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CMS Puts New Kohl Law into Effect to Better Protect Elderly

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Today Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has begun accepting grant applications from states who wish to better protect long-term care residents. Approved grant recipients will receive guaranteed funding over three years and technical support to create comprehensive, streamlined systems for conducting background checks on those who seek to work with vulnerable seniors in any long-term care setting. The health reform legislation signed into law in March created the grant program to prevent those with criminal histories and a record of abuse from working within long-term care settings by assisting states in the creation of a comprehensive nationwide system of background checks. The program is based on the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act (S. 631), policy that has been consistently championed by Senator Kohl in various forms for over a decade. Legislative language can be found in Title VI, Part III, Subtitle C, Section 6201 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"We have a great deal of hard evidence that this policy works and protects lives. Background checks have been routine for years for those who work with young children, and we have an obligation to protect vulnerable seniors and Americans with disabilities in the same way,"said Kohl.

While a vast majority of long-term care workers are caring and dedicated individuals, thousands of people with a history of substantiated abuse or a criminal record are hired every year to work closely with frail seniors within our nation's nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Because the current system of background checks is haphazard, inconsistent, and full of gaping holes in many states, predators can easily evade detection during the hiring process, securing jobs that allow them to assault, abuse, and steal from defenseless elders.

To stop this abuse, the provisions included in health reform expand a highly successful pilot program in seven states that was spearheaded by Kohl and authorized under the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act. That pilot program was found to prevent more than 7,000 applicants with a history of substantiated abuse or a violent criminal record from being hired to work with -- and potentially prey upon -- frail elders and individuals with disabilities receiving long-term care services. In addition to providing funding for states to establish coordinated systems that include checks against multiple abuse and neglect registries and a state police check, the policy also requires that applicants be checked against the FBI's national database of criminal history records.

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