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Pat Arends: Missed opportunity – continuing care retirement community reform in Florida

We’re nearly halfway through the 2017 Florida Legislative Session and lawmakers are missing an opportunity to protect the 30,000 senior citizens who live in Florida’s 71 continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). Vastly different from most long-term care retirement options. CCRCs provide a campus environment that offer independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing all in one setting.

Historically, Florida’s CCRC law has been considered one of the strongest in the country. However, market forces and situations change over time and regulations have to keep pace with current trends and developments. Two important bills, Senate Bill 1430 sponsored by Sen. Tom Lee and House Bill 1349 sponsored by Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, were filed to improve the law governing CCRCs, but neither bill has received a committee hearing in either legislative chamber.

Due to the unique nature of this long-term care option, CCRCs are regulated as a specialty insurance product.

Seniors who move into a CCRC pay an entrance fee at move-in followed by a monthly fee that covers housing, health care and meals. Costs can vary widely depending on the type of contract, location of the community, and other deliverables. Entrance fees can be sizable and are equivalent to buying a home in the traditional sense, even though residents do not generally own their living unit in the CCRC.

Since 2013, there have been three CCRC bankruptcies in Florida. This is the most in over 20 years.

The most recent and most concerning bankruptcy of a CCRC occurred at University Village in Tampa. This particular case prompted Sen. Lee and Rep. Stevenson to file legislation this year to achieve meaningful reform.

During the last two years, the more than five hundred senior citizens who reside at University Village have lived under a cloud of anxiety every day, literally not knowing what was going to happen to their community. Further, the residents have seen collectively millions of dollars of hard earned retirement funds invested into their CCRC disappear.

The Florida Life Care Residents Association (FLiCRA) supports elements of the proposed legislation that would improve the ability of the Office of Insurance Regulation to protect the rights and welfare of the 30,000 residents living in Florida CCRCs. Unfortunately, the Legislature has not yet heard either bill. FLiCRA urges the Senate to consider giving CCRC Reform a hearing in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee while there is still time during the 2017 Legislative Session.

FLiCRA fully agrees with other stakeholders, including LeadingAge Florida, that the vast majority of CCRC operators and owners are experienced, dedicated and successful in delivering quality services to tens of thousands of seniors on a daily basis. This makes it even more important to improve the law, to ensure that CCRCs continue to be seen as a vibrant and desirable long-term care option for seniors.

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Retiree Pat Arends is a resident of Freedom Village, a CCRC in Bradenton. She is president of the 14,000-member Florida Life Care Residents Association. During her career, Arends served as President of the Florida Association of City Clerks and has served as an officer with the Manatee League of Women Voters.

The Florida Life Care Residents Association (FLiCRA) was established in 1989, and is the oldest and largest association of continuing care residents in the country. Its mission is to ensure quality of life for residents living in such communities.

For more information visit www.flicra.com.

 

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