PHCA Calls for Congress to Pass the Protecting Rural Seniors’ Access to Care Act

The Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA) has released the following statement in response to the Biden administration’s final rule for a national nursing facility staffing mandate. The following response can be attributed to Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of PHCA.

“The care of Pennsylvania’s seniors and adults with disabilities is at risk because of the shortsightedness of an administration that believes everyone has identical care needs. A one-size-fits-all regulation is a cop-out, not a solution. Real solutions to meeting the needs of our older loved ones and neighbors include investing in funding mechanisms for care, or advancing immigration reform to expand access to more caregivers amid the growing shortage of nurses and aides.

“The Biden administration and those who support their efforts in Congress believe that establishing a national staffing minimum for nursing homes is the answer to long-standing industry challenges. The truth is that policymakers who seek to implement unfunded, unattainable regulations seek political window-dressing on an issue that will impact the care of Americans most in need.

“Pennsylvania’s fastest growing demographic is adults aged 80 and older. At a time when support for the growing demand for care should be prioritized, the Biden administration is instituting a mandate that has the potential to collapse the entire health care continuum.“

To meet both Pennsylvania’s new staffing mandate and this federal mandate, our state alone will need to find more than 1,000 registered nurses, 6,000 certified nurse aides and 700 licensed practical nurses. If these caregivers even exist, it will cost Pennsylvania taxpayers more than $540,000,000 –– or the ultimate cost of more nursing home closures across the commonwealth.

“It is ignorant to think that workers will just materialize to meet this mandate. And it’s irresponsible to ignore the research that demonstrates the growing demand for care, the lack of caregivers, and the resulting impacts felt throughout the health care continuum. In 2021, Mercer released a report detailing that Pennsylvania will face a shortage of more than 20,000 registered nurses by 2026; but in 2024, the Biden administration thinks that state has a surplus of more than 1,000 registered nurses to hire.

“We call on the Biden Administration and members of Congress to propose tangible solutions to the workforce crisis impacting long-term care. Arbitrary staffing mandates are a politically expedient way of absolving oneself from providing real solutions to the root cause of a multilayered, complex issue. We believe our seniors, adults with disabilities and their caregivers deserve nothing short of real solutions –– similar to the work we did alongside Pennsylvania legislators, regulators, and other stakeholders in 2022.

“In lieu of taking meaningful action to address the workforce crisis in long-term care, PHCA is calling on Congress to immediately advance the Protecting Rural Seniors Access to Care Act (H.R. 7513/S.3410) to stop this federal mandate and allow Pennsylvania to care for its seniors and adults with disabilities.”