Senate Committee Hearing Calls for Assisted Living Oversight, Consistency

A Senate Committee hearing held this week called for questions and answers about the way assisted living facilities are run in the United States and in Florida in particular. In the Select Committee on Aging titled “Ensuring Quality and Oversight in Assisted Living,” the committee heard testimony from people inside and outside of the assisted living industry, and raised questions about how assisted living facilities are run—in light of recent Miami Herald investigative coverage that brought to light abuses in ALFs.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), chair of the hearing, noted the Miami Herald report findings that 70 people had died from abuse and neglect in ALFs since 2002. “How do the people know if the assisted living facility they are choosing is properly equipped?” he asked. “There’s no single definition of what an assisted living facility is, and every state regulates them in a different way.”

The hearing included testimony from representatives of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities, LeadingAge and others.

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A private citizen, Alfredo Navas, testified on the death of his mother, who was residing in an assisted living facility at the time of her death, and whose death was deemed a result of neglect in that assisted living facility.

“Assisted living facilities can vary in the population they serve,” said Barbara Edwards, Director of Disabled and Elderly Health Programs Group at CMS. While the facilities lack certain licensure requirements, CMS requires a state to specify services to be offered through a waiver. CMS can take follow up action in the case of quality issues it identifies.

Dr. Larry Polivka, who serves on a working group that stemmed from the Miami Herald coverage, noted that assisted living facilities as a whole have not been examined in years. Since they were last examined in Florida, the population living in those facilities has doubled, he said. “We project at least that much growth in the next 10 years,” he said.

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But some argue there is enough regulation and oversight currently.

“Oversight already occurs,” said Steve Maag, Director, residential communities for LeadingAge. “We don’t see additional regulation as a way to improve care,” he said, noting the 37 states that have a disclosure statement currently.

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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