Senator Eichorn, colleagues, approves landmark elder care protections, assisted living licensure

On Sunday, the Minnesota Senate passed monumental legislation that includes a series of protections for elderly and vulnerable Minnesotans and an extensive framework for the licensure of assisted living facilities. The Elder Care and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2019 is the most significant reform to state law for elder care in decades. The bill passed with wide, bipartisan support.

“After months of disturbing reports emerging from nursing homes around the state, we are now laying the groundwork for solutions that will protect Minnesota’s elderly and vulnerable adults,” said Senator Justin Eichorn (R-Grand Rapids). “When people go to nursing homes and care facilities, they’re in search of comfort and care not mistreatment or abuse. This legislation tackles a part of the problem, giving people control by allowing them to monitor their personal space, restoring faith to the system and giving people comfort knowing that they or their loved are safe and protected.” 

The legislation, HF90, includes a comprehensive package of consumer protections designed to ensure the rights of elderly and vulnerable adults, including protections for residents against retaliation in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and a clear process for residents to appeal a termination of housing or services. The bill also enhances oversight of the state Office of Health Facility Complaints and provides needed funding for the Office of the Ombudsman of Long-Term Care. Also, the bill contains provisions giving nursing home and assisted living residents the explicit right to use electronic monitoring devices in their rooms.

In addition, the bill includes an extensive framework for licensing assisted living facilities in Minnesota. Once the licensure system is in place, the current housing with services system will be eliminated. There are two levels of licensure, one for assisted living facilities and another for facilities with dementia care services, which are subject to additional training requirements. A Resident Quality of Care and Outcomes Improvement Task Force is created to make recommendations on how to apply safety and quality improvement practices to long-term care services.

The rights of assisted living facility residents are protected by a new consumer bill of rights and qualifications for assisted living directors, and nursing home administrators are outlined in the bill. In addition, assisted living facilities will be subject to the oversight and regulatory authority of the state health department, which will have the ability to issue correction orders and fines to ensure facility standards are being upheld. Licensure requirements go into effect by August 1, 2021.

Finally, the legislation includes more than $30 million to implement assisted living licensure and allow state agencies to address recommendations made in a far-reaching legislative audit, such as enhancements to agency reporting, administrative systems, and operations. Increased funding will also allow the Office of the Ombudsman for Long-Term Care to hire additional staff.

The bill comes after a historic consensus was reached among major stakeholders and advocacy groups, including state regulators, AARP Minnesota, LeadingAge Minnesota, Minnesota Elder Justice Center, Care Providers of Minnesota, Elder Voices Family Advocates, and Alzheimer’s Association.