Divergent thinking encouraged at LeadingAge spring meeting

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Providers must join "unconventional partners" to find new service delivery models, Sloan says
Providers must join "unconventional partners" to find new service delivery models, Sloan says

The top policy priorities for LeadingAge are advanced financing reform, affordable housing, navigating payment reform and workforce development, the organization's president and CEO said Monday, while also encouraging divergent thinking.

“We will not shape the future by talking amongst ourselves,” Katie Smith Sloan told a group of 1,000 attendees at LeadingAge Peak, which runs through Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Long-term care providers “must join with unconventional partners to look at new models of service delivery.”

Providers will visit Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with their states' senators and representatives. While 2015 was a banner year politically, Sloan told McKnight's, 2016 being an election year makes it less likely that major legislation will be advanced. But members “have to continue to educate,” she emphasized.

The PEAK event was redesigned this year in both small and large ways, from educational listings being part of the badge, to changing the exhibition hall into “Base Camp,” where there presentations took place and a focus was on conversations with vendors. Educational sessions on Monday included financing, remote monitoring technologies, and a perspective on value-based purchasing from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services employees. In two sessions on legal issues, attorneys weighed in on topics ranging from fair hiring practices to “good faith” immunity for continuing care retirement community leaders.

Directors of not-for-profits have some legal protection under “good faith,” regarding decisions that were bad in hindsight, explained Martha Sweterlitsch, Partner and Chairwoman, Nonprofit Initiative, Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff in Columbus, OH. But the Sears Methodist Retirement System bankruptcy case in Texas holds lessons for providers, she added.

What CCRC board members should remember is they have a duty of care and a duty of loyalty, as well as an obligation to maintain accounts and compliance, Sweterlitsch said. In the Sears case, the state attorney general sued the officers and executive committee, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, statutory violations of UPMIFA (Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act) and prayer for relief. The attorney general alleged the organization took on too much debt, there were no minutes reflecting charitable donations and there was a general failure of oversight.

“If you are going to be on a board, you show up at meetings, you pay attention and you get financial information you understand,” she said. “If you're there because you want to build your resume or someone likes your name, that's not a good enough reason.”

Bankruptcy can clear the organization of debts but not absolve the directors, she noted. While Sears is an extreme case, nonprofit providers can learn from it through examining their own systems, policies, procedures and financial stress, she advised

In a separate session on legal updates, attorney E. Frederick Pries, partner at Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson LLP,  reminded providers to “do due diligence on temp agencies,” in order to avoid potential employment violations. Temp workers “have to be someone's employees,” he said. “You want a real small contract with good language, and to differentiate temps from employees as best you can.”