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What's Up Magazine


May 25, 2011 07:25PM ● By Anonymous
Nothing happens fast in the Maryland General Assembly – or government for that matter. So it was no surprise that after over 15 years of advocating for residents of retirement communities on behalf of MaCCRA (Maryland Continuing Care Residents Association), that the Committee that I had the honor to serve on took so long to come to a final consensus on what to recommend to the legislature. There was no question that these recommendations would have a big impact. Deciding on a retirement community as the last place to live and depositing an “entrance fee” of up to $500,000 to secure a spot is one of the last big decisions in a person’s life, which makes it a huge emotional investment just as much a financial one. And just like with anything in life, things don’t always work out – either because of the type of care, extended life spans, or just not liking your neighbors - and so sometimes a person wants to move.

So you may be wondering what kind of recommendations the Committee came up with? The final report was actually as straight forward as you can get – and simply addressed making current policies more transparent for residents and increasing their involvement in the process. A quick review of the report shows how recommendations were as simple as making sure there is a Table of Contents in continuing care agreements that can be 70-90 pages long - to ensuring that potential residents have at least 2 weeks to review the agreement before signing it – to providing a summary of exactly where their entrance fee would be placed and how they would be able to get it back if they ever decided to move. With a balanced group representing all the stakeholders (including residents, the providers, management, actuaries, attorneys, and government), none of the 50+ recommendations were exactly what any particular stakeholder ultimately wanted – but all had been discussed, debated, examined, broken down, and built up so that everyone on the committee agreed to the report. Compromise can immediately be seen in the recommendation to increase resident representation on a provider’s governing board. In an agreement to please both the providers and residents, after residents vote on a group of candidates to sit on the governing board, the Provider would be the one to pick a candidate from that group – making both groups have some kind of say in representation.

That report turned into SB 962 and SB 963. And once those bills were introduced, the committee suddenly split with Providers declaring that they were against the bills. So much for compromise.

When testifying before the Senate Finance Committee on March 23rd, I was not the only one to stress how great leadership and compromise had resulted in this advancement for residents and providers, especially with Maureen Dove as Chair and Senator Delores Kelley as a member. Yet those representing the Providers, some who were not there during the months of meetings, now said that there needs to be more study and discussion on the issue. (Click here to access the testimony - it starts after the 45 minute mark) The bill then went to a working group where I continued to push for its initiatives. But the doubletalk that day sometimes ended in total nonsense and I admit that it felt like extremely frustrating dialogue – quite different from the working partnerships developed out of public view when the committee was working on these issues, But frustration has never been the end of anything for me – and just as the end of legislative session does not mean the end of the legislative process, the fact that these bills were tied up for 2011 session does not mean it’s the end of them. There is more work to be done as a summer study group takes form. As with anything, I want the people I work for to have a voice – and so I plan to make sure that the appropriate players – the residents – stay involved and get their voices heard - whether its at another study group or direct dialogue with their providers.

I look forward to sharing more with you of what transpires on this issue and what is on the horizon for the next nine months of preparation!