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Letter to the editor.

Dear Editor:

I would like to respond to an article entitled "Assisted Living: On the Slippery Slope to Regulation?" written by Michael J. Stoil that appears in the June 2002 issue of Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management. Not only is the article inaccurate in places, but just as concerning is its negative tone toward the Consumer Consortium on Assisted Living (CCAL). No one at CCAL was contacted for information (or confirmation for that matter) about the article.

CCAL is the only independent national consumer advocacy organization dedicated to supporting the needs, rights and protections of consumers in assisted living, and educating consumers, professionals and the general public about assisted living. CCAL was founded in 1995 and is a 501 (c)(3) organization.

The article's inaccuracies include:

* Listing Larry Minnix as the "facilitator" of the Assisted Living Workgroup's (ALW) efforts. He is simply the president and CEO of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA) and, as such, has a place at the ALW table; and

* Listing me as CCAL's cochair. I am currently the chair of the board of directors.

The article's negative and unflattering tone toward CCAL is very surprising. CCAL is not a "critic of assisted living," but rather a stalwart advocate of this long-term care residential option.

The article states that "...Karen Love does not even suggest that the main purpose of regulation is to prevent federal tax money from being wasted." This may well be the basis of some regulation in other industries. Not only is this not the basis for the work of the ALW, but it has never even been raised as a secondary concern. The U.S. General Accounting Office in studies conducted on assisted living in 1997 and 1999, as well as countless media stories over the past several years, have highlighted stories about problems within the assisted living industry and the serious and, at times, egregious outcomes this has for frail, vulnerable residents. This is the main purpose of developing recommendations that hopefully will lead to better state regulations of assisted living.

The article also states "...CCAL's issue of diverse state regulations is not relevant to most consumers, because families are unlikely to even consider assisted living facilities located outside the prospective resident's home state." This statement also would have benefited from some fact checking. CCAL has sponsored a national Helpline since 1998, and hears regularly from consumers across the country. Since a significant number of adult children are long-distance caregivers, diverse state regulations are problematic. Adult children often do preliminary homework and research about assisted living in their home state, only to find out later when making a placement in the parent's home state that regulations vary greatly. There are other statements in the article that CCAL could challenge, but our point is that the article was not well researched and depicted our organization unfavorably without merit.

Karen Love, Chair, Board of Directors Consumer Consortium on Assisted Living Falls Church, Virginia

Michael J. Stoil Responds:

As far as I can tell from Ms. Love's letter, the sole inaccuracy in the column is that she has been promoted from cochair to chair of the board of directors of CCAL. Unless the Congressional Record has inaccurate information, the title of cochair was accurate at the time of the testimony quoted in the article.

Regarding her other points:

* Larry Minnix stated at the 2002 AAHSA annual meeting that he reluctantly accepted the position of facilitator of the Workgroup discussions; this was confirmed by other Workgroup members.

* The term "critic of assisted living" refers to being a critic of the industry that provides assisted living services. That is quite clear from the context of the article. At no point is CCAL or Ms. Love mentioned as a critic of the concept of assisted living.

* The article states that, unlike federal regulation applied to nursing homes, CCAL does not advocate federal regulation as a check against wasteful, criminal or harmful use of federal money. Ms. Love's letter agrees with this statement: " has never even been raised as a secondary concern." Many of the nursing home administrators who constitute my primary audience might not understand that the argument for federal regulation of assisted living differs from that for regulation of skilled nursing facilities.

* States have different laws and standards regarding marriage, divorce, car repair, probate and inheritance, mortgages, Medicaid eligibility, prescription management and even eyeglass purchases. Ms. Love suggests that federal regulation is required for assisted living because such diversity exists and confuses naive consumers. Why wouldn't the same argument apply to every other aspect of our economic system? Isn't a more appropriate solution to advise consumers to check applicable laws and regulations in the state where the resident will live?

I take exception to Ms. Love's assertion that this article was not well researched. As always, I relied on public sources for detailed facts. Everything stated about CCAL in the article was derived from such sources; one hardly needs fact checking to read and analyze someone's public testimony.

Michael J. Stoil

Washington Editor
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Publication:Nursing Homes
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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