Monday, September 08, 2008

Comments Due on PA's Assisted Living Regs

On September 7, 2008, The Philadelphia Inquirer published a commentary, entitled "Proposed assisted-living rules fall woefully short" by Alissa Halperin, Esq., of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project, regarding pending regulatory rules proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare to govern future operations of assisted-living facilities in this state.

She concluded: "The proposed regulations do represent a step in the right direction. But they must be beefed up to include stronger consumer protections. * * * Thankfully, the draft regulations are still in a formative stage and the public has an opportunity to give its input now."

Her comments echo many points made in a Press Release, issued in August, 2008 by the
Pennsylvania Assisted Living Consumer Alliance entitled "New Assisted Living Regulations Do Little to Protect Consumers," which "asks the public to make their voices heard on fundamental rights."

For background on the issuance of the proposed regulations under Act 56 of 2007, see PA EE&F Law Blog postings "PA "Assisted Living Residence" Regs Proposed" (07/31/08) and "PA's Act No. 56 on Assisted Living Facilities" (07/26/07). See also: "Long-Term Care in PA: Assisted Living Update" (11/12/07), posted by AARP.

Alissa Halperin, Esq. as Project Director of
PALCA and as Senior Attorney & Deputy Director of Policy Advocacy at the PHLP, also created a PowerPoint presentation entitled "The Evolution of Assisted Living in Pennsylvania" that provides background and makes points about the proposed regulations. See also: "The Status of Assisted Living in Pennsylvania" (07/07; PDF, 11 pages) PowerPoint, by Dana Breslin, Esq. and Alissa Halperin, Esq., prepared for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute's Elder Law Institute.

Such differences in opinion as to the effectiveness of the proposed regulations was the subject of an article posted on September 6, 2008, by KYW News Radio (Philadelphia, PA) entitled "Pa.'s Assisted Living Facilities Will Get New Regulations" by Pat Loeb, who reported:

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare is developing new requirements and regulations for assisted living facilities in the state. The new regulations are meant to protect residents, but consumer advocates think the regulations don't go far enough.

It's been eight years since World War II veteran William Neff died of abuse at an assisted living facility in Bucks County -- igniting an outcry for new regulations. But until now, assisted living has been licensed the same way as personal care homes.

Alissa Halperin of the Pa assisted living consumer alliance says the problem with the new regulations is they don't represent enough of a change. * * *

Spokesperson Stacy Witalec says the Department of Public Welfare is open to suggestions from Halperin and others: “We are hoping through the regulation process we can all come to the table to make sure these regulations meet the very unique needs of every resident we're hoping to serve.” * * *
Written comments about the proposed assisted living regulations can be delivered to the Department of Public Welfare, Division of Long Term Care Client Services, Attention: Gail Weidman, P. O. Box 2675, Harrisburg, PA 17105. Persons with a disability may use the AT&T Relay Service, (800) 654-5984 (TDD users) or (800) 654-5988 (voice users).

The proposed regulations were released by DPW on August 9, 2008. Due to an extension, DPW will receive public comments until September 15, 2008.

Update: 09/11/08:

On September 10, 2008, PALCA submitted comments on the proposed assisted living regulations to the Department of Public Welfare and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

Update: 09/16/08:

PALCA's comments were noted in an article, "Proposed Assisted Living Regulations Would Allow Facilities to Rent Inaccessible Rooms to Persons Who Use Wheelchairs or Walkers" (09/15/08) posted by MarketWatch, which noted that the "[c]onsumer coalition calls for quality standards to protect Pennsylvania families from inadequate regulations."

The article also noted:
Accessibility is just one weakness in the draft regulations identified by PALCA. Other areas of concern include ensuring adequate staff and administrator training, access to one's own doctor, a responsive appeals' process and sufficient residents' rights.

The House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee will hear consumers' stories on Thursday, Sept. 18 at 9:30 a.m. in room 418 in the Main Capitol Building in Harrisburg.