How State Elections Are Influencing Senior Housing

In addition to the presidential election that took place on Nov. 8, the public also cast their votes on many new laws and officials that will force change on the state level—including for senior housing. There were 44 states that held legislative elections and 86 of 99 chambers were up for election.

Industry association Argentum is currently working to connect with newly appointed and re-elected state officials who are likely to have an impact on the industry.

“In the current post-election environment, Argentum is working with our state partners to evaluate the impact of new state legislatures, governors and attorneys general on our senior living legislative and regulatory agendas,” James Balda, president and CEO of Argentum, told Senior Housing News. “We will be closely watching the impact of recently passed ballot measures including states’ minimum wage levels, medical marijuana, and end-of-life issues, among other topics.”

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Industry-friendly officials in Florida

As a popular retirement destination for seniors, Florida’s local elections, in particular, have the potential to have a large impact on the industry. Many legislators have been responsive and supportive of bills that impact the senior housing industry, Gail Matillo, president and CEO of Florida Argentum, explained.

“Senator Kathleen Passidomo was re-elected and she was successful in passing legislation for the past two years related to continuing care retirement communities,” Matillo told SHN. “In 2014, she passed legislation to crack down on senior fraud.”

In 2014, Passidomo voted to protect HB 635, which allows Clerks of Court in Florida to audit adult guardianship accounts to ensure that legal guardians don’t take advantage of older adults, according to Passidomo’s website.

Other notable re-elects in Florida include Rep. Shawn Harrison (R), who sponsored the fire and life safety code bill in 2015 and Rep. Larry Ahern who is a major supporter of senior issues and who sponsored the ALF Reform bill in 2015, Matillo pointed out.

“There were also several new legislators elected that we plan to meet with in the next few weeks to educate them about Florida’s senior living industry including new construction, demographics and accomplishments that Florida Argentum has made in the past three years,” she said. “We will be working diligently with the Florida legislature this year to ensure senior issues continue to be a priority. We know they will be working on the increase in workers’ compensation rates, increases to the Medicaid budget and medical marijuana.”

Florida, along with Arkansas and North Dakota, was one of three states to legalize medical marijuana as a result of the vote on Nov 8. California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana, which could all have an impact on senior living, leaving it up to individual communities to decide how they want to handle marijuana treatment.

Big changes in Colorado

In Colorado, medical marijuana isn’t anything new, but one controversial proposition that won a “yes” in local elections was regarding aid in dying laws.

The proposition, which was passed by a two-thirds, one-third split, would allow adults suffering from terminal illness to take life-ending sleeping medication, prescribed by a doctor.

“Communities will now have to develop policies about whether they will allow ether employed or contracted physicians to prescribe the medication for use on their premises,” Deborah Lively, director of public policy and public affairs at LeadingAge Colorado, said. “They can also opt out as to whether they will allow medication to be taken on their property—this includes nursing homes, assisted living and independent living.”

Colorado is the sixth state that has voted in an aid in dying law. The state joins, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California and Montana which all allow for aid-in-dying already.

Colorado was also one of four states in the recent election season to increase its minimum wage. Workers in the state will see an incremental increase in the minimum wage from $8.31 to $12 by 2020.

“The minimum wage will impact the senior living industry, specifically for employees that will see a wage increase to the minimum, but also for other employees that are paid about the minimum. They will likely see an increase as well,” Lively said.

National impact

As far as legislation to be expected on a national scale, the details are still somewhat undefined, but one area that those in the industry are unsure of what President-elect Trump will do has to do with the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Medicaid providers will likely see changes in reimbursement depending on federal policy revisions such as block grants or amendments/repeal of the ACA,” Lively said.

The question also remains as to whether repealing the ACA will have an unfavorable effect on the senior housing industry, as whole.

“Trump has stated his intention to dismantle the ACA. But beyond that, the extent to which the President-elect’s policies will coincide with traditional Republican policies, given the limited number of his detailed and articulated position at this time, remains to be seen,” Fitch Ratings Analysts wrote in a report following the presidential election.

Written by Alana Stramowski

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