January/February 2002

Legislation Drafted by Catholic Health Initiatives Becomes a Bill

Legislation drafted by the advocacy staff of Catholic Health Initiatives is now a House of Representatives bill titled "The Patient Care Innovation Act of 2001." The bill (H.R. 3472), which would authorize $100 million in grants to help retain nurses by developing new models for delivery of quality patient care, was introduced in December by John Murtha, a Democrat from Pennsylvania.

"While Catholic Health Initiatives is extensively involved in advocacy efforts to influence various legislation and regulations, this was our first attempt to initiate federal legislation," said Colleen Scanlon, RN, JD, senior vice president of advocacy for Catholic Health Initiatives. "We are very encouraged by the results so far." The draft legislation was also supported by the American Hospital Association and the Catholic Health Association.

The Patient Care Innovation Act of 2001 is one means for the Catholic Health Initiatives Advocacy Resource Group to pursue its goal of including provisions for nurse retention in federal legislation that addresses the shortage of nurses.

"Last summer, we determined that pending legislation on the shortage of nurses was missing a key element," said Marcia Desmond, director of public policy for Catholic Health Initiatives. "While several bills had been introduced to help recruit nurses, none addressed retention."

Desmond noted that in late October, Hillary Rodham Clinton, a senator from New York, and Joseph Lieberman, a senator from Connecticut, each introduced Senate bills to fund grants for retention efforts. In November, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions included sections of those bills in a revision of the Nurse Reinvestment Act, a bill that previously focused only on recruitment. The Senate passed the Nurse Reinvestment Act in late December. On the same day, the House of Representatives passed a version of the Nurse Reinvestment Act that does not include provisions for nurse retention.

"We expect that the Senate and the House will negotiate a compromise between the different versions of the bill," said Desmond. "We will be working to include and, if possible, expand provisions for nurse retention in the final legislation.

If enacted, we hope Catholic Health Initiatives will benefit from grant funds available for innovative models of care."

For information on how to support this advocacy effort, contact Marcia Desmond at marciadesmond@chi-national.org.