Joe Biden

Op-Ed by the President on Nursing Homes

September 01, 2023

USA Today (Op-Ed): President Biden: Nursing homes are putting residents at risk. We're ending the abuse today.
[President Joe Biden, 9/1/23]

As a country, we're delivering a clear message to the nursing home industry. If you tell families you'll take care of their loved ones, then follow through.

It's one of the most gut-wrenching moments American families face: when a loved one can no longer be cared for at home and needs to move into a nursing home. You lie awake at night wondering: will they receive the care and support they need? How can you be sure they'll be safe? Are you doing the right thing?

Unfortunately, too many Americans across the country know firsthand how hard it can be to find a nursing home that provides that peace of mind. A woman in Texas, who has changed nursing facilities three times in four years over concerns about care, wrote to me, "we keep looking for someplace that will fulfill the promises they make when you're admitted." A daughter in New York, whose mother is in a facility, wrote "it keeps me up at night, when there's half of what's needed" to keep her mom safe.

Despite nursing homes receiving nearly $100 billion annually from American taxpayers, too many facilities are understaffed, which can result in severe illness and even death for residents. Those vulnerabilities were exposed during the pandemic, when more than 200,000 nursing home residents and workers died from COVID-19. And in recent years, more private-equity firms have been buying up nursing homes and slashing key staff to cut costs and make bigger profits, endangering the safety of their residents in the process.

In my State of the Union address, I pledged to crack down on nursing homes that put the well-being of their residents at risk. Today, here's how my administration is following through on this commitment to ensure every nursing home is safe for every resident, and residents get the care they deserve.

We're proposing minimum staffing requirements for every taxpayer-funded nursing home. Under our new proposed standards, every nursing facility would have to provide a registered nurse on site 24/7 and have enough nurses and nurse aides to provide routine bedside care, among other tasks. Research shows that these staffing levels will save lives, provide residents with a higher quality of life and prevent needless suffering.

Think of it this way: we are working to make sure no nursing home can sacrifice the safety of their residents just to add some dollars to their bottom line. It's telling that non-profit nursing homes are three times as likely as for-profit facilities to already satisfy the minimum staffing standard we're proposing today. Some corporate nursing home owners are taking taxpayer dollars while cutting corners on staffing so they can make big payouts to executives and shareholders. It's wrong.

We're also supporting the folks who are doing God's work – the nursing staff who care for so many of our loved ones, but who are over-worked and under-resourced. Nursing home staff describe getting burnt out when they have too many residents to care for in too little time. Many end up leaving the industry. Minimum staffing standards would help them stay in the jobs they love. And we're doing our part.

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services is announcing a new $75 million investment, on top of hundreds of millions of dollars already committed, to recruit, train and retain nurses and other caregivers.

These announcements are the latest in my administration's effort to make nursing homes safer and to make sure taxpayer dollars are well spent. We've increased transparency and accountability for nursing home owners, gone after fraud and abuse and more. We also remain focused on supporting high quality care at home. That's why in April, I signed an executive order to support caregivers, building on prior actions and investments in home and community-based care.

As a country, we're delivering a clear message to the nursing home industry: no more padding profits on the backs of residents and nurses. If you tell families you'll take care of their loved ones, then follow through.

That's how we build a long-term care system where loved ones can age with dignity, where people with disabilities can receive the care they need in the setting of their choice and where there is a pipeline of health care workers into good-paying jobs – that include the free and fair choice to join a union.

For all you facing that most gut-wrenching of moments, you and your loved ones deserve nothing less than peace of mind and dignity. I have your back.

Joe Biden is the 46th president of the United States.

Joseph R. Biden, Op-Ed by the President on Nursing Homes Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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