The House Acts to Safeguard Over 125,000 At-Risk Seniors by Passing the ‘Senior Protection Act,’ Turzai Says
Urgent help needed to protect residents living in nursing home facilities, personal care homes, assisted living residences
HARRISBURG – Acting on published reports and finally released data regarding COVID-19 deaths occurring among Pennsylvanians living in the state’s nursing home facilities, personal care homes and assisted living residences, the House of Representatives today passed the Senior Protection Act, House Bill 2510, authored by Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and Reps. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny) and Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny), to help these facilities keep loved ones safe.

“By taking a regional approach and tapping the existing relationships and expertise of our first-class academic and research hospitals, we can help protect our most vulnerable citizens, our seniors, many with underlying health issues,” Turzai said. “The Senior Protection Act, developed by medical experts, is a data-driven direct response to the COVID-19 crisis here.These settings are not fully equipped to protect their residents – we need the expertise of Pennsylvania’s outstanding academic medical experts who are located in every region of the state.”

According to the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, there are more than 125,000 individuals living in 697 nursing facilities, 1,143 personal care homes and 58 assisted living residences throughout Pennsylvania. These facilities employ 143,000 people.

As of May 18, according to the Department of Health, there are 13,626 resident cases of COVID-19 and 2,111 cases among employees, for a total of 15,737 at 561 distinct nursing and personal care facilities in 44counties.

As reported by the Department of Health yesterday, Pennsylvania has had 4,505 deaths attributable to COVID-19. Of those 4,505 deaths, 3,086, or 68.5%, were citizens who lived in a nursing home or personal care home. In the Speaker’s home county of Allegheny, 112 of the 143 deaths occurred among residents of those facilities. That means 78% of those who have died of COVID-19 in Allegheny County lived in a nursing home or personal care home.

To ensure consistency of programs, response and study of clinical and public health outcomes, the legislation would establish a coordinated, collaborative public-private-partnership approach of regional health system collaboratives. These health collaboratives would administer/manage personnel, protocols, testing and expenditures to protect the seniors in these facilities.

Speaker Turzai has worked with UPMC experts to develop this plan to protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19. In fact, UPMC experts prepared, at the Speaker’s request, a prototype for southwest Pennsylvania and developed a construct for the entire state, much of which is embodied in his legislation.

“Developed by medical experts, the Senior Protection Act will help provide our state’s seniors and their families the assurance that they are in a healthy and safe environment,” Readshaw said. “As we continually challenge the COVID-19 virus, this theme of control and protect the state’s nursing home facilities, personal care homes and assisted living centers must be encouraged by everyone.”

“Protecting our most vulnerable residents during this pandemic is our top priority,” said Kortz. “UPMC physicians Dr. Nace, Dr. Gladwin and their team are to be congratulated for drafting an excellent and urgentlyneeded plan to address the COVID-19 outbreak at nursing homes and personal care facilities.”

The legislation will also provide an appropriation of $500 million from Pennsylvania’s allotment of $3.9 billion in COVID-19 money from the federal government. These funds will be distributed by the Department of Human Services (DHS) in consultation with the Secretary of Health,to these academic health systems.

According to Turzai, the key is to get this funding into the hands of the private sector entities that can best implement and manage protocols, personnel, testing, data collection, quarantining, cohorting and oversight in a prompt, flexible and innovative manner.

DHS would divide the state into regions delineating all the facilities within the parameters of a region.

After receiving proposals, the DHS would contract with health collaborative administrators (which must be academic health systems) to operate, manage and administer the program in each region to protect residents in these facilities from COVID-19.

The original legislation was unanimously amended by the House to provide additional federal appropriations directly to Medical Assistance Long Term Care ($449 million), Medical Assistance Long-Term Managed Care($8 million), Community Health Choices ($50 million), Intellectual Disabilities – Community Waiver Program ($2.59 million), and Autism Intervention and Services ($720,000) in DHS, totaling $767 million.

The bill passed the House by a vote 201-1 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Representative Mike Turzai
Speaker of the House
28th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Neal Lesher
717.260.6495 (office) 717.507.9240 (cell)