Indiana may be the next state to provide senior living operators COVID-19 liability protections if recently passed legislation is signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb.
House Bill 1002 provides immunity to assisted living and other healthcare providers against claims “arising from COVID-19,” including claims related to the reallocation of staff members, the delay or modification of nonemergency medical services, and “reasonable” nonperformance of medical services due to COVID-19.
Senior living representatives said the legislation is specifically tailored to address action in response to the pandemic and do not provide blanket immunity. The protections do not apply to “gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct,” they noted.
Dan Kenyon, executive director of the Indiana Assisted Living Association, said that the bill provides “reasonable COVID-19 protection to assisted living providers.”
“This bill does not protect a provider from gross negligence or willful misconduct,” he told McKnight’s Senior Living. “However, it does protect those essential caregivers and operators who are heroically serving our most vulnerable population during this state of emergency.”
Zach Cattell, president of the Indiana Center for Assisted Living and Indiana Health Care Association, said in a statement to the Indianapolis Star that the organizations support the legislation. Long-term care facilities, he added, knew little about the virus at the beginning of the public health emergency and still are learning more about the virus each day.
“While other businesses shut down and their employees worked from home, long-term care staff showed up each and every day to take care of our most vulnerable Hoosiers,” Cattell wrote. “These courageous staff members and facilities should be provided some level of protection for operating during a time like any other in recent history.”
A previous bill signed by Holcomb in February provides civil immunity if someone is exposed to COVID-19 at a business, including a long-term care facility.
At least a dozen states have adopted immunity for businesses to limit their exposure to COVID-19-related lawsuits: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.
New York recently repealed pandemic-related blanket immunity protections for assisted living and other long-term care operators. The move by that state runs counter to actions taken in other states that are extending immunity protections to senior living providers.