This was a short week for legislators, who took a brief respite from legislative activities for the Passover/Easter break. They returned to Tallahassee and promptly covered the budget, with both the Senate and House heading into session and addressing as part of the agenda their Medicaid conforming bills (SB 1464 and HB 5301), which directly impact our members.
Both bills contain language which would combine a total direct care staffing requirement of 3.9 hours per resident per day by maintaining the daily staffing minimums of 1.0 hours of direct licensed nursing staff and 2.7 hours of direct CNA staff. Over the past two weeks, FHCA has been testifying during committee meetings as to how this combined standard would give providers additional flexibility in meeting the needs of residents who require more skilled care with additional licensed nursing staff. All the while, members, staff and our lobby team have been actively working with lawmakers to ensure they understand the importance of this issue.
Wednesday on the Senate floor, amendments were filed which attempted to limit this language rather than make it permanent. Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, said nursing homes have had to comply with increasingly higher staff ratios while seeing their Medicaid reimbursement rates lowered by the state. “Let's give them some flexibility,” said Bennett. “They want to have the ability to manage their staff with limited resources.” A debate ensued and in the end the amendments failed and SB 1464 passed 25-9.
In the House, HB 5301 rolled over to a third reading and is expected to be taken up today with the House in session again to vote on the budget. Stay tuned for a final outcome this afternoon.