JEFFERSON CITY - A proposal to stiffen penalties for health and safety violations at nursing homes gained preliminary approval Tuesday in the state House despite objections that the bill would hurt even the best facilities.
Rep. Craig Hosmer, R-Springfield, said his proposal would improve investigations of abuse allegations and institute surprise inspections of nursing homes throughout Missouri. The plan requires one more vote before it is sent to the Senate.
However, opponents said it would pile on too many regulations and penalize even well-run facilities. The Senate rebuffed a similar proposal last year after the nursing home industry objected to its provisions.
Cindy Wrigley of the Missouri League of Nursing Home Administrators said despite the group's initial support for Hosmer's bill, various amendments have made the plan too harsh.
"It will not correct the problem," Wrigley said, arguing that even minor infractions could result in expensive fines. "It would only close good facilities."
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, echoed those concerns, saying the regulations will compromise patient care.
"We need to enforce the laws on the books," Luetkemeyer said. "This increasing regulatory burden hurts the homes that are doing a good job."
Hosmer said the nursing home industry needs to recognize that their are some bad nursing homes in Missouri.
"There's no reason for a good facility not to be behind this bill," Hosmer said. "What this does is cleans up the law on those facilities that are not operating the way they should."
The bill also would raise the asset limit for Medicaid from $1,000 to $3,000 per person. Hosmer said this would mean more seniors could get a helping hand short of entering a nursing home. This would save money, he said.
"It doesn't make long-term fiscal sense for the state to not have a higher asset limit," he said.