(Sacramento) Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins will introduce legislation designed to ensure that residents of assisted living facilities, also called residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs), are financially protected in the event of injury or death by requiring the facilities to carry liability insurance coverage. The bill is sponsored by Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform (CARR) and jointly authored with Assemblymember Shirley Weber of San Diego.
“I was very surprised to learn that these residences entrusted with the care of our seniors are not required to have insurance that would compensate them or their families in a case of neglect or abuse,” says Atkins. “We require home child care facilities to be insured; we should have the same standard for ensuring adequate compensation for older Californians should a tragedy at an assisted living facility occur.”
This bill will be part of a comprehensive legislative package called the RCFE Reform Act of 2014. Bills that are part of the Act are designed to address a variety of troubling failures to protect senior residents of assisted living facilities that have recently been brought to light by community activists and media reports. Two of these activists are San Diegans whose personal family tragedies led them to take up the cause of improving safety and accountability at RCFEs.
“Having Assembly Member Atkins carry this bill demonstrates her strong commitment to frail and dependent elders living in California’s more than 8,000 assisted living facilities,” states Chris Murphy, Executive Director of CARR. “This legislation offers a long-overdue consumer protection – an avenue to obtain accountability in cases of wrongful death or harm suffered by residents due to poor or neglectful care.”
"Liability insurance will provide protection for both residents and facility owners," says Aaron Byzak, founder of Hazel's Army, an advocacy organization dedicated to assisted living facility reform. "I applaud Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins for authoring legislation that will promote safer assisted living communities."
Neither statute nor regulation requires any RCFE to carry liability insurance as a condition of licensure. As a result, many facilities lack even the minimum liability coverage, exposing both them and residents to great financial risk. Currently, the only recourse for residents and their families is civil litigation, a lengthy process that requires plaintiffs or their attorneys to put substantial funds up front for the costs of litigation.