TRENTON – Senator Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic, issued the following statement today at a news conference with New Jersey’s Public Advocate, Ronald K. Chen, to announce the findings of an investigation of a South Jersey assisted living facility that involuntarily discharged residents when their savings ran out:
“New Jersey’s senior citizens are a precious resource to be treasured – living connections to our shared past. They are our mothers and fathers, our aunts and uncles, and our grandparents. They have participated in the advancement of history, have fought in wars of principle, and have stood up to the very face of evil in order to protect a people from being exterminated because of their faith. They have struggled and sacrificed through depressions and recessions to provide for their families. They have seen the realization of one man’s dream of racial equality and marveled at another man’s small step which signaled a giant leap for the rest of us.
“Our seniors have borne witness to the triumphs and tragedies of humanity in a century that showcased the best and worst we have to offer. In their golden years, they deserve to be treated with the respect and reverence they have earned.
“However, there are those who would treat them as nothing more than a burden, ignoring their contributions to our society and taking advantage of them in their time of need. In a compassionate society, such callousness cannot be tolerated.
“That’s why I was shocked to learn about the business practices of Assisted Living Concepts, Inc., a Wisconsin-based corporation which owns and manages Chapin House in Cape May County. This company has routinely forced residents at Chapin House to be involuntarily discharged when their savings were used up.
“That’s not the respect for elders I was taught growing up. And I promise to work hard to make sure such heinous acts do not happen again.
“I first learned about the situation at Chapin House through the family of Betty Merklinger, who, after spending more than $300,000 of her life savings on care, was kicked out when she became eligible for the assisted living Medicaid wager. As the Public Advocate found out in his investigation, Mrs. Merklinger was not alone, and her situation represented a disturbing policy from the parent company, ALC, that put greater importance on a resident’s monetary worth than it did on their value as a human being.
“The actions of ALC were completely inexcusable, particularly when Medicaid funding was available to offset the cost for these residents’ care.
“Based on Mrs. Merklinger’s struggles with ALC and the other residents who were highlighted in the Public Advocate’s investigation, I introduced S-2066, which would guarantee that private-pay residents could stay in an assisted living facility after they have spent down their personal savings. The bill would also require all assisted living facilities in New Jersey to maintain at least 10% of their beds for Medicaid-eligible residents.
“I applaud the Public Advocate for making sure that the residents at ALC are not victimized in silence. We need to hold ALC and all assisted living facilities engaged in such disgusting business practices accountable for those actions. When the Senate reconvenes in May, I will push for swift consideration of my legislation, to make sure that in the future, such actions aren’t just immoral, but illegal under State law.”