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Caregiver bill sees resistance in Grand Forks legislative meeting

GRAND FORKS -- A bill proposal that supporters say will mean caregivers in North Dakota will be more informed met resistance Tuesday from a hospital industry official during an interim legislative meeting in Grand Forks.

GRAND FORKS -- A bill proposal that supporters say will mean caregivers in North Dakota will be more informed met resistance Tuesday from a hospital industry official during an interim legislative meeting in Grand Forks.

The bill, supported by the AARP and dubbed the Caregiver Advise Record and Enable Act, centers around "uncompensated caregivers," which often are people who care for a family member at his or her home after leaving the hospital. It would give patients and caregivers an opportunity to participate in discharge planning as well as an opportunity for instruction and training on the tasks they'll need to perform, among other provisions.

Josh Askvig, the AARP's associate state director for advocacy in North Dakota, said the bill can help limit the number of patients being readmitted to the hospital.

"We believe that if caregivers are better informed, notified and instructed in aftercare tasks, they have a better chance of keeping their loved ones safely at home," he told the interim Human Services Committee at the Grand Forks County administration building.

There are 62,100 caregivers in North Dakota, according to an AARP study.

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But Dan Hannaher, executive director of the Health Policy Consortium and legislative affairs director for Sanford Health, said the bill duplicates existing policy. He pointed to regulations set by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, hospital accreditation standards and North Dakota Department of Health hospital licensing rules.

"An added layer of regulation will simply not resolve perceived gaps in service quality," Hannaher wrote in written testimony. "That is done by effective management and the dedicated work of health and healing performed across North Dakota every day."

But Askvig pointed to CMS regulations that caregiver training and education may be provided "as needed."

"So the hospital gets to make the determination of whether this is needed for this individual or not," he said. "We're saying, 'No, that should be a determination made by the patient and their caregiver.'"

Hannaher also raised liability concerns with the proposal while also acknowledging the bill's protections on that front.

"Whenever someone, by law, is told to do something, it opens up the door to potential litigation," he said.

A similar bill also faced opposition from hospitals when it was introduced in the 2015 legislative session, according to Hannaher's testimony. Askvig said that bill was "more restrictive," and the draft presented Tuesday tried to address hospitals' concerns.

"We'll continue to try to work with them," he said.

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