WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) joined Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) in introducing new bipartisan legislation during National Nurses Week to make a technical correction to a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) program that supports the training of nurses and other allied health professionals at hospital-based nursing schools across the country.
Due to a technical error in how CMS administered this program in the past, many hospital-based nursing schools, including the following three in New Jersey, Holy Name Medical Center School of Nursing, Our lady of Lourdes School of Nursing and St. Francis Medical Center School of Nursing, may be required to send millions of dollars back to CMS. This claw back of federal funding could not come at a worse time, as hospitals and institutions of higher education have faced significant financial challenges over the past year in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. The threat of recoupment could curtail their programs or cause schools to shut down entirely, further limiting our nursing workforce capacity for the future.
The Technical Reset to Advance the Instruction of Nurses (TRAIN) Act would ensure hospital-based nursing schools that received funding support from CMS in the past can keep those resources and put them toward training the next generation of nurses without the threat of recoupment.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for a stronger nursing education and training pipeline, one which addresses the nursing shortage in the country and alleviates the conditions that have forced nurses to work longer hours and see more patients during this public health crisis,” said Sen. Menendez. “That’s why I’m proud to support the TRAIN Act, which will ensure hospital-based nursing schools are not faced with potentially devastating and sudden funding cuts because of an administrative error by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.”
“Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States was facing a nursing shortage, and it is imperative that we continue to support the nation’s current – and future – nursing workforce,” said Sen. Brown. “But we can’t do that when hospital-based nursing schools’ are threatened by potential funding claw backs during a global pandemic Our bipartisan legislation provides a solution that ensures our hospital-based nursing programs can focus on what’s important – providing high quality care for patients and training our next generation of nurses – as we continue to combat the ongoing pandemic.”
“The past year has reminded us of the critical role nurses and other medical professionals serve in our communities,” said Sen. Capito. “Now is certainly not the time to put the pipeline for many of our much-needed student nurses in jeopardy. I am proud to work with my bipartisan colleagues on this common-sense legislation that would support our hospital based nursing schools.”
“Ohio is home to multiple hospital-based nursing schools, schools that provide a unique education setting focused on work-centric learning. Due to a decade-long oversight by CMS, these schools have received overpayments of graduate medical education payments, through no fault of their own,” said Sen. Portman.“Having to repay these overpayments would be a substantial burden, especially in the middle of a pandemic when hospitals and colleges have both taken financial hits, and I urge Congress to pass this bipartisan bill to avoid the impending steep cuts in payments to hospital-based nursing schools.”
“Even before—but especially during—this pandemic, our nation’s nurses risked their own lives to save others, redefining the word heroic with every patient they see,” said Sen. Duckworth. “With long hours and countless patients, the need for support of nursing instruction and training at hospital-based nursing schools has only increased, so I’m proud to help introduce the TRAIN Act alongside my colleagues to strengthen the pipeline of future healthcare workers.”
Nurses and other allied health professionals who are educated and receive their training at hospital-based programs provide high-quality care to communities across the country, including areas facing nursing shortages. The TRAIN Actwould protect hospital-based nursing schools and other allied health programs across the country from potential claw backs, protecting the integrity of hospital-based nursing schools and ensuring our hospital-based training programs have the resources they need to train the next generation of nurses and allied health professionals. Nursing programs should not be required to pay for a problem they played no role in creating, at the cost of our future nursing workforce.
Specifically, the TRAIN Act will prohibit CMS from recouping payments made to hospital-based nursing schools and other allied health training programs in the past. The bill prevents CMS from clawing back overpayments made in past years to hospital-based programs when CMS failed to make technical annual updates to the program.
In September 2020, 118 of the impacted nursing schools – including 2 from New Jersey – penned a letter to then Health and Human Services (HHS) Sec. Azar requesting he take administrative action to fix this technical error in the past administration of this program.
In December, 2020 Sens. Menendez, Brown, and Duckworth wrote to then U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and then U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), urging action on this critical issue.