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After two failed cloture votes, a third was successful and the budget bill advanced to Final Reading. A group of senators worked for three days on a compromise amendment on the Title X language. Although federal law already prohibits the use of Title X funding for abortions, the language in our budget bill went further, disallowing entities that refer for abortion from receiving the federal funds. Some senators wanted to make sure that the language did not disqualify federally qualified health centers from receiving such funds, as they offer needed health services to low income women and men across the state. The compromise amendment limits referrals for abortions to emergency situations and allows neutral, factual, nondirective information about pregnancy termination.
LB 729, a bill that I co-sponsored, was given first-round approval this past week. Current law requires the Department of Health and Human Services to provide adopting parents with all available medical history on the child. However, last summer the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled on a case in which the parents were not told that the foster child had a sexual abuse history and he later abused their young son. The parents sued the state but the court ruled that there was no recourse because of the state’s immunity under the “misrepresentation or deceit” exception to the State Tort Claims Act. Other states have ruled that a state was only immune under the misrepresentation and deceit exception to the State Tort Claims Act when it involved a financial transaction. The Nebraska Supreme Court ruling suggested that the Legislature could expand the scope of the state’s liability by limiting the application of the misrepresentation exception to claims arising from commercial transactions.
An attorney from my district, representing a couple that experienced a similar situation, contacted me about the Supreme Court ruling and I began working with other senators on this legislation. In this case, the couple specifically stated in their home study that they were not willing to take a high-risk or high-needs child, but were placed with a child diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder, among other things. The paperwork they received at the time of placement contained areas to list his medical providers, psychiatrist and therapist. All were marked with “NONE”, even though he was regularly seeing a psychiatrist and mental health therapist. Therefore, his treatment was abruptly stopped because the adoptive parents weren’t aware of it. The family tried to help their son but doctors had to start from ground zero on his care. Their son has since been placed in residential care out of state after he threatened to kill his adoptive mom. Had HHS been truthful, this could have been avoided. Their son would not have been deprived of appropriate and necessary medical treatment. He would have been placed with a family who had the resources and skills to help him. The family’s other children would not have had their lives upended, but would have continued to grow up in a peaceful and safe home. Now they are growing up without their brother and all are grieving. The adoptive mom flew across the country to testify at the public hearing on LB 729. Although she realized that this bill would not help her situation, she hoped that her testimony could prevent this from happening to another family.
LB 729 provides that the State Tort Claims Act shall apply to a claim arising out of misrepresentation or deceit by the Department of Health and Human Services if they fail to inform prospective adoptive parents of a state ward’s mental, behavioral and medical health history. I think it is imperative that HHS is held accountable for disclosing all available information to perspective adoptive parents. It does not make sense to have a law mandating caseworkers to disclose medical histories and then shield them when they intentionally or negligently fail to do so.
Senators were informed last week that the Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General were in the process of petitioning district judges in 19 counties to place 21 nursing facilities and 10 assisted living facilities owned by Cottonwood Healthcare LLC, known as Skyline, headquartered in New Jersey, in receivership. DHHS had just been informed that the company was not able to meet its payroll and determined that receivership proceedings for uninterrupted operation of the facilities were necessary to protect the health and welfare of the residents of these facilities. Later that day, a Lancaster County judge signed the order, which appointed Klaasmeyer & Associates to manage the facilities while a long-term plan is worked out. If necessary, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has authorized the use of Civil Money Penalty funds for the nursing facility operations to ensure the safety and well-being of residents. The affected facilities include Nebraska City Care and Rehabilitation Center. I am concerned about the employees, as well as the residents, and am looking into this situation. An interim study resolution has been introduced, asking the Appropriations Committee, of which I’m a member, to study the underlying issues contributing to the financial hardship experienced by rural long-term care providers across Nebraska.