In the last few weeks, there has been considerable media attention on House and Senate proposals before the Florida Legislature regarding COVID-19 liability claims for health care providers.
As has always been the case on nursing home and other long-term care public policy issues, there are primarily two diverse spectrums of thought (with few in the middle ground position). This year is no different, with some groups seeking “no immunity” and other groups seeking “limited immunity.”
No one is questioning the horrific toll COVID-19 has taken on Florida’s population especially seniors, especially those in long-term care facilities. Florida has reached a watershed moment with 35% of COVID-19 deaths coming from residents and staff in long-term care facilities. As a result, a reasoned approach to this complex policy issue is necessary not only for the short-term but the long-term.
The Florida Life Care Residents Association (FLiCRA), established in 1989, is the oldest and largest resident-led association of continuing care retirement community residents in the United States.
FLiCRA consists of senior citizens who reside in Florida’s continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) licensed under Florida Statutes 651.
Given the “continuum” of care in a CCRC, many FLiCRA members reside in the assisted living or skilled nursing portions of their respective CCRC. There are 30,000 residents living in Florida’s CCRCs.
In May 2020, FLiCRA went on record wanting to ensure that blanket immunity from COVID-19 claims would not be granted to long-term care providers by Florida’s legislature. The proposals on the table, SB 74 and House PCB HHS 21-01, would extend limited liability protections to health care providers who can fully demonstrate that they acted in good faith and did everything in their power to comply with federal, state or local laws, regulations or ordinances.
Given this thoughtful approach, the FLiCRA state board of directors voted to support SB 74 and House PCB HHS 21-01 as they continue to move through the committee process.
SB 74 and House PCB HHS 21-01 both maintain a clear and common-sense process that ensures legitimate COVID-19 claims can be filed by residents or their families where gross negligence or intentional misconduct occurred.
No one wants to give a free pass to bad actors, yet at the same time, giving a green light for unlimited litigation whereby good providers will have to defend a barrage of potential cases will cripple an already stretched long-term care system. FLiCRA will continue to advocate for improvements to the SB 74 where there are clear definitions related to the provisions regarding access to supplies, materials, equipment or personnel and reasonable cost of required supplies, materials, equipment.
Diane Dalismer, a retired educator, is statewide president of the Florida Life Care Residents Association. She is a second-generation resident of John Knox Village, Pompano Beach, a 900 resident community that provides independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing in one campus.