By: Jocelyn W. Golden
Associate Attorney with Knudsen, Berkheimer, Richardson & Endacott, LLP

Several bills affecting health care and long term health care issues have been passed in 2008 during the Second Session of the 100th Legislative Session of Nebraska, which is tentatively scheduled to end on April 17, 2008. Some of the bills that may affect long term health caregivers are summarized below, but the bills themselves should be consulted for any further details.

LB 157: Prohibition of Prosecution for Leaving a Child at a Hospital

This law passed on February 7, 2008, making Nebraska the last state in the United States to enact a safe haven law. The bill was originally proposed to prevent prosecution of anyone leaving a child that was 72 hours old or younger with a hospital employee or firefighter, with immunity to such individuals that act in good faith to comply with the law. However, the law as enacted prohibits prosecution of anyone leaving any child, no matter what the age, in custody of an employee on duty at a hospital licensed by the State of Nebraska, with no immunity provisions for those individuals attempting to comply with the law. This does not apply to other health care facilities other than hospitals.

LB 185: Prohibition of Practice Due to Revoked License

This bill was passed on March 8, 2007 and pertains to numerous statutes pertaining to the Department of Health and Human Services. One applicable section of the bill provides that a licensed registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) who has had his/her license revoked, suspended, or voluntarily surrendered may not act as a nursing assistant in a nursing home. Such a person also may not act as a medication aide at any health care facility. A person’s registration as a nursing assistant or medication aide becomes null and void on the date that he/she becomes licensed as an RN or LPN.

LB 395: New Nebraska Clean Indoor Air Act

On February 22, 2008, a new Nebraska Clean Indoor Air Act was passed and was signed into law on February 26, 2008. The Act prohibits smoking in any place of employment, bars, and restaurants. Exemptions are available for (1) private residences, (2) guestrooms and suites, (3) retail tobacco outlets, and (4) areas used as part of a research study on the health effects of smoking. There are no exemptions for long term care facilities. The Act will be operative on June 1, 2009. Iowa recently passed a similarly expansive smoking ban on April 8, 2008, with an exemption for gambling floors of casinos.

LB 575: Sales Tax Exemption for Nonprofit Assisted Living Facilities

On April 7, 2008, the Nebraska revenue code was amended to include tax exemptions for nonprofit assisted living facilities, which is already provided to other nonprofit health care facilities such as hospitals, hospices, home health agencies, and intermediate care facilities since 1992. Assisted living facilities were originally recognized in Nebraska’s statutes in 2000.

LB 765: Clarification Regarding Certificates of Need for Long Term Care Facilities

On April 7, 2008, the Legislature passed this bill to clarify certificates of need as applied to long-term care beds and rehabilitation beds. The amendments state that no health care facility can increase long-term care beds by ten percent of the total long-term care bed capacity (not the total bed capacity of the facility) or ten beds, whichever is less, over a two year period without applying for a certificate of need. The same applies to rehabilitation beds in a health care facility. A Certificate of Need is required for initial establishment of long-term care or rehabilitation beds through conversion of existing beds if the total is more than ten or more than ten percent of the total bed capacity, whichever is less, over a two year period. The law reflects the Department of Health and Human Services’ interpretation of the statutes since their passage in 1997.

Please feel free to contact our firm for legal opinions on how these bills may affect your ongoing operations.

Jocelyn W. Golden