Lawmaker Hopes Third Time Is The Charm For Assisted Living Reform

Feb 24, 2014

Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood)
Credit Florida Senate

South Florida's Assisted Living Facilities were the subject of a series of 2011 Miami Herald reports alleging lax oversight and abuse of residents in several South Florida facilities. Now, years later, Florida lawmakers are inching closer on bills cracking down on the industry.

Senate Bill 248 and its House counterpart would see ALF’s rated by the Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration. The facilities would also face tougher financial penalties for violations. The assisted living industry is opposed to both provisions, but supporters say making the changes law would prevent backsliding.

“I’m thinking to myself, it’s like rating teachers, rating doctors. You know, how many times did you feel you got an unfair grade in school?" Said Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood), who is spearheading the effort.

The Assisted Living Industry has fought off legislative efforts for two years now, and they aren't fans of the increased penalties. Susan Langston, a lobbyist for the Florida Assisted Living Association, says her industry is different from nursing homes, which provide medical care. Langston argues the proposal--which would fine facilities based on type of offense and size of the home--is unfair and could put some ALF's out of business.

“We need to make sure we keep this industry healthy and not over-fine it and put small homes out of business. The majority of Assisted Living Facilities in Florida are 10 beds or fewer," she says.

The bill was initially set to hit the Senate floor on the first day of the legislative session but has now been scheduled for an additional hearing in the Appropriations Committee because AHCA could need more money to enforce it. A similar proposal is nearing a House vote as well.