In 2016, the California Legislature enacted dramatic changes to long-term Medi-Cal’s estate recovery system, as I wrote about earlier this year. As 2017 draws to a close, it’s safe to say that it isn’t going to bring the same sort of major shifts to long-term Medi-Cal as last year did.

But that isn’t to say that the Legislature ignored long-term Medi-Cal this year. In fact, nearly a dozen bills were introduced regarding long-term Medi-Cal or long-term care generally, and several became law. Here’s a rundown of legislative activity in this area during 2017:

Enacted: Legislation That Became Law

  • AB 275: Requirements for Changes Resulting in the Inability of Long-Term Care Facilities to Care for Their Residents. In late 2016, Brius Healthcare Services threatened to shut down three of the five nursing homes in Humboldt County, reportedly in part because Brius was not satisfied with the Medi-Cal reimbursements it was receiving. To help protect nursing-home residents facing such closures, AB 275 imposes new requirements on facilities considering closure.
  • AB 940: Long-Term Care Facilities’ Notice of Transfer or Discharge. AB 940 requires nursing homes to notify the local long-term care ombudsman whenever the nursing home itself initiates a transfer or discharge of a resident, regardless of whether the resident agrees with the decision.
  • SB 218: Medi-Cal and ABLE Accounts. ABLE accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts used to support individuals with disabilities. Among other things, SB 218 prohibits Medi-Cal estate recovery from reaching funds in an individual’s ABLE account.
  • SB 219: LGBT Long-Term Care Facility Residents’ Bill of Rights. SB 219 prohibits long-term care facilities from taking specified actions on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or HIV status.

Vetoed: Legislation Blocked by the Governor

  • AB 859: Elders and Dependent Adults: Abuse or Neglect. AB 859 would have made it easier for a plaintiff in an elder-abuse case to obtain an award of attorney’s fees and costs when the nursing home destroys relevant evidence. Governor Brown vetoed the bill, because he believed current law already provides an adequate remedy in such circumstances.

Failed: Legislation that Did Not Pass the Legislature

  • AB 286: Medi-Cal Home Upkeep Allowances. Among other things, AB 286 would have increased the “home upkeep allowance” available to long-term Medi-Cal beneficiaries who are certified by a doctor as likely to return home within 6 months. The allowance is $209 per month.
  • AB 550: State Funding for Local Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs. AB 550 would have increased the state funding available for local long-term care ombudsman programs.
  • AB 1026: Public Financing of For-Profit Nursing Homes. AB 1026 would have extended some financial benefits available for nonprofit nursing homes to for-profit nursing homes, so long as at least 60% of the home’s residents are long-term Medi-Cal beneficiaries.
  • SB 202: Medi-Cal Personal Needs Allowance. SB 202 would have raised the minimum personal needs allowance for long-term Medi-Cal beneficiaries from $35 per month to $80 per month.
  • SB 416: Isolation of Elders as Abuse. SB 416 would have amended the Penal Code’s definition of elder abuse to include a pattern of isolation.

Keeping up to date with legislative changes to Medi-Cal, whether major or not, is critical to effective long-term Medi-Cal planning. If you need help understanding or applying for long-term Medi-Cal, contact a knowledgeable Medi-Cal planning attorney today.

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