House OKs nursing home transparency, despite GOP talkfest

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

CT Mirror

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

A sharply divided House of Representatives voted Tuesday night for new financial reporting rules on nursing homes that were proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at the request of a union ally, SEIU 1199 New England.

The bill passed on an 86 to 57 vote, with seven Democrats joining every Republican present in opposition. The House GOP minority signaled its deep opposition to the Democratic governor’s bill and the administration's refusal to negotiate by extending the debate to nearly eight hours.

The measure, which now goes to the Senate, would create a Nursing Home Financial Advisory Committee to regularly examine the financial solvency and quality of care of nursing homes.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, said the extended debate was fueled by the political origins of the bill and what he called the disrespect directed at the GOP minority by the administration and the Democratic majority.

"You want to say to 1199 in an election year this is what I did for you," Cafero said. "OK, I get it."

After proposing a compromise for days, Cafero said, the Democrats called the bill for debate without ever responding to his overtures. Cafero said that was disrespectful to his caucus, prompting the minority to employ its main weapon -- delay.

"We gotta do what we gotta do to make our point," Cafero said.

The industry says the new reporting requirements would be burdensome and unnecessary.

Matthew V. Barrett, who represents the industry, said in public hearing testimony, "There is no apparent reason for these details to be disclosed. The information has no bearing on the settling of Medicaid rates or relevance to any other component of the rate-setting process."

Cafero said his compromise would have required the increased transparency only when a nursing home's financial performance or other factors showed a need for heightened scrutiny.

The legislation is a byproduct of 1199’s long battle with HealthBridge Management, which has used claims of financial insolvency to thwart the union. Malloy has walked a picket line with 1199 workers outside a HealthBridge home.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr.

Proponents of the legislation say the state’s heavy subsidy of the industry justifies the greater transparency.

“With over $1.5 billion of taxpayer money going to nursing homes in Connecticut each year, we should know how those dollars are being used and where they are going," said House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden. "There are almost 200 for-profit, taxpayer-funded nursing homes in Connecticut that are in the business of caring for our parents and grandparents, yet their balance sheets are a mystery.”

David Pickus, the president of SEIU 1199 New England, said the measure was necessary to protect state dollars, nursing home residents and employees.

"It was imperative that legislators take action after prior abuses from some nursing homes in financial reporting," Pickus said. "It is my hope that the transparency provided in this bill will assist the state in monitoring nursing homes and the care they provide residents.”

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