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Legislation Introduced to Strengthen Closure Protections for Nursing Home Residents
On February 1, 2017, Assemblymember Jim Wood introduced AB 275, a bill that would make modest improvements to protections for nursing home residents during a closure. The bill would clarify the Department of Public Health’s authority to reject unsafe closure plans and require facilities to provide greater advance notice of closure and to prepare a community impact report if two or more facilities in the same area are planning to close on the same date, or within 30 days of one another.
The bill responds to a lengthy crisis in Eureka during 2016 that was triggered when three nursing homes owned by Brius Healthcare Services simultaneously announced they would be closing. The closure announcements set off shock waves in Humboldt County because nearly 200 residents faced eviction and transfer to nursing homes that were hundreds of miles away.
Brius and its owner, Shlomo Rechnitz, faced widespread condemnation after it became apparent that they were using the threat of closure as leverage to force the local Medi-Cal managed care plan, Partnership Health Plan, to increase Medi-Cal payments to their nursing homes. Ultimately, Rechnitz backed down and only closed one of the nursing homes, Pacific Rehabilitation & Wellness Center. Its residents were moved to other local nursing homes in or near Eureka.
In his February 2, 2017 press release announcing the introduction of AB 275, Assemblymember Wood said that “residents and their families were on a roller coaster ride of anxiety” during the many months following the closure announcements. He stated that new protections are needed “to prevent this trauma from happening to other residents in the future.”