing work-related health care costs and improving the safety of patient care delivery. The nation – now facing a serious nursing shortage – can no longer afford to lose nurses who leave the profession annually due to musculoskeletal injuries and pain.

This bill was introduced in June 2013, in time for ANA’s Lobby Day and the launch of the Safe Patient Handling and Mobility: Interprofessional National Standards. In collaboration with a multi-disciplinary team of national experts, ANA published the national standards for creating, implementing and managing a safe patient handling and mobility program. These standards reach beyond hospitals to encompass rehab, long-term care, home care, physical and occupational therapy – any setting where patients need help with mobility. The bill’s language aligns with these standards.

The bill currently has 13 cosponsors and resides in the Committee on Education and Workforce. In 2014, ANA plans to hold a briefing on safe patient handling and mobility, which will allow Congressional staffers to become better acquainted with the issue. Through ANA’s website, RNaction.org, nurse advocates from around the country sent more than 1,000 letters to Congress to support this instrumental bill.

Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act of 2013 (H.R. 1821): Introduced in April 2013 by Reps. Lois Capps (D-CA) and David Joyce (R-OH), this bill would require Medicare-participating hospitals to establish unit-specific staffing plans utilizing a committee, comprised of at least 55% direct care nurses, and publicly report the staffing plans.

To date, 18 members of Congress have cosponsored this important legislation. The bill currently is in the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health. In 2013, more than 4,000 individuals sent letters of support to their representatives through RNaction.org.

ANA Government Affairs is working closely with Senate offices, to have a Senate version of the bill introduced in 2014. In the past, Sen. Inouye (D-HI) introduced this bill. However, given his death in late 2012, ANA is seeking a new Senate sponsor.

Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Face-to-Face Requirement: In September 2013, ANA partnered with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners to effectively address the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ruling about face-to face requirements for durable medical equipment.

In response to nurses from across the nation, including more than 3,000 letters to members of Congress and ANA’s letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, CMS has again postponed a requirement that would have prevented nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and other clinicians from ordering durable medical equipment for patients without first obtaining an extra layer of documentation by a physician. Enforcement of this provision is postponed until an unspecified date in 2014.

ANA will continue to advocate on nursing issues to improve quality of care for patients and elevate the profession. To take action or find out more, go to RNAction.org. Your voice makes a difference.

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