Newsom Repeats Falsehoods in Veto of AB 279

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has Kept $Multi-Million Reserve Fund a Secret from the Public and Newsom Follows Their Lead to Endanger Seniors

Under influence of California Association of Health Facilities (CAHF), the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) propagated the falsehood that “AB 279 would cause possible unintended financial duress” to for-profit nursing home operators during the legislative process. CDPH in their efforts to buy time for Pacifica Companies to evacuate all residents of the Sakura ICF prior to the CA Legislative Summer Recess back in late June into July, never produced any evidence that any senior home in the state was facing such dire straights.  They never identified a single entity that would be facing the need to file bankruptcy due to AB 279.

Acting Director Cassie Dunham and the CDPH may have succeeded in stalling the Senate Floor vote, allowing Pacifica Companies to continue pushing out Japanese American and Japanese seniors from the Sakura ICF, the fight that inspired AB 279’s crafting. However, the straw man argument failed to persuade the Senate Committee on Appropriations, led by Senator Anthony Portantino, as they took a bipartisan 6-0 vote to advance the bill to the eventual, favorable 32-3 bipartisan vote in August.  The Committee was able to ascertain the lack of substance in the CDPH argument and determine, as did the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, that AB 279 posed no significant financial burden to the State.

Many members of Save Our Seniors Network suspect that Newsom’s decision to veto AB 279 may be related to his overall handling of the COVID-19 crisis, including the ordering of COVID-19-positive patients placement into nursing homes, which have resulted in highly disproportionate death rates in those facilities.

What the public also doesn’t know is that the other piece of information conveniently missing from the CAHF/CDPH argument (and subsequently, Newsom’s veto letter) is that CDPH has access to a reserve fund of over $3 million, a “Special Deposit Fund” in the State Treasury. This fund is also available to aid or even completely take over control of “bad actor” operators, or provide for aid to those in need. The fund is derived from penalties collected from delinquent operators, something of which there is little shortage of except for lack of investigation and oversight from the CDPH itself according to multiple audits from CA /State auditors. While choosing to not acknowledge this fund, they instead pursued blockage of AB 279 to continue allowance of not only the ongoing improper evictions of seniors during the pandemic (over 200 to date in CA), but also to let operators evict seniors when given the green light to do so, and constructing a “bogeyman” argument to allow Newsom to hide behind, even though the Legislature had already rejected that same argument.

Mass evictions are exactly what the CDPH promoted in the case of Pacifica Companies’ request to evict Japanese American and Japanese seniors from the Sakura ICF, despite the opposition of ten licensed physicians and the documented knowledge that no comparable, adequate level of care transfer facilities existed elsewhere.

The article below identifies the $3 Million+ fund, but more importantly, two specific cases where CDPH intervened to assume control of facilities run by “bad apple” operators.

The gathering storm: How the state seized control of two troubled nursing homes as coronavirus crisis loomed

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