Assisted Living Facilities Need Federal Regulation as Baby Boomers Age

Assisted living facilities will soon be regulated by the federal government, according to a recent news article that addressed "problems" the industry will need to confront in coming years.  Currently, most assisted living facilities are regulated by state governments, although the extent of regulation is not consistent from state to state.  While federal regulations may result in more uniform care, regulatory compliance will increase the cost of assisted living care and may hinder the facilities' "creativity and innovation," claim some industry commentators.  Rising labor expenses (which are often 50 percent of a facility's total cost), increasing insurance rates, and a spike in demand as baby boomers age are also among industry challenges over the next two decades.  Read more about the future of assisted living care.

One commentator claims the assisted living industry will "grossly overwhelmed" by aging baby boomers.  Another industry representative claims the the "biggest struggle" facilities will face will be how to "make money from an operational point of view."  Yet another commentator pleaded hard times for the industry already: “We’re barely able to cover our costs. At the end of the day we’ve got to have a buck left or we are in trouble.”  An industry that's ill-prepared to meet growing demand and the needs of its patients --  yet remains focused on its profit -- spells disaster for patients and families alike. 

The assisted living industry has been grossly underregulated over the past two decades.  As nursing homes have been forced to comply during that time with stringent federal regulations that govern everything from pressure ulcer (bed sore, pressure sore, decubitus ulcer) prevention to proper nutrition, assisted living facilities have been reaping huge profits by flying under the regulatory radar.  The result has been to make assisted living care seem relatively less expensive than nursing home care, which in turn makes assisted living facilities seem relatively more attractive than nursing homes.  It's time to level the regulatory playing field between nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The very same reasons the assisted living industry claims it shouldn't be regulated by the federal government are the very same reasons that industry must be regulated.  Regulation works best when those who are regulated can't (without regulation) be trusted to do the right thing.  Federal regulation of nursing homes has been a good thing because the nursing home industry can't be trusted.  The assisted living facility, based on its representatives' emphasis on profit in this article, has told us it can't be trusted.
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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