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Legislation Update 2006: Signed Into Law
The Governor has signed a number of new bills into law recently, many of which will impact residents’ rights and the estate planning and elder law arena. If you have any questions about these bills you can find more information at www.leginfo.ca.gov or contact CANHR at (415) 974–5171.
CANHR Sponsored or Co–sponsored Bills Signed by the Governor:
SB 1248 (Alquist) – Nursing Home Residents’ Rights: This bill guarantees equal rights for California nursing home residents by requiring all California nursing homes to comply with residents’ rights established under federal law. Currently, residents of Medicare and Medi–Cal certified nursing homes have greater rights than residents of non–certified nursing homes. Effective July 1, 2007, SB 1248 remedies this inequity by extending the federal rights to all residents.
SB 1212 (Torlakson) – Continuing Care Retirement Communities Provider Reserve Disclosure: This bill promotes consumers’ informed choice by requiring disclosure of all provider reserve funds – essential information to do comparative analysis of different providers and to ensure future financial stability before signing away life savings for a promise of care. The bill also includes clarification of transfer process to higher levels of care and reduces the escrow reserve requirements for expanded or new CCRCs.
SB 1312 (Alquist) – Nursing Home Inspections: In recent years, DHS has not evaluated compliance with any California nursing home reforms, rendering key laws, such as the minimum staffing requirements, useless. SB 1312 removes language from an obscure budget bill that DHS relied on to ignore California law and establishes an affirmative obligation to determine compliance with California laws and regulations. SB 1312’s nursing home provisions will take effect on July 1, 2007. The bill also establishes a new system of hospital fines.
SB 1609 (Simitian) – Reverse Mortgages: Adds consumer protections from certain abusive practices regarding the sale of reverse mortgages, including prohibiting lenders from requiring borrowers to purchase an annuity as a condition of a reverse mortgage loan.
SB 1847 – (Committee on Banking, Finance and Insurance) – Annuities: This bill adds disclosure language for the sale of financial products to elders regarding Medi–Cal Recovery applicable to annuities purchased on or after September 1, 2004.
AB 2609 (Evans) – Medication Training for Staff of Residential Care: This bill requires 16 hours of specialized training for staff responsible for distributing medications to residents for self–administration starting January 1, 2008.
The Omnibus Conservatorship and Guardianship Reform Act of 2006: AB 1363 (Jones), SB 1116 (Scott), SB 1550 (Figueroa), and SB 1716 (Bowen). The result of a scathing four–part series on probate conservatorships by the Los Angeles Times, this package of bills will have a significant impact on the state’s conservatorship system.
Vetoed by the Governor:
AB 2836 (Karnette) – Sprinkler Systems for Residential Care: This bill would have required Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs) that house or care for four or more residents, to have an approved, operable automatic fire sprinkler system on and after January 1, 2014, if the facility is licensed as of January 1, 2010. It was co–sponsored by the California State Firefighters Association and supported by fire departments and fire chiefs throughout the state. In his veto message, the Governor cited the "economic impact on residential care providers and the health care industry at large" as a reason for the veto.
SB 1197 (Soto) – Medi–Cal Recovery/Notice of a Decedent?s Death: Currently, the Probate Code does not specify a timeline for DHS to file a claim for non–probated estates. This omission means that DHS can wait two or more years after notice of death is given to file a claim, leaving the estate unsettled and the survivors liable for many years after the decedent’s death. This bill would have established a fair and equitable 4–month statutory timeline similar to those in probate and trust administration.
SB 1197 passed through all committees and the Senate and Assembly floors with unanimous support and no opposition. Unfortunately, the Governor’s veto statement indicates a complete misunderstanding of the purpose of the bill, noting that "Limiting the timeframe in which benefits can be collected only serves to decrease the State’s ability to provide services to future beneficiaries." SB 1197 would not have limited the timeframe in which benefits could be collected. It would simply have provided the same rights to those with non–probated estates enjoyed by those whose estates pass through probate or trust administration.
CANHR will be back with a similar bill next year, with more inclusive statutory timeframes for response to hardship waiver requests and response to Administrative Law appeals. Although the recovery regulations specify that the Department must respond to hardship waiver requests within 90 days, responses are currently anywhere from six to nine months late. In addition, Administrative appeal decisions are required to be rendered within 60 days of the hearing. Instead, the Department picks and chooses which decisions they want to "review" before the decision is rendered. This flagrant disregard of the recovery regulations would be much more difficult if the timelines were incorporated into the statute.