A Florida Senate panel advanced a bill on Monday that relaxes state laws to allow more nursing homes to be built within large senior living communities, called by detractors “special treatment” for the Villages, one of the nation’s largest retirement communities, reports the Miami Herald.
SB1482, sponsored by Senator Alan Hays (R-Fla.), passed on a 6-3 vote last Monday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, “clearing a key hurdle as supporters try to push it towards the full Senate in the final weeks of Florida’s 60-day legislative session,” writes Miami Herald.
The Villages, a retirement community in central Florida, is trying to build a nursing home within its property’s grounds, but state laws have prolonged the process it takes to establish these types of developments.
Since 2002, nursing home providers have had to go through a Certificate of Need (CON) process before establishing a new nursing home or adding nursing bed—a process that can take up to three to four years, according to the Florida Health Care Association.
Because this time period can be too long if there is an immediate need, Sen. Hays sponsored a bill that would allow a retirement community that meets certain criteria to avoid having to go through the CON review process if there is evidence more nursing beds are needed.
The voted measure would create limited exceptions to a moratorium of more than 10 years old on state approval of new nursing home beds, also creating exceptions for not only The Villages, but a “handful of other large retirement communities” in Florida, according to the Miami Herald.
Opponents to the bill proposed that the exception would create a “patchwork system,” one that plays favorites.
“When we take this approach to CON, and violate the rules that all of us have stood by and followed, it begs the question, ‘Are there others that are above the law?'” Steve Bogomilsky told the Miami Herald.
Bogomilsky, who runs a company that operates nursing homes in the Sunshine State, recently developed a 120-bed nursing home near The Villages. He disputes The Villages’ claim that there is a shortage of nursing home beds within the community, saying there is only an 80% occupancy rate for the more than 1,000 beds in the area.
Supporters have said five Florida counties would currently qualify under the bill, including Sumter, Indian River, Collier, Marion and Hernando.
The moratorium that was approved by state lawmakers in 2001 deals with the addition of nursing home beds, but does not necessarily block the construction of new homes, the Miami Herald reports.
It was originally meant as a away to emphasize services provided to seniors in their homes and communities, but this issue carries financial consequences for the state, given that Medicaid supports nursing home care for tens of thousands of seniors.
Written by Jason Oliva