RICHMOND — Nursing home staff shortages and rising prescription drug prices are two of the big legislative priorities this year for AARP Virginia.
The group said 80% of Virginia nursing homes do not meet the staffing requirements outlined by the U.S. Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services. A 2021 report from the state’s Joint Commission on Health Care labeled staffing shortages a top priority. Previous attempts to pass bills on this issue have failed, with opponents often citing costs.
Jared Calfee, associate state director of advocacy and outreach for AARP Virginia, pointed out the consequences of understaffing can be life-threatening.
“What we know about staffing is that understaffing leads to all kinds of problems in nursing homes; more falls, pressure sores, infection, dehydration, hospital admissions, overuse of antipsychotic medications and resident deaths,” Calfee outlined. “All of those things correlate directly with staffing levels.”
But some facilities argued it would hinder their ability to hire new staff based on new guidelines. Others said with the current labor shortage, more money should be spent helping nursing homes find staff. In early 2022, President Joe Biden announced a set of guidelines to improve safety and quality at nursing homes, with staffing being one priority.
AARP Virginia also wants lawmakers to consider creating a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, as a few other states have done. Calfee described it as an independent body, which could evaluate drug prices to determine if increases are valid.
“If the Prescription Drug Affordability Board determined that the price increase was unjustified and that the manufacturer couldn’t really make a great case for why the price increased other than the fact that they wanted to charge more money for it, then they could set what’s called an upper payment limit” on the drug, Calfee explained.
He added the limit would set prices at a reasonable rate throughout the state’s supply chain, from pharmacists to consumers.
In a 2022 report, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said more than 1,200 products saw price increases exceeding the 8.5% rate of inflation. It found overall price increases for drugs were 31.6%.