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Virginia Groups Want Action on Nursing-Home Safety, Drug Affordability

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Tuesday, January 11, 2022   

Virginia's 2022 General Assembly session begins tomorrow, and groups supporting older Americans are pushing lawmakers to pass legislation making nursing homes safer and lowers prescription drug prices.

Even before the pandemic, Virginia's nursing homes had serious staffing shortages, which led patients to suffer injuries such as bedsores and issues with toileting care.

Natalie Snider, associate state director of advocacy for AARP Virginia, said the COVID-19 crisis expanded the problem, and she expressed disappointment legislation did not pass last year during the pandemic's peak.

"There are 38 other states that have some sort of minimum staffing standard in place," Snider pointed out. "And Virginia does not have any. And I think this will be the 18th or 19th year that there has been legislation put forth in the General Assembly, and it's time for them to take action."

Nursing Home Abuse Advocates, a nonprofit group tracking unsafe nursing homes, currently has more than 115 Virginia nursing homes on its watchlist.

An AARP survey of Virginia voters showed an overwhelming majority support increasing wages and training for nursing-home staff. Snider reported more than 70% want to establish minimum hourly staffing thresholds and 85% support required infection-control training.

"It was really obvious across the board that people do want these standards in place," Snider contended. "Because we want to know that in a nursing home, our loved ones are getting quality care."

Snider noted her group and other health-care advocates are also urging lawmakers to approve a proposed prescription-drug affordability board. Virginia's neighbor, Maryland, has one, which evaluates drug prices and sets limits on how much certain payers will pay.

"I want to be clear that it's not price setting," Snider emphasized. "We're not telling drug companies that they're allowed to charge for a drug. We're just saying, within this state, this is what payers are allowed to pay."

She added the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs led Maryland to establish the first drug-pricing advisory board in the nation in 2019. Maine and Colorado have approved similar boards since then.

Disclosure: AARP Virginia contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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