Senate Committee Approves Unscrupulous Elder Care Referral Agencies Bill

Did you search for a nursing home or assisted-living facility in California through an elder care referral agency? In some cases, unfortunately, older adults end up in facilities that have financial arrangements with these referral agencies, and those elderly residents become the victims of nursing home abuse or neglect. Now, according to a recent article in California Newswire, Senate Bill 648 aims to provide greater protection to seniors who seek referrals through these agencies.

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Proposed Legislation to Protect Seniors from Bad Business Practices

How will Senate Bill 648 help elderly Californians and their families when it comes time to select a nursing home or assisted-living facility? In short, if the proposed legislation passes, it will strengthen the licensing and financial disclosure requirements for elder care referral agencies. The bill, according to the article, is on its way to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Why do we need this kind of law in Southern California? It’s no secret that many facilities for the elderly in our state haven’t provided the level of care that our older loved ones deserve. Indeed, numerous investigations into complaints of elder abuse and neglect—at facilities ranging widely in care, from those offering skilled nursing to those offering more limited attention at residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs)—make clear that we need to be particularly cautious when we’re deciding on a facility in which an elderly parent might reside.

Yet given the growing number of seniors across the country, “there has been an explosion of for-profit businesses that offer referral assistance to seniors and their families to find suitable long term care housing options in extended care, skilled nursing home, or intermediate care facilities and residential care facilities.” Are such services useful? If the referral agencies are acting in the best interests of the elderly population they serve, then they can “provide a valuable service.” However, the “current licensing requirements leave room for abuse.” As such, there’s a serious need for tighter regulation in California.

Need for Better Regulation

Elder referral services have risen dramatically in number, but the state’s attention to licensing and regulation hasn’t increased proportionally. To be sure, these companies remain largely unregulated throughout the state. What kinds of regulations currently exist? The better question might be one about the obvious regulatory omissions:

  •      Under the current law, “only certain referral agencies are required to be licensed.”
  •      Referral agencies aren’t required to make referrals to licensed care facilities.

What’s the result of the general lack of regulation when it comes to these referral agencies? Such agencies can advertise that they’re free of charge to clients, but then they recommend nursing homes and other facilities because there’s a financial incentive for every elderly person they place in these residences. And when a referral agency’s interests lie primarily in financial compensation—rather than placing seniors in facilities where they won’t be at risk of elder abuse or neglect—seniors and their families using the services deserve to have all the information.

As such, the bill would institute some new regulations. Specifically, under the terms of the bill, referral agencies must:

  •      Disclose their financial interest in placing customers at particular facilities;
  •      Disclose how many times it has inspected a particular facility;
  •      Provide notice to clients about where they can direct their complaints;
  •      Protect seniors’ medical privacy; and
  •      Maintain liability insurance.

In the meantime, if you or someone you loved suffered injuries as a result of elder abuse, you should contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case.

Photo Credit: Zuhair Ahmad via Compfight cc

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California Begins Clearing Nursing Home Complaint Backlog