Mar 03 2015

Fischer Joins Bill to Support Nursing Programs

The MEND Act Will Correct Error in CMS Funding for Nursing Education Programs and Training

WASHINGTON – This morning, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) cosponsored legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, known as The Making the Education of Nursing Dependable for Schools (MEND) Act. The bill would address a technical issue regarding the way the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) funds hospital-based nursing programs, and ensure that the primary care workforce is prepared for the growing demand for health services. Senator Fischer released the following statement today regarding the bill:

“The growing need for nurses and caregivers has become a major issue across the country. By coming together, we have put forward a way to correct a technical problem that will allow us to train and equip more men and women to meet this demand. I’m proud to be part of common-sense solutions like this, which can quickly target our needs and encourage people to take action. Nebraska’s health care professionals continue to lead the world, and this bill will give them more resources to do so.”

Kimberly A. Russel, President and CEO of Bryan Health in Lincoln, Nebraska echoed support for this legislation:

“We are extremely appreciative of Senator Fischer’s leadership in supporting this important legislation.  It is clear that Senator Fischer understands the importance of the nursing workforce as a vital component for the quality of life in Nebraska. The present and future students of the Bryan College of Health Sciences will benefit greatly from this legislation, and they will in turn help our state maintain high quality health care services.”

This morning, Senator Fischer joined Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) as an original cosponsor of The MEND Act. Currently, hospital-based nursing schools throughout the country receive Medicare pass-through payments that support nursing education programs in their capacity to train high-quality nurses. To be eligible for these payments, CMS requires nursing programs to be part of a hospital. 

Recently, the largest accrediting body for higher education – the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) – updated and modernized their standards to require hospital-based programs to become separately incorporated to retain accreditation. CMS, however, has indicated that the agency lacks the authority to update its standards to be consistent with the accrediting body, thus creating a conflict with HLC’s modernized standard. As a result, Medicare “pass-through” support payments to hospital-based nurse education programs are threatened.  Due to these conflicting standards, many nursing education programs could be at risk of losing crucial pass-through payments. 

The bill is supported by the American Hospital Association, the National Alliance for Nursing Education, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, and the National League for Nursing.

Click here to view the text of The MEND Act