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Bill pushes more nursing home oversight, transparency

Original source:

Sacramento Bee

Nursing home owners with poor track records would face tougher scrutiny in California, and consumers would get better information about operators under a bill introduced by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento.

Responding to a three-part series published last year in The Sacramento Bee, McCarty said Thursday he wants California to “improve oversight and transparency of the nursing home industry to better protect seniors and their families.

“More and more people are going to be looking to put their loved ones into these type of facilities,” he said. “We need to make sure consumers can make good choices and know the quality of home they’re going to.”

The Bee’s series, published in November, found that some of the state’s largest nursing home chains have persistent problems within their facilities, such as understaffing or high levels of deficiencies and consumer complaints. Despite such chronic issues, the state makes no effort to monitor the performance of chains or to look for patterns of care.

Additionally, the nursing home ownership information collected by the California Department of Public Health is difficult for consumers to navigate and decipher, and often fails to identify the primary owners.

Under McCarty’s bill, Assembly Bill 927, the state would establish more rigorous “suitability requirements” for owners with the aim of preventing individuals and companies with poor performance histories from acquiring homes.

The Department of Public Health also would be required to improve the ownership information that is publicly available on its website. The Bee found that the site often contained misleading and inaccurate information about principals and their companies.

The bill is backed by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a San Francisco-based group that has fought for years for increased ownership transparency.

Patricia McGinnis, the group’s executive director, said “too much information is just missing right now.

“The Department of Public Health has no idea in many, many cases who owns what,” she said. “Even if they do, they certainly don’t make that information available to the public.”

CANHR sued the state in 2004, then again in 2013, over issues related to ownership disclosure and transparency.

In its most recent lawsuit, the group contended that the department was not adequately investigating individuals or ownership groups before proposed sales and acquisitions, as required by law. The suit alleged that the department was allowing and even encouraging multilayered chains to avoid accountability at the top by only scrutinizing the lowest levels of the organization.

McGinnis said CANHR recently decided to drop the lawsuit to pursue a legislative remedy.

McCarty’s proposal addresses ownership groups that craft complex, multilayered structures, as detailed in The Bee’s series. The bill would “clarify” the department’s duties in reviewing and approving changes in ownership and management that occur anywhere in the corporate network, not just the lowest rungs.

Deborah Pacyna, a spokeswoman for the California Association of Health Facilities, the industry’s trade organization, said the group did not want to comment until the bill’s language could be reviewed. But, she added: “We look forward to working with the author.”

McCarty stressed that his bill is “not an indictment of the whole industry.

“I would think that the good actors don’t want the bad actors to ruin it for them,” he said.

Call The Bee’s Marjie Lundstrom, (916) 321-1055.