NURSING HOME REFORM: Clears Assembly Health Committee
The "most extensive nursing home reform" bill the state has seen in more than ten years sailed through the Assembly Health Committee yesterday, as hundreds of seniors donned yellow shirts and descended on the Capitol to visit legislators' offices, the Los Angeles Times reports. Sponsor Assemblyman Kevin Shelley's (D-San Francisco) bill, AB 1160, was approved on a bipartisan 9-1 vote and is on its way to the Committee on Aging for a second hearing next week. Hearing participants addressed the cost of the bill, with nursing home representatives contending that it would cost $190 million annually and reform advocates countering that the estimate was "inflated to doom the bill." The reform advocates peg the costs at just $42 million annually.
Nursing home lobbyists "do not deny that the problems are grave" -- and costly. The California Association of Health Facilities released a proposal yesterday, timed to coincide with the hearing, that argues against bullying homes into compliance. "Current efforts in the Legislature to enact 'reform' by simply imposing new penalties on nursing homes only provides superficial treatment for a seriously ailing system," said Executive Vice President Gary Macomber. Lobbyist Dave Helmsin agreed, saying that after years of piling on new regulations without significant improvements, reform should come in other ways. In particular, if nursing home staff are to be better paid, he noted, nursing homes would first need to secure higher state Medi-Cal reimbursement rates. Assemblyman Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks) took the industry's side, saying that state "inspectors were so stringent" a "home could be cited for a Ding Dong brought in by a patient's relatives because it attracted ants." He said the additional regulations are "making it a lot more difficult to provide good care" (Pyle, 4/14).