Legislature Passes New Standards for Long-Term Care and Referrals

Two consumer protection laws are designed to ensure quality and integrity among healthcare providers and agencies assisting Oregon seniors.

Strong bipartisan majorities have passed two bills to protect seniors, putting new quality controls into long-term care facilities and requiring referral agencies to register and act in their client’s interest.

The Oregon Health Care Association backed House Bill 3359 with AARP to shore up the system and help Oregon remain a leader in healthcare for seniors. The bill passed the House 58-1, but a technical amendment must be worked out in the Senate.

HB 3359 directs the Department of Human Services to update quality control metrics, to increase training standards for dementia care and limits medications to individual dose packages.

Jon Bartholomew, the lobbyist for AARP, said that seniors have been prescribed too many antipsychotics and drugs with off-label uses. He said the metrics will give the state agency a path forward. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure. It allows DHS to see where we need to improve.”

It also could weed out bad care facilities: “DHS can impose an immediate suspension of license,” said Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland.

The referral bill, House Bill 2661, will require referral websites and agents to disclose business relationships they may have with certain care providers and bars referrals when they have a direct conflict of interest.

The bill also protects people’s privacy by blocking agents from revealing personal information about a client and requires them to register with the state.

“This bill is about protecting our most vulnerable citizens,” said Keny-Guyer.

Referral agents help consumers find the right service when they often have no idea where an elderly relative might get service. Some have complained that their loved one gets locked into a service that they were unhappy with.

“There’s been zero regulation of referral agencies,” said Bartholomew. “It’ll give consumers more confidence.”

HB 2661 passed the House 57-2 and the Senate 27-3. It heads to the governor.

Reach Chris Gray at chris@thelundreport.org.

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