Resolution To Reform Harsh Practices By Assisted Living Facilities Passes New Jersey Assembly

Like most other states, New Jersey’s system of regulating assisted living facilities provides little meaningful protection to residents facing involuntary discharge. Federal and state laws give powerful protections to nursing home residents, but not to residents of assisted living facilities, even though New Jersey’s Medicaid program pays for care in assisted-living facilities. As a result, some operators of assisted living facilities in New Jersey engaged in harsh practices over the years, ruthlessly evicting elderly residents after they drained their private resources and had to apply for Medicaid, breaking promises to these residents that they could pay through Medicaid after their savings were depleted. The Department of the Public Advocate looked into the allegation of harsh practices of assisted living facilities in New Jersey and, after an 18 month investigation, issued a report on its findings, entitled Aging-in-Place – Promises-to-Keep. I blogged about the appalling practice of some assisted living facilities in evicting residents who have spent all of their assets on care needs and the Public Advocate’s efforts to protect the interests of residents here, here, and here.

Recently, the New Jersey Legislature has also acted.  Based on recommendations by the Department of the Public Advocate, the State Assembly passed Assembly Resolution 198 which urges the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services to develop strategies to increase access to assisted living facilities for individuals who are Medicaid-eligible. These strategies are intended to ensure that seniors who are Medicaid recipients are able to “age in place,” meaning that they can remain at the same assisted living facility as their health deteriorates and their assets dwindle.

The resolution is in response to the Department of the Public Advocate’s investigation of an assisted living facility, after receiving reports that facilities were forcing out seniors who sought to convert to Medicaid, breaking promises to these elderly residents that they could pay through Medicaid after their savings were depleted.

“Assisted living facilities that are licensed by the state must meet specific conditions,” said Assemblywoman Celeste M. Riley, a principal sponsor of the resolution. “It is time we used our consumer fraud laws to protect vulnerable senior citizens. In this current economic climate, our residents are relying on Medicaid more than ever.” This resolution passed the Assembly on June 25, 2009 and has been filed with the Secretary of State.