State News for June 2018

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Attorney General Xavier Becerra says he “strongly disagrees” with ruling.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra says he “strongly disagrees” with ruling.

CALIFORNIA

Judge invalidates Golden State's aid-in-dying law

A judge overturned California's two-year-old aid-in-dying law in mid-May, and gave the state's attorney general just five days to file an appeal.

California's law allows terminally ill patients to request lethal dosages of medication from their physicians. The state was the fifth in the nation to legalize the practice, and the second to do so by legislative act.

But Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia ruled the law invalid May 15, agreeing with plaintiffs who claimed the California Legislature should not have passed it during a 2015 special session on healthcare issues.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told the Los Angeles Times that state officials “strongly disagree” and planned to seek an expedited appeal. One had not been filed as of press time.

California's law allows patients with six months or less to live to request lethal medications. In its first six months, more than 100 people used it to die, and 59% of those had cancer.

Hawaii was the seventh and most recent state to pass a similar act, with the governor's signature making it legal in April. According to the PEW Charitable Trusts, at least 25 other states are considering aid-in-dying bills this year.

The Times reported that almost 1 in 5 Americans' lives are covered by physician-assisted suicide laws.

MIDWEST

3 indicted in freezing death

OHIO — Three Ohio nursing home workers were indicted in May for allegedly falsifying bed check records and failing to provide care to a resident.

Charges stem from the Jan. 7 death of Phyllis Campbell, a 76-year-old resident of the memory care unit at the Hilty Home in Pandora, OH. According to the Lima News, Campbell wandered through a propped-open door in the dining room out to a courtyard, where she was found dead of hypothermia.
Rachel Friesel, 36, and Destini Fenbert, 20, were charged with two felonies: involuntary manslaughter and forgery for falsifying bed check records, along with gross patient neglect, a misdemeanor. A third employee, Megan Schnipke, 31, also was charged with felony forgery and misdemeanor gross patient neglect.

Workforce at ‘crisis level'

WISCONSIN — The long-term care workforce is reaching a “crisis level” in the Badger State, with 1 in 5 positions going unfilled, and wages so low that many professionals never even apply.

Those are a few of the key takeaways from a new study commissioned by several healthcare groups and released in late April. Low Medicaid reimbursement rates are one of the factors fueling such labor challenges, in the face of growing demand for long-term care in the state.

The Wisconsin Health Care Association is pushing for further Medicaid dollars, with about two-thirds of the state's nursing home residents using the program.

NORTHEAST

Staffing bill introduced

NEW JERSEY — A bill in the statehouse would force many New Jersey nursing homes to increase staffing of certified nurse aides, a proposal that was cheered by front-line workers but rejected by local operators.
The Assembly Human Services Committee in May advanced a bill to establish specific staff-to-patient ratios. It would enact regulations supporters say are on par with staffing levels already in place in other states.
New Jersey currently requires homes to provide 4.1 hours of care per resident each day. Assembly Bill 382 would set a ratio of one CNA for every eight residents during the day; 1:10 during the evening; and 1:16 overnight.

Union members get $1.7M

PENNSYLVANIA — Golden LivingCenters has agreed to grant one union's members $1.7 million in back pay, closing a year-long legal battle.

The case dates back to 2016 and 2017, when the provider sold its Pennsylvania facilities while maintaining ownership of the real estate. But Golden failed to close the sale by a certain date, according to SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.

Under its contracts, the union contended that Golden, therefore, had to reimburse back-pay for sick and vacation days not taken by its members, since those workers technically remained Golden's employees. The two sides settled at $1.7 million, 89% of what was allegedly owed, which Golden will pay in three increments to about 2,000 nursing home employees who formerly worked at 17 different Golden Living facilities.

SOUTHWEST

$3.6M bilked from Medicare

TEXAS — A federal jury convicted Mercy Ainabe in May for taking part in a $3.6 million Medicare fraud scheme.
Ainabe, 52, of Houston, submitted claims to Medicare for home-based services that were either medically unnecessary or never provided. She then paid beneficiaries, doctors, physical therapy companies and others for the paperwork and beneficiary info to facilitate the fraud, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.