JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A bill intended to make Missouri nursing homes safer was signed into law Monday by Gov. Bob Holden.
The law, which takes effect Aug. 28, relaxes inspection requirements for good nursing homes but strengthens the state's authority to penalize those providing poor care through fines or license revocation.
Similar nursing home legislation has died in the legislature the past three sessions. But this year, majority Republicans made the issue a priority and received support from Democratic lawmakers and Holden.
"In this time when so many of our seniors have limited resources and few long-term care options, we need to ensure the same quality care each of us would want for our loved ones," Holden said. "Providers who do not deliver appropriate care and assure a client's safety should be held accountable for their actions, and now they will be."
The law establishes an automatic, $10,000-a-day fine for conditions that put residents' lives in danger. Under current law, nursing homes can avoid fines by filing a correction plan by the time they are reinspected.
The law also will raise fines for violations of state codes, requires that deaths be reported to local coroners and strengthens provisions for the state to conduct inspections.
Republican leaders praised the legislation and the efforts of both parties to compromise.
"It was a great bipartisan effort and it's a great day for Missouri seniors," said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, who also sponsored the bill. "It will save lives."
Also signed into law was legislation aimed at getting more drug manufacturers to participate in the state's prescription drug program for the elderly.
The SenioRx program had required makers of brand-name and generic drugs to pay the state a 15 percent rebate on the average manufacturer's price of each drug. The law, which goes into effect immediately, will lower the rebate required of generic drug makers to 11 percent.
Some generic drug manufacturers, which operate on a slimmer profit margin than their brand-name counterparts, have shied away from the program because of the required 15 percent rebate.
"Now, more than 20,000 Missouri seniors enrolled in the program will be able to continue to purchase less-costly generic medications through the Missouri SenioRx program," said Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell, chairman of the program's oversight committee.
Holden also was also signing the bills in Kansas City and Springfield.
The governor also was signing two other bills at his Springfield stop.
The first would allow veterans homes and cemeteries to get roughly $3 million more each year than they do now in order to shore up a capital improvements fund for veterans projects.
The second would designate a 13.5-mile stretch of U.S. 60 and Missouri 360 in Springfield as the Korean War Veterans Memorial Freeway.
Nursing home bill is SB556.
Prescription drug bill is SB307.
Veterans bill is HB444.
Highway bill is HB245.
On the Net:
Missouri Legislature: http://www.moga.state.mo.us