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    Insurance issue threatens area ALFs

    Three care facilities in the Tampa Bay area are among 29 statewide that have been operating without mandatory insurance coverage.

    By Times staff and wire reports

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 19, 2000

    Three Tampa Bay area assisted living facilities are among 29 statewide that face threat of closure for failing to carry liability insurance, state officials said Monday.

    Geri-Cheer Guest Home Inc., at 4760 Eighth Ave. S in St. Petersburg, was notified Monday that it has 21 days to obtain the insurance, or it will lose its operating license, said Pat Glynn, a spokesman for the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

    Two Hillsborough County facilities were given similar warnings. They are the Pleasant Manor ALF at 6929 Durant Road in Plant City, and Ruby's Residential Care, a 10-bed facility at 5906 N 32nd St. in Tampa.

    "This is just hitting me in the face. I don't know what I'm going to do," said Mack Willene, owner of Geri-Cheer.

    Willene, who said she has run the St. Petersburg facility for 20 years, said she was told to expect an increase in her payments.

    AHCA spokesman Glynn said state law requires the coverage.

    "We have been reviewing this and looking at any other options, and within the law there is none," Glynn said.

    Assisted living is one of the fastest growing housing options for the elderly, serving as a transition between their own home and a full nursing facility. Assisted living facility residents require less care than people in nursing homes, and most can come and go as they please.

    The 29 facilities mostly are small, ranging in size from several operations housing three residents to the Pleasant Manor ALF, which houses 17 people. Geri-Cheer has 11 residents.

    Ed Towey, a spokesman for the Florida Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes and assisted living facilities, said the industry has been concerned for years about the runaway cost of insurance because of large numbers of lawsuits.

    He said ALF liability premiums have gone up 500 to 1,000 percent in one year.

    "This is exactly what we had feared most," Towey said. "These are not facilities with quality problems; these are facilities with insurance problems."

    State officials found out that the facilities lacked insurance from the insurance companies and in some cases from the facilities themselves, Glynn said. Some facilities had been dropped by their insurance carriers; others let their policies expire.

    "It is not linked to performance. This is simply a licensure requirement," Glynn said.

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