On behalf of AARP’s 3.3 million California members, I applaud Senator Henry Stern for his leadership in organizing his colleagues in the legislature to introduce the PROTECT (Prioritize Responsible Ownership, Treatment, Equity & Corporate Transparency) package of nursing home reform bills.
The COVID-19 pandemic has painfully exposed the general inadequacy of the care provided to residents of nursing homes in the United States and therefore points to an urgent need for reform. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as of March 19, 2021, there have been 12,926 COVID-19-related deaths of residents and staff in California long-term care facilities – representing an unimaginable 23 percent of COVID-19-related deaths in the state. This did not have to happen.
The generally low quality of care and poor oversight of these nursing homes was well known, as evidence by a May 2018 report from the California State Auditor entitled “Absent Effective State Oversight, Substandard Quality of Care has Continued.” The report revealed that between 2006 and 2015, the number of substandard care deficiencies cited in nursing facilities increased by 31 percent. Despite this increase in deficiencies, the net income for three of the largest nursing home companies in California increased significantly during the same period. In 2006, none of those companies’ net income exceeded $10 million; in 2015, their net incomes ranged between $35 million and $54 million.
On behalf of older Californians and their families, AARP will be advocating strongly for the passage of SB 650 (Stern), the Corporate Transparency Elder Care Act of 2021 and the rest of the PROTECT package of bills that would bring justice, accountability, and transparency to California’s nursing home industry.
The fact is that these reforms are long overdue. California must place the proper care of our elders before the profits of an industry that received billions from the COVID-19 recovery packages, and is paid by Medi-Cal, Medicare, and private pay residents with little accountability.
We thank the Assembly Members Muratsuchi, Kalra, Nazarian, Reyes, and Jones-Sawyer for working together on this important package of bills. In the words of AARP’s founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, “If we are not content with things as they are, we must concern ourselves with things as they might become.”