Other witnesses testified before the committee on Wednesday, covering everything from regulation to the role of assisted living facilities in housing aging Americans who are living longer.
Larry Polivka, a scholar-in-residence at the Claude Pepper Foundation at Florida State University, said there are concerns as the state considers reforming Medicaid, it could shift more people into community residential programs.
They worry ALFs could become sloppy, less expensive nursing homes with less-restrictive regulations, said Polivka, head of a governors task force formed after The Heralds series to examine the troubled industry.
Among those with concerns about who will be monitoring assisted-living facilities is the corps of volunteer ombudsmen. Earlier this year, state lawmakers wanted to do away with the key mission of the volunteers: performing yearly inspections of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
That move came even as the trained volunteers were turning up a record number of abuse and neglect cases in ALFs across the state.
The debate over ALFs come as baby boomers are living longer and are too frail to live on their own, but who dont require the intense care provided by more heavily regulated and more expensive nursing homes.
All Americans no matter which state they live in should have the tools that they need to make the right choice, Nelson said.
Problems arent limited to Florida, which only inspects ALFs once every two years: California requires inspections once every five years, Nelson noted. In Texas, there is no schedule only when inspections are deemed necessary.
When something goes wrong, folks need to know that their complaints will be heard, and that someone will be held accountable, he said.
For Alfredo Navas, the death of his mother, Aurora, still haunts him on several fronts: Her caretakers never told the state what happened when the protections broke down nor did AHCA ever investigate.
If the laws are not strong enough, then we are dependent on our legislatures to pass stronger laws, which are enforceable so that our seniors are protected from these careless operators, said Navas in his prepared statement. If these operators continue to go unpunished, it will only get worse as these unscrupulous people get rich on the backs of our senior and taxpayers.