With House Bill 1494, Washington State was one of the first states to introduce legislation that would regulate elder placement referral agencies. Due in part to the 2011 Seattle Times exposé “The Bed Brokers,” HB 1494 was signed into law and took effect in January 2012. The law requires that vulnerable adult referral professionals meet certain minimum standards of conduct. Among other provisions, referral agencies operating in the state of WA are now required to keep accurate records, make full disclosures to consumers including fees they are paid, and to make sure a qualified professional conducts all assessments.

We are pleased with the initiative taken by our state representatives, but across the country, there are still referral/ placement agencies operating under deceptive business practices that leave consumers with less choice and more cost. The federal government now is starting to take notice:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently went after two online placement services that did not check out the long term care facilities from whom they pocketed fees for recommending them to consumers. These two companies have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they misled consumers to think that they had researched the facilities and had detailed knowledge about them. The proposed settlements, which prohibit the respondents from misrepresenting their services in the future, resolve the FTC’s first cases involving internet-based companies that offer placement assistance for seniors who need institution-based, long term care.

“Senior citizens need honest information when they’re considering long term care options,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Companies that claim to know which facilities to recommend to consumers need to be able to back up their claims or they will hear from the FTC.”

The two agencies, CarePatrol Inc. and ABCSP Inc., offer consumers free assistance to obtain placements at care facilities for senior citizens. They are paid by the facilities for the placements.

photo credit: Downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier as seen from Kerry Park via photopin (license)