Sponsors Withdraw Support of Bill Raising Fines on Assisted Living Homes

The two sponsors of a bill to increase fines imposed on assisted living homes in California withdrew their support Tuesday, following a behind-the-scenes revision of the legislation.

The original bill would have increased fines for a wide swath of violations, including a boost to $15,000 from $150 for violations leading to the death of a resident.

The amended bill leaves the $15,000 fine intact but slashes proposed hikes for most other violations, and creates a four-level appeal process for facility operators.

The full impact of the changes – made public in the final week of the legislative session – was uncertain Tuesday afternoon. The Senate Human Services Committee will review the changes Wednesday, and the bill then goes to the full Senate for a vote. 

The bill followed a wave of media reports last year about deaths and abuses in some assisted living homes statewide, and accusations by critics of shoddy oversight by the state Department of Social Services, which licenses and regulates assisted living homes, among other facilities.

A joint investigation by the CHCF Center for Health Reporting and U-T San Diego documented at least 27 deaths of residents in some San Diego County facilities over five years due to neglect or poor care.

The original bill was co-sponsored by both the state’s largest industry group and its best-known advocacy group for seniors in long-term care,

“I can tell you, it’s not our bill anymore. Literally, it’s been hijacked,”

said Pat McGinnis, executive director of one of the sponsors, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.  She said she does not know who initiated the changes.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the group’s leaders were deciding whether to oppose the bill outright, McGinnis said, adding that it strongly opposes the new four-level appeals process.

On Tuesday, the other sponsor, the California Assisted Living Assn. notified all members of the state Senate that it was stepping back and remaining neutral in the wake of certain changes.

PDF iconAB 2236 – Floor Alert – 8-26-14.pdf

A third group, 6Beds Inc., representing operators of small homes, remains opposed to the bill but for a different reason, said spokeswoman Beth Miller.

The group wants the state to take into account that small homes cannot afford to pay high fines, and is seeking a tiered system in which large facilities would pay more.

“We’re working to find some middle ground,” Miller said.

The bill’s two authors, Assembly Members Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego), and Mark Stone, (D-Scotts Valley), said in a joint interview Friday that they support the amended bill, stressing that the $15,000 fine for violations causing death would remain intact.

The amended bill would also increase fines for violations at other facilities that DSS regulates, including child care homes and adult residential facilities.

Those changes were not requested by child care advocates and providers, said Kim Johnson, public policy director at the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network.

“I don’t know that anyone on the child care sector supports this bill,” Johnson said Tuesday.  She said that the Department of Social Services had involved children’s groups late in the process because it sought consistency in the fines it issued to facilities it licenses.

But although DSS typically allows assisted living homes to stay in business after a violation leading to death, it shuts down a child care facility in such cases, Johnson said.

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