According to supporters of Assembly Bill 1502, a number of California nursing home operators run their facilities without the proper licenses, and their unregulated practices significantly compromise patient care. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH), according to the bill, allows this to continue through lax oversight practices.
The bill seeks to address these issues by requiring owners and operators of state nursing homes to be licensed by the CDPH.—which includes being controlled by the department—before acquiring the facilities.
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“Now that may seem obvious,” said the sponsor of the Asm bill. Al Muratsuchi (D – Los Angeles) at the Assembly Health Committee in January. “Some of you may be wondering, ‘Isn’t it [licensure] has it ever happened?’ Well, it’s not. And I want to make sure that everyone on this committee understands that there are currently nursing homes that are operating without a license, and we need to fix that.
AB 1502 was first introduced in February 2021. It passed the Assembly with a vote of 55 to 15 in January of this year. He is now awaiting Senate committee hearings.
The legislation also requires the CDPH to post all license applications online, which will be subject to public comment before approval. The ministry must make a decision on applications within 120 days of submission. Another key element of the bill, according to Muratsuchi, is its ban on the use of interim management agreements, which he says allow facilities to “bypass even the most basic licensing requirements.”
The CDPH’s Licensing and Certification (L&C) branch carries out inspections of nursing facilities to ensure they meet quality standards, but supporters of the legislation say this oversight is not adequate. The Assembly’s analysis of the bill states, “L&C has demonstrated a consistently poor record of investigating complaints from health care facilities of resident abuse and neglect in a timely manner.”
Recent reports by CalMatters says some state nursing homes have begun filing a number of lawsuits against the CDPH after the department levied various fines on facilities it found had inadequate health standards. The facilities are filing these lawsuits to challenge a host of allegations against them, including the presence of maggots and sexual abuse of patients.
Tony Chicotel, senior counsel for the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, called the legislation “the most significant nursing home bill in decades” during his testimony before the committee.
“A growing number of retirement homes are run by squatters,” Chicotel said. “These are undeclared, unchecked and unlicensed operators… The system allows anyone to take over a care home, apply for a license whenever they feel like moving there and provide care to thousands of vulnerable residents while state approval is pending. , or even worse, after their request was rejected.
Chicotel added that facilities run by “squatters” tend to provide care to more communities of color and lower-income people, and have had some of the worst rates of COVID-19 cases in the state.
The California Association of Healthcare Facilities (CAHF), which represents the majority of skilled nursing facilities in the state, opposes the bill unless it is amended. While they agree that the current licensing process is inadequate and needs to be changed, the association believes the responsibility should lie with the state, not nursing facilities. “Nursing facilities did not create this process backwards,” reads the organization’s opposition in the bill’s analysis.
CAHF argues that the strict disqualification provisions of AB 1502 would deter most if not all applicants for ownership of qualified nursing facilities.