Support growing for legislative oversight for nursing homes, assisted living facilities

Published: Nov. 15, 2017 at 4:52 PM EST
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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service

November 15, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- After 14 people died in a nursing home in south Florida following Hurricane Irma, Governor Rick Scott issued an emergency rule requiring nursing homes and assisted living facilities to install generators.

An administrative law judge has since thrown out the emergency rule, but Governor Scott is appealing.

The rule remains in effect, but even if it is overturned, lawmakers have filed legislation that would require not only generators, but also prioritize power restoration to elder care facilities.

"Prioritize them appropriately," said Representative Katie Edwards. "Make sure that each county includes assisted living facilities and nursing homes in their restoration of power program."

The bill also restores power to the state long term care ombudsman, giving the position more authority to investigate facilities.

The Florida Health Care Association opposes the legislation, saying a requirement for facilities to acquire liability insurance means bigger payouts for trial lawyers when something goes wrong.

"The legislature is already requiring nursing homes to pay their judgement," said Kristen Knapp of the FHCA. "If they don't pay their judgement, they lose their license. Why do they need liability insurance?"

Bill sponsors argue heightened oversight will result in fewer accidents like the one that took the lives of 14 elderly residents, meaning less opportunities for lawsuits.

"If good nursing homes are providing good care, they shouldn't have anything to fear from this legislation," said Senator Gary Farmer.

The bill would require generators in nursing homes and assisted living facilities by July of next year, a month after hurricane season begins.

The bill has been filed in both the House and Senate. Sponsors say bi-partisan support is growing, but only Democrats were present at the announcement of the legislation.