By Vin Gopal, Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey
Our bills supporting workers’ rights and long-term care facility residents have advanced in the Assembly and Senate.
One of the bills requiring the owners of long-term care facilities to prevent the social isolation of residents suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease has become law. The pandemic has placed tremendous strain on these residents and the families who are unable to visit them.
Approximately 48 percent of nursing home residents and 42 percent of assisted living residents live with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. For them, the social and mental stimulation of being engaged and connected with loved ones are among the few tools that can slow the march of this debilitating condition.
The new law requires facilities to create social isolation prevention policies so residents can engage in in-person contact, communications, and religious and recreational activities with other residents and family members. It tasks the facility owners to use virtual connections if necessary.
Many owners of for-profit long-term care facilities are struggling financially and choose to sell their facilities to private equity and investment firms that too often put the expectations of shareholders above the needs of elderly, disabled and vulnerable residents. We have an obligation to ensure that no resident receives poor care because of a facility’s financial mismanagement.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved our bill to protect residents of long-term care facilities by making the transfer of ownership more transparent. The bill would ensure the state Department of Health has the authority to monitor the financial health of long-term care facilities by strengthening the disclosure requirements when ownership is transferred. Owners would have to submit profit-and-loss projections for three years and make their transfer of ownership applications available to the public. The bill also would prevent investors from “flipping” these facilities by reselling them for a quick profit within six months of transferring ownership.
We also have introduced bills to protect workers.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee advanced our bill requiring workers’ compensation and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage of medical use of cannabis under certain circumstances. Medical cannabis is considered an important piece in the national effort to combat the opioid crisis. It is an effective pain treatment option that is cheaper and less addictive than opioids. Patients and their doctors should have every option available to make the best decisions for their care and health insurance plans should cover the costs.
Our bill to relax the requirement for minors to be physically present when they apply for working papers during a health crisis also advanced. Young people are carrying enough of a burden during the pandemic without being even more restricted when they look for a part-time job. The Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee approved the bill, which requires school districts to develop a process using video conferencing and electronic document transfers.
We also have advanced legislation to protect farmers from vandals by increasing the penalties for trespassing and vandalism from $1,000 to $2,500. Farming is already a tough business with small profit margins and vandalism can cut a farmer’s profits sharply. The Assembly Agriculture Committee chaired by Assemblyman Houghtaling approved the bill.
One last note: November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. The painful and usually deadly cancer strikes far too many people. We participated in the annual Pound the Pavement for Purple Run-Walk in Neptune last month to raise awareness and funds for Lustgarten Foundation’s pancreatic cancer research. If you would like to donate, please visit the Lustgarten Foundation at lustgarten.org/donate.
As always, if we can help you in any way, please go to tinyurl.com/LD11Help to send us your question and a member of our team will assist you.