A bill that will provide oversight of two dozen Washington continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) has been approved by state lawmakers. The bill is among a wave of legislation that aims to increase regulations on CCRCs nationwide.
Current state laws in Washington do not regulate CCRCs, but assisted living and skilled nursing components of facilities must meet state licensing standards. If signed by the governor, the new law will affect two dozen Washington CCRCs by establishing standards that these facilities become certified with the Department of Social and Health Services.
“Moving into a retirement community is one of the most important decisions that seniors make in our state as we age,” Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (D-Seattle), prime sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “It’s essential that we have open, transparent access to the costs and fees of these communities, and the protections under the state’s Consumer Protection Act for residents.”
The law also requires CCRCs to provide prospective residents with specific information about the community in a disclosure statement. One of the top drawbacks of CCRCs is the complexity of some of the contracts that seniors have to evaluate, the New York Times recently reported. This legislation would provide some oversight with new statement requirements.
The third component of the measure will establish rights for CCRC residents, which will be required to be posted within the facility.
Compared to other other proposed legislation across the country that would change entrance fee models through increased regulations, the regulations approved in Washington appear to be more moderate. Earlier this fall, a bill in California was approved by the state legislature that would have put new regulations on entrance feel models.
Other states, such as Connecticut, have taken a less aggressive approach to increasing CCRC regulations with a basic bill of rights for residents to better understand CCRC contracts. Industry groups have found the Washington law—which also includes a resident rights measure—to be somewhat tame, with commonsense protections.
“This legislation took a very reasonable approach to ensuring consumer protection through disclosure, and it will be positive for continuing care residents and providers alike,” David Schless, president of the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), told Senior Housing News. “We have been troubled by bills in other states that proposed to fundamentally alter the refundable entrance fee model in a way that would undermine the effective business models that have been in place without ultimately benefitting the consumer.”
The national association of senior living providers Argentum also agrees that the bill’s transparency efforts are a step in the right direction for the industry.
“CCRCs have a significant position in the senior living landscape and prove to be a viable choice for seniors looking to enhance their lifestyle in a community setting while planning for their long term health care needs,” Argentum COO Maribeth Bersani told SHN. “The bill passed in Washington will generate transparency and disclosure that we hope will build greater trust and enhance the image of the CCRC in the eyes of seniors and their families.”
The bill passed with a unanimous vote (47—0) and will be sent to the governor’s desk for approval. With a unanimous approval, the bill is expected to be signed into law.
Written by Amy Baxter