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Both sides of issue have rare agreement: California does a poor job

By J.W. August

Photo: Microsoft clip art

February 1, 2022 (San Diego) -- The approval this past week by the California Assembly of new state legislation has the potential to significantly alter the oversight of skilled nursing facilities statewide that are home to some 400,000 patients.

Assembly Bill 1502 cleared the Assembly on a 55-15 vote, with only Republican legislators casting no votes, including the minority leader Republican Maria Waldron representing part of North County. Whether this far-reaching bill becomes law depends on whether the legislation will survive review by the California Senate. The first stop is at the Senate Health Committee.

Supporters say the bill is necessary because 80 percent of homes in the state are controlled by large companies owning strings of nursing homes. Those corporations are the target of the bill. Attorney Tony Chicotel California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform says that “currently these chain operators can acquire and operate skilled nursing facilities without prior approval or permits.” 

AB 1502 helps address poor management and operation of nursing homes, which has led to neglect and abuse of residents within their care, says the bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance).    This reporter's previous report explaining the bill said ll "would empower the agency to disqualify unfit operators and owners, requiring them to meet certain qualifications" as well as other requirements.  

Patricia McGinnis, founder and executive director of CANHR, which advocated for the bill, says she is hopeful “it won’t be amended” but is aware of the deep pockets and formidable opposition facing the bill on the Senate side.  Her voice is strained, recalling two previous efforts that “didn’t make it though.” 

It faces muscular opposition, says Muratsuchi.

“We anticipate we have momentum to push the issue in the Senate, but they will likely push for some amendments to the bill,” he said.

In addition, the assemblyman believes the California Association for Health Facilities will be leading the charge to weaken the bill. The organization is strongly challenging the proposed legislation, saying it opposes  “the bill as written unless there are major changes.  Its CEO, Craig Cornet, said in the opposition letter the problem lies with the state, not the organization’s nursing home members, adding that “it's been perpetuated by the state-and needs to end”. 

Chicotel finds agreement with Cornell on this issue but not with much else.

California’s protection agency is not the only villain involved, he says in a letter responding to CAHF's claims.

“It's the large operators and CAHF that are the problem. The current system “is an invention of nursing home operators who have exploited statutory loopholes and CDPH inaction.”  He added,  “The bad actors CAHF represents have been the direct beneficiaries of a system that allows them to buy up and take over nursing homes first and seek approval later.”

 For additional details see our previous story:

JW August is an award-winning journalist and freelance producer who has served as investigative producer for NBC 7 San Diego and as managing editor and senior investigative producer at ABC 10 San Diego. His in-depth investigations have included a wide range of topics such as  rising seas, hate groups, nuclear fuel storage, stem cell clinic claims, dolphin deaths, and massage parlors as fronts for organized crime.

His 40-year career includes many honors, notably 35 Emmy awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the National Press Club award for consumer reporting, the Freedom Foundation award for coverage of hate groups along the border, the National Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine Award for fostering open government in San Diego, and the Investigative Reporters and Editors award for outstanding investigative reporting on illegal waste dumping.

August is past president of the Society of Professional Journalist’ San Diego Chapter , as well as past president of Californians Aware, a public interest group devoted to helping the press and public hold public officials accountable for their actions. He is also an adjunct professor at Point Loma Nazarene University, teaching investigative skills and long-form storytelling to aspiring future journalists.

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