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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Daines, Tester say new nursing home rules will hurt rural areas

Montana Sen. Jon Tester (L) and Sen. Steve Daines (R)
Montana Sen. Jon Tester and Sen. Steve Daines

Both of Montana’s U.S. senators signed onto a bipartisan letter Friday asking the federal government to reconsider a plan to implement minimum staffing ratios for nursing homes.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has indicated that it will propose a rule this spring to set out minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes in order to improve patient care. Currently, CMS requires that a registered nurse be onsite for eight consecutive hours a day and that the facility has staffing levels “sufficient to meet nursing needs of [their] residents.”

Both Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Sen. Steve Daines, along with 11 other senators from mostly rural states, signed onto a letter opposing the forthcoming rule. They say that nursing homes in rural areas will unlikely be able to meet the standard due to staffing shortages and retention issues on top of other financial strains. The letter argues that the rule could lead to additional nursing home closures.

Eleven facilities have closed across Montana over the last two years.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.