Sunday, May 20, 2018
Politics

Panel revives effort to reform residential care for the elderly

JACKSONVILLE — After a failed attempt to pass legislation to protect the frail and elderly in assisted living facilities, industry experts reconvened in Jacksonville Monday with the hope of hammering out measures to curb abuse while appeasing the powerful long term care industry.

The panel was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott last year to address rampant wrongdoing in ALFs, but lawmakers failed to pass any of the workgroup's proposals in March. The meeting was first attempt to revive the effort.

The panel's recommendations, and the resulting bills, would have yielded the most sweeping reforms in a generation for the state's 2,850 assisted living facilities, but the proposals fell through at the last minute amid heavy lobbying by the industry and political infighting.

State budget concerns, combined with the industry's lobbying grip on the Legislature, make it unclear whether the panel's recommendations will ever make it to law. Some panelists said they would like to see more state oversight, but the Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees the state's ALFs, faces already-strained resources.

"Some of the things we're talking about now that require extra funding may not occur this year or next year," said Larry Polivka, chair of the meeting and head of the Claude Pepper Foundation. "But given the importance of this program, I really do believe it's going to be at the top of the priority list when more funding does become available."

This year, the workgroup will hold three meetings in an effort to produce suggestions for lawmakers to adopt next session. The group plans to address, among other things, how to better protect mental health residents and enforce the state's existing regulations.

The committee is also looking for models to encourage high-quality resident care on the front-end, rather than impose punishment after the resident is injured or killed.

The state ramped up facility inspections in recent months, but resident advocates say increased surveillance barely scratches the surface of needed reform.

"There's no excuse for anybody to be harmed," said Jack McRay, advocacy manager of AARP Florida. "We're not recognizing the signs early enough…there has to be a way."

The thrust for change comes after a two-year Miami Herald investigation revealed that lawmakers had stripped back regulations for decades and, in many cases, left the state's most vulnerable people to fend for themselves.

In the worst cases, ALF residents were raped, locked in closets, or infections were allowed to fester unchecked.

But ALF representatives say those cases are few and that the panel's suggestions for "endless" regulations," may cause homes to shut down, displacing residents.

"Every year somebody wants to do something more to fix something," said Bob Sharpe, CEO of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health. "If you put those new requirements on providers, something has got to give."

He added that low Medicaid payments put the facilities under constant financial strain, and he questioned the need for extra regulation because it's unclear how many facilities are actually abusing patients.

But Polivka countered, "It's not just a matter of a good facility or a bad facility, there are degrees of good and bad, and some of these measures, over time, make a qualitative difference."

Sen. Rene Garica, R-Hialeah, who sponsored a sweeping bill that failed to pass during the last session, attended the meeting, but didn't say much.

Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, a member of the panel and one of the Legislature's most influential voices on health care, did not show up. He also attended only less than half of one of the three meetings held last year.

Comments
By David Nakamura, The Washington Post.

By David Nakamura, The Washington Post.

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Updated: 4 hours ago
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18
Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

To: The Honorable Gov. Rick ScottDear Governor,It has come to my attention that your administration has recently made some, dare I say, innovative hires for important government positions in the months before you leave office.At the risk of sounding ...
Published: 05/14/18