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Hospitals, AARP remain at impasse on Caregiver Act

AARP_Turner.jpg
Andy Marso
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AARP Kansas still believes the state needs a law requiring hospitals to notify designated caregivers of patient discharge instructions and, if necessary, demonstrate those instructions.

Kansas hospitals still disagree.

AARP introduced the Caregiver Act last year following a pre-session advertising blitz , but the bill ran into skepticism from lawmakers who questioned whether legislation was the best way to reach the goal of smoother transitions to home care.

Maren Turner, director of AARP Kansas, reiterated the need for the legislation Wednesday — this time to the House Health and Human Services Committee.

She said her organization has collected thousands of petitions from the state’s 345,000 caregivers, who agree they could use a hand.

“They’re saying they don’t have enough support,” Turner said.

Turner said her group met with officials from the Kansas Hospital Association and hammered out a compromise amendment that makes some concessions to the bill, like establishing a minimum age for patients’ designated caregivers.

But Deb Stern, the hospital association’s senior vice president for clinical services and general counsel, said some of the hospitals still aren’t on board.

Hospitals already face discharge regulations from private accreditors and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, she said. The hospital association would prefer an educational campaign rather than AARP’s proposed state mandate.

“Education can work; it has worked,” Stern said. “We have success stories.”

She cited a Kansas Department of Health and Environment campaign to ensure that hospitals screen newborns for heart conditions, which she said now has “100 percent compliance.”

Stern said breakdowns in communication between hospital staff and caregivers often occur because patients and caregivers are stressed at discharge time and just want to get home. A state law would do little to fix that, she said.

But Rep. Les Osterman, a Republican from Wichita, said in his experience, hurried and stressed hospital staff were just as responsible.

“There’s your breakdown,” Osterman said. “The nurses aren’t taking the time because they’re too busy and they need to get on to the next patient.”

The Caregiver Act, House Bill 2058, contains no penalties for hospitals that fail to comply with its mandates.

Turner said executive branch agencies might add penalties through the rules and regulations process if the bill passes. 

Andy Marso is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach him on Twitter @andymarso

Andy Marso is a reporter for KCUR 89.3 and the Kansas News Service based in Topeka.
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