Eldercare referral agencies are in the news again. Due in part to the Seattle Times exposé “The Bed Brokers” as part of the paper’s “Seniors for Sale” series, the first attempts to regulate referral agencies are being made.

Representative Jim Moller of the Washington State House of Representatives has recently introduced HB 1494 “Concerning Elder Placement Referrals.” Among other provisions, referral agencies would be required to keep accurate records, make full disclosures to consumers including fees they are paid, and to make sure a qualified professional conducts an assessment. Referral agencies who do not currently conduct assessments are naturally alarmed at this provision which would severely limit their ability to collect huge fees from care facilities with a minimal amount of oversight.

Although HB 1494 is primarily aimed at the abuses in placing vulnerable adults in adult family homes, the bill would also affect assisted living and retirement communities and home care agencies. Home care agencies will be minimally impacted, however. Unlike care facilities, home care agencies do not receive a large share of new clients from referral agencies.

If reasonable guidelines can be agreed upon, the net outcome is likely to be positive. Consumers will have some greater assurance that the heavily advertised firm they have contacted for assistance will be working in their interest.

Another group to be affected by HB 1494 are Geriatric Care Managers. Currently, anyone can call themselves a “care manager” and charge fees for placement and referral. Most reputable care managers belong to the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) and have Care Manager Certified (CMC) designation. The impact on these care managers will be minimal as they already make the required disclosures and do the assessments.

But for referral agencies who simply do a “free” telephone consultation, make a referral, and collect a huge fee from a care facility, things could be changing.