ACTION ALERT: Florida Ombudsman Abruptly Resigns Image

ADVOCACY ALERT: Florida Ombudsman Abruptly Resigns; Lawmaker Seeks to Deregulate Florida’s Assisted Living Facilities

October 22, 2019

The Miami Herald is reporting that Michael Milliken abruptly resigned as Florida's State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, a position he held for nearly three years.  Department of Elder Affairs’ officials offered no explanation as to Mr. Milliken’s sudden departure last month other than offering a copy of his resignation letter.  His resignation knocks the wind out of this plucky volunteer advocacy program designed to protect the elderly living in nursing homes and other long-term care settings.  

The State Ombudsman’s departure couldn’t come at a worse time for residents as Florida’s legislative season is very much underway.

Legislative committees are convening in Tallahassee to discuss proposals that would directly impact the quality of life and care for residents.  Two bills already filed worth noting are SB 402 and HB 6029.

SENATE BILL 402 

Senate Bill 402, sponsored by Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart), is an industry supported bill largely designed to deregulate assisted living facilities

First, SB 402 proposes the elimination of the assisted living facilities’ adverse incident reporting requirement to the Agency for Health Care Administration within one business day.  It then hands the reigns of investigating adverse incidents over to the providers.  In other words, assisted living facilities would largely self-police the worst of the worst cases of abuse and neglect that happen in assisted living.  Examples of adverse incidents include “death”, “brain or spinal damage”, “permanent disfigurement”, “bone fractures”, or any other circumstance in which a resident “required medical attention” and was unable to give consent.  Senate Bill 402 also removes the requirement for providers to submit monthly adverse incident reports to state regulators.  Softening adverse incident reporting requirements blinds state inspectors in regulating the assisted living industry. 

But Senate Bill 402 doesn’t stop there. 

The legislation also silences the voice of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Office in developing quality of care standards.  Senate Bill 402 raises the threshold for consideration of ombudsman complaint data to a nearly impossible standard so that it may be excluded in the development of assisted living rules. 

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board recently blistered Senator Harrell's proposal, calling it a "needless concession to an industry caring for the elderly," an industry that needs "more state oversight, not less."

Families for Better Care is calling on all residents, families, advocates, and others concerned about the safety and care of the elderly to contact Senator Harrell and demand she withdraw Senate Bill 402 for the safety of our loved ones.  

HOUSE BILL 6029

House Bill 6029, sponsored by Representative Amber Mariano (R-Hudson), proposes an end to the unjust siphoning of awarded punitive damages into Florida’s Quality of Long-Term Care Facility Improvement Trust Fund

Right now, whenever a settlement agreement is reached in a nursing home abuse claim that results punitive damages being awarded, the victim is required by law to handover a “proportionate share” of “50 percent” of the damages to the state.  These monies are then allocated to the Quality of Long-Term Care Facility Improvement Trust Fund.  Facilities are then encouraged to apply for grants from this trust fund to "improve" facility care. 

Residents should never be forced to hand over half of their awarded punitive damage settlement to a state managed trust fund that may, at the end of the day, turn around and give this money right back to, quite possibly, the very nursing homes that committed the wrongdoing in the first place.  Families for Better Care encourages everyone to reach out to Florida lawmakers and ask them to support House Bill 6029 to right this injustice

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