Bill requiring insurance at elder-care sites ok’d

This story originally appeared in the U-T San Diego

The state Assembly voted 69-2 Monday to require assisted-living homes to carry liability insurance, a victory for Democratic Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, who spearheaded the bill as part of a legislative effort to improve care provided in such homes.

The bill now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, to be signed or vetoed. It is the second of 16 such bills to pass the Legislature, part of a landmark effort to overhaul residential care facilities for the elderly, or RCFEs.

“We’re so excited, so gratified, and now we’re just having our fingers crossed that the governor will sign it,” said advocate Chris Murphy of San Diego, co-founder of Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform.

The reform package came in response to a series of media reports of resident deaths and injuries, including 27 San Diego County deaths documented by U-T San Diego and the CHCF Center for Health Reporting in a 2013 investigation, “Deadly Neglect.”

Some San Diego County facilities, faced with families’ lawsuits after suspicious deaths or injuries of residents, have declared bankruptcy or shut down. Lacking liability insurance, the homes left families with little recourse after the death of a loved one.

The liability bill, co-authored by Democrat Shirley Weber of San Diego, faced last-minute opposition from 6Beds Inc., a group of small-home operators. The group will hold a rally at 10 a.m. today at the Capitol, saying increased costs for them mean increased costs — and fewer options — for seniors and their families.

“We support reforms to residential care for the elderly, but some of the bills will force us to close our doors and force our seniors to move to other, less intimate and often more expensive facilities,” said Gina Wasdkye, administrator of a six-bed facility and member of the 6Beds Inc. board of directors.

Supporters of the reform package say the measures would help weed out problem homes.

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