Dr. Hawes addresses nursing homes and Affordable Care Act in journal

April 18, 2012

Regents Professor Catherine Hawes, Ph.D.(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — Regents Professor Catherine Hawes, Ph.D., of the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) School of Rural Public Health addresses “Nursing Homes and the Affordable Care Act: A Cease Fire in the Ongoing Struggle Over Quality Reform” in this month’s Journal of Aging & Social Policy (JASP).

This entire issue of JASP is devoted to articles evaluating different aspects of the Affordable Care Act, and the editors invited expert researchers to provide related articles.

The invited article by Dr. Hawes, an internationally recognized expert on long-term care, focuses on the effects of the Affordable Care Act on nursing homes. She notes that most provisions in the act that affect nursing homes were not new ideas. These provisions originated in two earlier attempts at reform, both of which failed multiple times in prior Congressional sessions: the Elder Justice Act and the Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act.

Dr. Hawes and her colleagues indicate these earlier efforts focused on improving quality and reducing elder abuse in nursing homes by strengthening oversight and enforcement penalties, expanding staff training, and increasing the information on nursing home quality available to consumers and regulators. The authors argue the Elder Justice Act, though it had bipartisan support, failed because it lacked a strong coalition of groups that supported its passage. The Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act failed because it met strong opposition from the nursing home industry.

But, according to the authors, the effort to legislate much more sweeping reforms throughout all of the health care system with the Affordable Care Act breathed new life into these two bills that focused on nursing home care.

“Each bill addressed problems that were serious, widespread, and had persisted for years, but each failed to pass on its own,” Dr. Hawes states. “The Affordable Care Act, with its own momentum, became the vehicle for their passage.”

However, Dr. Hawes notes the reasons the bills failed in these earlier efforts suggest implementation challenges now that they have ridden into law on the coattails of the more general effort to reform the health care sector.

Additional authors from the TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health include research scientist Darcy M. Moudouni Ph.D., doctoral student Rachel B. Edwards and Regents Professor Charles D. Phillips Ph.D., M.P.H., also an internationally recognized expert on the topic.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell