With this incoming Administration, I became concerned that we would focus on Trump's antics and the fact that Kellyanne Conway was sitting on a couch in the Oval Office with her legs folded underneath her. Meanwhile, the House has been busy stripping away our rights. To address a new bill, H.R. 1215, I asked Kim Valentine, one of our top elder abuse attorneys, to share her my concerns, which should be yours as well. She told me that a very important law in California is quietly under attack, a law that is designed to protect our vulnerable elders and disabled adults. Here is what she wrote:
In 1991, the California Legislature declared elderly and dependent adults were at a greater risk of abuse, neglect or abandonment. California has a responsibility to protect these vulnerable individuals. For these reasons, California enacted the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act ("EADACPA") to make it financially feasible for civil cases to be brought against nursing home operators for fraudulent and bad acts that harm vulnerable people. Facts uncovered in these civil cases have been used by public prosecutors to recover millions in fines for billing fraud against large corporate operators of nursing homes. (See, e.g., “Life Care Centers of America Inc. Agrees to Pay $145 Million...” https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/life-care-centers-america-inc-agrees-pay-145-million-resolve-false-claims-act-allegations; “Nursing Home Operator to Pay $48 Million...” https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/nursing-home-operator-pay-48-million-resolve-allegations-six-california-facilities-billed.)
Within the next week, proposed federal legislation known as the “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017,” (H.R. 1215 - https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1215/text) is likely to be discussed on the floor of the House of Representatives. If approved, the bill will then go to the Senate floor. The proposed legislation puts financial caps on all medical negligence cases in the United States. (For 40 years, California has had a cap on medical malpractice cases, but it has done little, if anything, to fix healthcare in this state.)
Hidden within H.R. 1215 is language that will expand - not just the damage caps nationwide - but will gut elder abuse litigation across the United States. Claims against nursing homes will be covered under this new law. (See "Definitions.") Elder Abuse cases against large corporate chains are notoriously expensive. It typically costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove those large operators are committing fraud. If H.R. 1215 is enacted, elder abuse cases will no longer be economically feasible. Here are just a few examples of past situations:
Enactment of H.R. 1215, as currently written, with the inclusion of nursing homes, will leave America’s elderly and disabled population susceptible to increasing abuse, neglect, assault and rape with no recourse. Abusive and neglectful nursing homes will be left to operate without fear of reprisal or liability. Without laws in place to protect their victims, nursing homes will have no financial incentive to provide adequate care. Any speculative fiscal savings promised by H.R. 1215 will be greatly outweighed by the increase in government costs for taking care of the vulnerable and infirm.
To avoid this result, please contact your representatives and tell them you stand on the side of the elderly and disabled. Demand they vote against H.R. 1215. Find your congressperson here, http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/, and contact Senator Kamala Harris at (202) 224-3553, and Senator Diane Feinstein at (202) 224-3841. Call today and let your voice be heard!
Ms. Valentine has dedicated her career in the practice of law to advocating for the vulnerable, the injured and the infirm. Her focus is to ensure that individuals are not needlessly taken advantage of or exposed to unnecessary harm. Her clients ages span from newborn children to elderly as old as 104. She practices in the areas of elder abuse, medical malpractice, products liability, serious personal injury, and government tort claims litigation.