Assisted Living Providers Bargain to Dodge Liability Insurance Bullet

| February 26, 2013

A bill ordering assisted living providers to carry a minimum $1 million liability insurance policy in Virginia has been modified to a more affordable requirement through a compromise with the legislation’s sponsor.

Assisted living providers in the state had concerns regarding SB750’s original requirements for their industry. 

“We did not want to establish minimum policies they have to carry, because there have been periods in Virginia where providers couldn’t [afford to] purchase liability insurance, and we didn’t want a requirement saying you have to have this amount of insurance and no means of fulfilling that requirement,” says Judy Hackler, executive director of the Viriginia Assisted Living Association (VALA). 

In its current and most recent form, SB750 provides that regulations of the state’s Board of Health must require nursing homes and certified nursing facilities to maintain liability insurance coverage in a minimum amount of $1 million to compensate residents, patients, and other individuals for injuries of losses resulting form negligent or criminal acts of the facility. 

If the facility failed to maintain that minimum coverage, the bill sets forth, its license would be revoked. 

The bill used to have similar requirements for assisted living providers, but it has been amended to add regulations to the state’s Board of Social Services requiring that assisted living providers disclose upon request to residents or prospective residents whether the community maintains liability insurance to compensate residents for injuries and losses.

Many Virginia assisted living communities accept a lot of low- or no-income individuals, Hackler says, and aren’t able to afford liability coverage for their communities. “We want it to be a business practice where facilities can determine whether they want to carry [a policy],” she says.

In the legislation’s final form, the Board can set a suggested minimum policy, and facilities can say whether or not they have a policy in that amount. The bill has passed both the Senate and House of Delegates in Virginia and is en route to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature, said SB750 sponsor Senator Bill Stanley (R-Glade Hill) in a Feb. 20 statement. 

“We would love to have each facility have the insurance, but with the current economy, it’s not affordable to providers: Are they going to provide care, or provide insurance?” says Hackler. “We were able to work with Senator Stanley and other stakeholders to come to a compromise.” 

Prospective and current residents don’t seem particularly concerned whether or not a community has this coverage, she adds, and if all residents and their families are asking about liability insurance it would raise questions regarding their motives. 

Trial lawyers, on the other hand, have pointed to a lack of liability insurance as a concern because without it some communities might not be able to afford legal fees in liability cases. Sen. Stanley—himself a trial lawyer—has been pushing for this legislation since 2011, and Hackler says she wouldn’t be surprised if lawyer associations and legislators in other states may follow suit with similar requirements. 

At a recent meeting with executive directors of other states’ assisted living associations, Hackler said those present reported not having similar legislation requiring minimum liability insurance policies in their states—at least so far.

While most nursing facilities already have liability coverage, according to Senator Stanley, because liability insurance is not a regulated piece of information in Virginia for assisted living, there’s no record of how many communities have policies of any amount. 

“We do care about the liability and safety of our residents, but if you don’t have assisted living communities in operation, you have nowhere for [low- and no-income] residents to go,” Hackler says. “You don’t want to cause that cycle either. It’s an issue of affordability.” 

The legislation is headed for a July 1 implementation. View SB750.

Written by Alyssa Gerace


Category: Assisted Living, Legislation, Senior Care, Senior Housing

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