Nursing Homes Seek Insurance Aid Tort Reform, Insurance Pool Likely Possibilities

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Legislature should consider solving nursing home insurance problems by starting an insurance pool similar to the ones it provides residents of hurricane-prone areas, a powerful lawmaker on nursing home issues said yesterday.

State Rep. Nancy Argenziano, R-Crystal River, said she will pursue the idea of a joint underwriting association with Senate and House leaders who are considering what to do about nursing home complaints of skyrocketing liability insurance costs.

Nursing homes are blaming the cost increases on a flood of lawsuits in recent years and are asking lawmakers to make it harder to sue them. Nursing homes with good inspection records are saying they may be forced out of the business because they can't find or afford coverage.

A legislative committee meets today to start reviewing the issue. Yesterday a task force on nursing homes voted 11-4 to pass a report that heads to the Legislature and recommends limits on lawsuits against the industry.

The insurance pool is not part of the report, which contained some recommendations that task force members complained had not been discussed. They had been put in the report by staff of the Florida Policy Exchange Center on Aging who were assigned to help the task force.

"It tells the Legislature this is our work, but it really isn't our work," said Philip Freidin, The Florida Bar Association's representative on the task force.

Argenziano said she didn't know what it would cost taxpayers to run an insurance program. But she said it would be cheaper than the state taking over the management of nursing homes whose owners leave the business.

Her comments followed yesterday's contentious meeting in Tallahassee among members of the task force. The group was appointed by last year's Legislature to investigate nursing home lawsuits, their quality of care and alternatives such as home-based services.

The task force had agreed in December not to vote on the report but to give it to the Legislature without endorsement and with comments from individual members. …