May 24, 2024 - Health

Nursing homes sue over Biden staffing mandate

Illustration of a gavel hovering over a block with an image of a red cross.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Nursing homes are suing the Biden administration to stop its national staffing requirement for the long-term care facilities from going into effect.

Why it matters: They're taking the case to the same Texas federal court that suspended approval of abortion pills and has ruled against the Biden administration on other health issues.

The big picture: Three Texas nursing home operators and their trade associations filed a lawsuit Thursday arguing the administration lacks the authority to create new minimum staffing requirements and that the one-size-fits-all approach is "manifestly inappropriate."

  • The policy "creates impossible-to-meet standards that will harm thousands of nursing homes and the vulnerable Americans they serve," the American Health Care Association and several Texas providers argued.
  • The lawsuit said the regulations could force many facilities to limit their capacity or close entirely.

Zoom out: House Republicans have also advanced legislation to block the staffing requirement from going into effect.

  • The case was filed in the Amarillo division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, where the vast majority of cases are automatically assigned to Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee.
  • Kacsmaryk last year issued the ruling that would have overturned the FDA's approval of the widely used abortion pill mifepristone and has also ruled against other Biden administration policies on the federal family planning program, gun control and immigration.

The other side: The Biden administration has said the staffing mandates will keep nursing home residents safe and improve conditions for workers.

  • "The status quo in too many nursing homes unacceptably endangers residents and drives workers into other professions," a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said. "The Biden-Harris administration is committed to fulfilling the president's promise to improve safety and support workers so everyone can age with dignity."
  • 80% of voters approve of requiring minimum staffing standards in nursing homes, according to a 2023 AARP poll.
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