Since 2012, residents of Continuing Care Retirement Communities in Washington State have worked together to address the issues we share. Our membership association, the Washington Continuing Care Residents Association (WACCRA) has been growing rapidly; now WACCRA is one of the largest state associations of CCRC residents in the country.
The Start – 2012
WACCRA had its genesis in the National Continuing Care Residents Association (NaCCRA). Bob Nicholson, who lived at Mirabella (a Seattle CCRC), was president of NaCCRA at the time. He drew a few people together and outlined the need for recognition of CCRC resident rights in Washington State. He noted that most residents have a significant fraction of their life savings invested in their CCRC in the form of entrance fees. There is, however, no state protection of those upfront payments for future medical services. There often is only partial transparency in disclosure of finances. In case of bankruptcy, residents are the last in line. Most of the contracts residents sign have a medical service promise as a major component, yet there is currently no governmental oversight of these contracts in Washington state.
Progress – 2014
In 2014 the Washington group did more organizing. They invited the new NaCCRA president, Dan Seeger, and Prof. Katherine Pearson of Penn State Law school, the leading expert on CCRC residents’ rights, to come and speak to residents of Washington CCRCs. Both speakers talked about the rights and responsibilities of CCRC residents and the need for laws to protect resident’s financial exposure. Their explanation of the risks that residents face, and of what other states are doing, spurred the Washingtonians to create a state organization with strong encouragement from NaCCRA.
At first, the Washington group became an affiliate of NaCCRA. But NaCCRA’s status as a 501(c)(3) under IRS rules prohibits lobbying activity. Recognizing the need to pursue legislation in the state legislature, WACCRA decided to form a separate 501(c)(4) as a membership association permitted to lobby for legislation. Following incorporation and filing for IRS recognition, in July of 2016 WACCRA received its approval from the IRS and became a standalone organization. It maintains its strong ties to NaCCRA.
Success in Olympia – 2016
The 2016 legislative session was the first major legislative challenge for WACCRA. Its efforts resulted in Governor Inslee signing chapter 18.390 RCW into law on April 1, 2016. It went into effect on July 1, 2017. The law requires that:
Change of Course – 2017-2021
In the 2017 and 2019 legislative sessions WACCRA unsuccessfully attempted to pass a bill that would have brought much more financial transparency for CCRC residents. As a result of the vigorous debate, the chair of the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee suggested that LeadingAge (the industry Association for CCRC Management) and WACCRA enter mediation. As a result, LeadingAge WA, CCRC Executive Directors, and WACCRA agreed to a “Commitment to CCRC Practices” to serve as a further agreement between management and residents within each of Washington’s CCRCs. Management at each of the 23 registered CCRCS in the state has signed the Commitment to CCRC Practices document, which took effect on January 1, 2021. Procedures for implementing these practices are currently being developed within each CCRC.
There are still issues to be resolved but this agreement about CCRC practices represents a start. A short-term goal is to have visits to all Washington’s CCRCs to explain the agreement and answer residents’ questions concerning the agreement and its implementation. For these visits, representatives from WACCRA will be joined by staff from LeadingAge WA and by some of the CCRC Executive Directors who were involved in drafting the agreement.
In the future, WACCRA will continue its work in three areas: education, collaboration, and advocacy. Specific issues include 1) Transparency about CCRC finances and financial planning affecting residents’ lives, 2) Developing a process to help solve disputes between management and residents, and
3) Increasing membership from all Washington CCRCs. Speakers and the News-Mails for members will increase knowledge of CCRCs and the issues of concern to members. WACCRA Coordinators will continue to act as points of contact within each CCRC to personalize WACCRA’s messaging to members who are their neighbors. WACCRA also connects with other organizations to support improving conditions of life for seniors living in Washington State. Plus, of course, WACCRA and its members will continue to advocate for strong and productive relations between residents and the CCRCs where they live and the providers of services which enhance their lives.
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