March 03, 2015

Portman and Brown Introduce Bill to Boost Ohio Nursing Programs

Legislation Fixes a Technicality to Ensure Hospitals Can Train Nurses

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced the Making the Education of Nursing Dependable for Schools (MEND) Act. This legislation addresses a technical issue regarding the way the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) funds hospital-based nursing programs and ensures that the primary care workforce is prepared for the growing demand for health services. U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) are original cosponsors.

“This commonsense bill will help to ensure that Ohio’s primary care workforce is prepared for the growing demand of their services,” Portman stated. “Ohio is home to many world-class hospitals, and this bill will allow them to continue to train the next generation of health care workers.”

“With an aging population in Ohio and nationwide, nurses are needed now more than ever and hospital-based schools in our state help train thousands of nurses each year,” said Brown. “If we do not update the law to allow for continued federal support, these schools will be forced to raise tuition for prospective nurses and some might even be forced to close. The MEND Act will ensure these hospital-based schools can continue to train the future nursing workforce and provide our communities with high-quality care.”

"This vital legislation protects the training of highly-skilled nurses and tens of thousands of healthcare-related jobs throughout Ohio and the United States,” said Nate Brandstater, president of Kettering College in Kettering, Ohio. “It has been an honor to work with Senator Portman and his staff on this bill. We are extremely grateful for his support of affordable education for our future healthcare providers.”

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, therefore 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.