In a bipartisan 10-0 vote AB 279 sailed through the CA Senate Health Committee. The bill is now headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee. If it wins approval there, it moves forward for a full vote on the Senate floor before mid-July when the legislature recesses for the summer.
The bill would stop the evictions and transfers of nursing home residents during a pandemic. California Department of Public Health records show that there have been more than 200 improper involuntary transfers since the start of the Covid state of emergency.
Kensaku Nakayama, whose 98 year old mother is a resident at Sakura Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) said of the victory that would be directly impacted by the bill if signed into law, “The vote was due to the combined effort of everyone who stepped up to the plate today. It’s still a long fight, but we’ll follow it step by step all the way.”
In his presentation to the Senate Health Committee, AB 279 co-author Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi further stated: “Seniors living in nursing homes as we all know have been among the most vulnerable to Covid in the early stages of the pandemic. They accounted for almost half of all deaths due to Covid.”
Former Assemblymember and current Senior Advisor to Councilmember Kevin de Leon Warren Furutani stated, “The pandemic has exposed and exasperated many disparities relative to health care, for example, the impact on communities of color are far worse than they are in other communities. And also it has shown the horrific treatment that we as a society have had toward the elderly.”
Mike Dark, staff attorney of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, implored the committee to further consider the consequences of the current state of affairs: “You would have lived the last year in near complete isolation, seeing people die all around you during the pandemic. Under current rules, you can be told that you will be evicted in 30 days even though you and your family aren’t even able to first visit new facilities because of ongoing Covid visitation restrictions. If that sounds unfair, that’s because it is.”
But what is driving these evictions? Muratsuchi referenced a New York Times article stating that during the course of the pandemic nursing homes in California and elsewhere across the country have been illegally transferring their residents to homeless shelters and other unsafe facilities to take advantage of higher private insurance or Medi-care reimbursement rates. One example is Rockport Healthcare Services, which manages the state’s largest chain of for-profit nursing homes. They have been repeatedly cited for illegal evictions. And in Los Angeles, my joint author on this bill, Assemblymember Santiago, represents Boyle Heights where Pacifica, the owner of another for-profit nursing home chain started transferring residents in the middle of the raging pandemic so that they can convert the facility into luxury apartments.”
Warren Furutani, former Assemblymember and current Senior Advisor to Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin De Leon continued, “The irony is that [Pacifica] is trying to transfer people to another facility that they own called Kei-Ai Los Angeles. Kei-Ai Los Angeles has the worst record of pandemic Covid-19 infections and deaths in the state of California. Pacifica has been trying to tell the community that those things have been fixed, but the track record has been firmly established relative to it ultimately being a death sentence if you get transferred there.”
This local and statewide emergency of illegal and immoral evictions is precisely what AB 279 intends to prevent said SOS Network Legislative Team Director, David EZ Maldonado. Maldonado clarifies the importance of AB 279 to the Sakura ICF. “In the case of Sakura ICF, the bill would forestall the closure of Sakura ICF and reinstate the “Conditions of Sale” until after the end of the declared COVID-19 state of emergency. Pacifica, who started transferring residents in the middle of the pandemic, would have to continue to provide bilingual bi-cultural care and not decrease beds for low income Medi-Cal residents among other protections. ”
“Today’s progression of AB 279 on a path to become law and the recent stall to Pacifica’s eviction plan has reinvigorated residents’ families who are still at the ICF. Pacifica should see the writing on the wall and provide alternative facilities in their Assisted Living facilities to those who remain,” stated Traci Imamura, Co-chair of SOS.
Please visit our “Take Action on AB 279” page here: https://saveourseniors.network/help-advance-ab-279-to-a-ca-senate-floor-vote/
The SOS Network Legislative Team led by David EZ Maldonado Ph.D., UCLA, Mariko Yamada, former Assemblymember and former Assembly Chair for Aging and Long Term Care Mariko Yamada, and Assembly District Delegate Ruscal Cayangyang have provided guidance and leadership to SOS Network members and supporters in garnering “Yes” votes with CA assemblymembers and senators. If you are interested in joining the SOS Network Legislative team or the effort to halt the Sakura ICF eviction, please contact David EZ Maldonado via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and sign up for the SOS email list using the “Optin” form on the upper right menu of this website.