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Episode 13: Challenging Legislation in Assisted Living with Corky Kyle, The Kyle Group

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“A public policy that’s created is just a change in the status quo in which we operate. And legislators will not change their mind if they don’t feel that it’s a legitimate argument that we need to change the status quo for the better.”

Corky Kyle, The Kyle Group & CEO of Colorado Assisted Living Association

And we’re all about challenging the status quo here at Maverick’s Headquarters! Welcome to the Challenging The Way We Age podcast by the Mavericks of Senior Living. We are two innovators and entrepreneurs who have huge hearts and passion for our older adults. And we see all kinds of opportunities to improve today’s system and create hope for the way we age. We tackle hard topics with the goal of creating conversation and generating curiosity and ingenuity to solve these problems.

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This episode is brought to you from Colorado Assisted Living Association’s Fall Conference 2019, where we spoke with Corky Kyle, President and CEO of The Kyle Group.

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Below is a transcript of the episode, modified for your reading pleasure. For more information on the people, sources and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

Katherine: Hey you, Mavericks! Thanks for joining us this morning. We have a great guest with us – Corky Kyle from the Kyle Group. Corky welcome.

Corky: Thank you. It’s great to be here. It’s been a while since I’ve been on the air.

Katherine: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. And of course, Francis Lagasse is here.

Francis: Yes. We’re excited. We’ve been here at Colorado Assisted Living Association’s Fall Conference right here in Aurora, Colorado. It is been going on for last two days and they have a Spring Conference as well. So stay tuned. Start following them – their website is.

Katherine: www.calaonline.org. Go check it out. And they have information pack sessions going on here today and yesterday. And Corky, you are the CEO of Colorado Assisted Living Association.  Tell us more about that. Tell our audience about your background, who you are, and what brought you to this place in life?

Corky: Well, where it all started, my whole career, for the most part has been in association management and public policy. And then I decided it was time to take a bigger interest and make my full-time charge representing people in the legislature. So, I’ve been a professional lobbyist for 38 years, since 1981, as well as I’ve been in the association management business for a little over 40 years. I’m a Certified Association Executive (CAE). There are 4400 of us in the country.

Katherine: How did you come to be the Colorado Assisted Living Association leader?

What is Colorado Assisted Living Association?

Corky: Peter Brissette, who is on my team, handles all our I.T. stuff for Colorado Assisted Living Association. He heard about me, asked me come be a speaker at a Sales Pro breakfast.  I roll in there on a Friday morning and do a whole thing about government affairs. And that’s how I got involved with Colorado Assisted Living Association. They had some issues and they needed somebody to represent them as a lobbyist. I started out there as their lobbyist first before taking over everything. Now, the Colorado Assisted Living Association represents, for the most part, the majority of the small homes, assisted living homes.

In Colorado, 50% of our membership is 20 beds or less, and the other 50% is 21 beds or more. There are 436 small homes that fit the category that are licensed. We have 672 licensed assisted living homes in Colorado. And over 50 percent are small.

Francis: So it’s about two-thirds right? Four to six, basically. I didn’t know it was that big of a number.

Corky: There’s never been a real active voice for small home. And that’s why Colorado Assisted Living Association was created back in 1982. I came in 2005. They’ve grown because of the need for that representation. The big box places, the ones that have 100 plus beds, they’ve got the resources to handle this thing. There are other associations that represent assisted living groups, too. We’ve got the Colorado Health Care Association that does nursing homes as well as assisted living. And we have Leading Age, which represents the big box, but also the nonprofit assisted living. And so you’ve got the three of us playing in this market, although we are representing the bulk of the industry as a small home.

Francis: Is that where you want to be? Your niche per say? Is that in that 19 to 20 or is it just happened to fall there?

Corky: Well, we started out that way. And as things have changed, we recognize that we’ve got to be more resourceful and that we’ve got to address a bigger audience to bring in to our membership. So that we better represent the industry as a whole.

Francis: I like that. Do you think that becomes a challenge, though, because the needs of a smaller box like, let’s say 8 or 12 or 16 beds, but is different than a 100 plus box?

Corky: Absolutely. I see different challenges. And that’s the issue. That’s why we’re having the issue is on that smaller homes, the owners end up in where in there? The head cook and bottle washer. They literally do everything for that home so their time is not their own. They do not have much time to spend on outside activity.

Issues With Medicaid in Assisted Living

It gets even scarier when they decide on which markets that they are going to play in and whether they’re going to play in Medicaid. Or they’re going to do private pay. Now, private pay is lucrative from the standpoint you get to charge what you want to charge to cover your expenses and put little money in your pocket. As well as provide a very nice place for that resident. You get over into those homes that specialize in Medicaid. They can only get $2600 a month. You can’t ask for more. You can’t do anything. You get $2600 a month, and that doesn’t cover expenses. And so if you’re a small home and you’ve got six Medicaid, you are scrambling. My biggest concern is that these are going to go away. And when will the Medicaid bed continue to drop? Why would I want to have an assisted living home that takes care of Medicaid?

Francis: I just realized there’s different fire regulations for Medicaid versus what the Department of Health has.

Corky: You know, it’s all over the place. There’s no coordination of any of this. But this is it, this is what we’ve got.

Francis: Do you think we’re going to see a change with Medicare from your lobby experience here? Do you think we’re going to ever have like a tiered Medicaid program or where acuity matters for your reimbursement? Or is it going to be like, this is what it is? Deal with it?

Corky: Well, first of all, Medicaid, the Federal Government. Nothing happens very quickly there. And until then, keep in mind, with Medicaid, the state determines what the payment is going to be. The state says this is how much we’re going to contribute to Medicaid. And then the feds match it. There are states out there that pay more than $2600 now. So it’s all over the board. It’s what the state agrees to do. Colorado is notorious for not wanting taxes. They don’t want increases. So, we have a very low Medicaid level right now, even though we had a 25%increase in that rate 2 years ago. And the unfortunate thing is, is that we just had a set of new Rules and Regulations come into existence. And as a result of all the new requirements and Rules and Regs — that has eaten into that 25% increase, and there’s not a whole lot left over to even to allow for a little profit. So, it’s a real dilemma. And will it change quickly? Not anytime soon. Which is why you better find a long-term care plan so that you can go to private pay.

Francis: Are we recognizing that, especially in Colorado, some of our seniors haven’t saved as well as the current generation that’s aging? Are we having these wake-up calls that we need to do more as a society to better honor those that are less fortunate that are older? Because I believe Medicaid and private pay-based level care should be identical. Right now I feel there’s a large discrepancy in care quality.

Corky: Absolutely. That’s free enterprise and that’s the way it works. Have people saved enough? Absolutely not. Have people thought about it? Of course. But when it comes families, children going to college, going through recessions, the unknown is a great risk.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Katherine: I would say to that long-term care insurance does not have a good reputation. People have not necessarily put money into long term care insurance because it has a reputation of being a scam – that it costs more than it actually pays out or that you can’t utilize it in some way because of some fine print somewhere. So, they don’t have savings and they don’t have long term care insurance. What do they do? Turn to Medicaid?

Corky: They have their sons and daughters. Family charity of children. My wife and I already we already told them that when the time comes, we’re going to rotate. You get a quarter each. I actually go to my daughter’s house for three months. This son’s house for three months, this son’s house for three months. Then maybe we will wander away. But I mean, obviously, I think there is going to be a bigger role of family in all of this. I’m not sure about whether or not long-term care insurance is a viable product. There was a time when that was a very hot product that was very inexpensive and those that got in on it early definitely had some all.

Francis: They’re cutting long-term care insurance from a lot of the providers. There are very few insurance companies that are offering long term care.

Katherine: I think there are options to put a rider on a life insurance now and that didn’t exist before.

What Is Your Biggest Challenge as A Lobbyist?

Francis: What is your biggest challenge as a lobbyist? I feel like right now a lot of people aren’t taking it seriously that we have this financial issue for our seniors.

Corky: My biggest difficulty is when I work with associations is getting them to understand that being involved in the political, legislative and regulatory process is a must. Because if you don’t, then you die. Government controls the quality of your life and the health of your business. You voted the people in, right? You’re a registered voter. I hope you voted. And I’ve already put my vote in.

Francis:  I just got my ballot.

Katherine: And I just got my ballot two days ago.

Corky: So it’s getting them to realize the significant value that can be created once you establish yourself in this process. Because we have 100 legislators in Colorado – we have 65 representatives and 35 senators. Those people don’t know who we are and that can be said for any industry. If you’re a bricklayer, there’s an association of bricklayers. Electricians – same thing. But those peoplem when legislation is out and introduced, where are they going to go to get that information? They’re going to come to a lobbyist. Because we are the information source.

Now, keep in mind, we have term limits in Colorado and the legistlators only get stay there 8 years. I just told you how many years I’ve been lobbying. 38 years. So who has the institutional memory? As a result of that, we become resources for the legislators because we tell them what worked and what didn’t work. And we can tell them what will fly, or if they tweak it here and there and if they go talk to these people. But that’s what a lobbyist does.

We are purveyors of information. Like a facilitator. But I also have the responsibility for my client to provide a strong enough argument, depending on what they want done with the legislation, to make that legislator change the status quo. Because that’s what it boils down to.  

“A public policy that’s created is just a change in the status quo in which we operate. And legislators will not change their mind if they don’t feel that it’s a legitimate argument that we need to change the status quo for the better.”

Corky Kyle, The Kyle Group & CEO of Colorado Assisted Living Association

Francis: I guess I never thought of policy as changing the status quo. But when you say it that way, it makes sense.

Katherine: Yeah, really making an impact. And then they have to think through obviously all the possible unintended consequences before they can vote for it. Because then you’re stuck with it until the next round of people want to challenge it. That makes perfect sense.

Francis: So what would you like to see challenged or changed? I’d like just obviously you have a wealth of knowledge. First off, in this long, amazing history, what would you personally or even from a lobby standpoint, like to see changed? Is that a loaded question?

The Argument for Less Regulation

Corky: Well, first of all, I’d like to see less regulation. We don’t need it. It’s gotten to the point where things are being micromanaged? And it’s really not being done for the betterment of business. There’s only one perspective that they use — the standpoint of the residents. And that’s a legitimate perspective.

“If there’s no place where that resident can go because Assisted Living facilities have just been regulated out of business, what good is that going to do?”

Corky Kyle, The Kyle Group and CEO of Colorado Assisted Living Association

I’d also like to see a tiered system of legislation here in Colorado that handles the 19 or fewer beds, then maybe 20-60 beds, then 60+ beds. Several states do that.

Lastly, I’d like to see us put in a segment in the statute of Chapter 7 of the Assisted Living that says before any legislation to be done, an analysis with the business community that it will affect will be done. Currently when legislation is done, you can ask for a financial evaluation, but only from the standpoint of what that means. What is going to cost the state, not the individuals that are affected by it.

Francis: Are there any states doing that now?

Corky: There may be, but not that I’m aware of. So we could be the first.

Francis: I have not heard of any that revolutionary where they’re actually listening to the operators and analyzing how it affects them. It’s really all about what does it cost the state. What bothers me the most is, and I love our surveyors, but we have to mold to their opinion, not what’s necessarily the right thing to do, but also how the Regs are actually written as they’re trained a certain way to interpret.

And then we get an interpretation battle, which then you have to get an attorney involved because if you’re trying to interpret a gray area, that costs everybody a lot of money.

Corky: So one other thing is liability. Within the last couple of years, we’ve seen that general liability for assisted living homes has gone up to almost 50% percent. And we just got notification that most of the general liability for assets is going up 20% this year. And so and the reason for that is because of the number of lawsuits that are happening. So here the trial attorneys have found another golden goose. Back in 1992, we rewrote the workers comp law to limit the damages that could be done as well as that same year or the next year. We did a complete tort reform issue here in Colorado that limited that which finally brought workers comp people back into the state because our environment was so hideous, all because of the trial attorneys. And so, I’d like to see us do something there to limit put a cap on what they can sue for for the assisted living homes.

Francis: There’s a lot of things there that you’re challenging, which I think are all really great.

Katherine: And there’s a couple things that I’m thinking about. One, the very first thing that you talked about, less regulation. My first reaction was, what about the residents? And yet I can actually relate that to my experience on the board for my homeowner’s association.

Corky: Oh, you’re a brave woman. I will tell you. Did you have mimosas or something?

Francis: She has a good heart.

Katherine: I do. I care about where I live. And the one thing I have learned is that there are so many rules and regulations in place for us that the idea is to do no harm. To make it so difficult to make change that you really have to fight for that change. But it’s designed to do no harm. And I think that’s the perspective there. But it’s doing more harm. And that’s the unintended consequence of having too many rules.

Corky: You’re saying they were designed to prevent harm, but they’re really doing more harm because of the unintended consequences and the micromanagement?

“The overload of Rules and Regulations in Assisted Living were designed to prevent harm, but they’re doing more harm because of the unintended consequences and the micromanagement.”

Corky Kyle, The Kyle Group and CEO of Colorado Assisted Living Association

Corky: I think for every new law we ought to get rid of 20.

Francis: Yeah, that would be interesting. That’s a good challenge.

Katherine: I always try to look at it from the family perspective because that’s the viewpoint that I can relate to personally. And I think that I can see as a family member all of the rules and regulations in place and how they’re hindering. So even as a family member, I can get behind the idea of less regulation, but the RIGHT regulation. This is about the people that we care for, the people that we love. And you’re making it difficult for the people we’ve hired to do their job, to do what I hired them to do.

Francis: I would argue, what if you could make it more affordable?

Katherine: Well, that would be nice.

Francis: But what if you could, though? Because now we need extra layers to handle all the new regulations, and you have to hire an additional one or two people that are not actually care driven, but that are policy or process driven, that are just sitting there.

Katherine: Maybe refocus those people on to things like customer service or family communication?

Corky: Family communication is not a bad idea, but we need to reduce staff because of the fact that we’re running lean. Not that I want to take anybody’s job away, but you really only want to have those people are necessary to go ahead and let you do the job that you’re supposed to do. Now, I may come across very cold –  my wife says I have a cold eyes sometimes – but the reality of this is if there’s no homes for somebody to take care of mom or dad, doesn’t matter what the Regs are.

Francis: I am a firm believer in, and Kathy’s heard me say this, is I think our current senior living model is broken. And that in ten years it’s not going to be what it is today. We have to make drastic changes now and already we’re already outdated. I think what we’re building today and where we think we are good today is outdated already and no one wants to talk about that. I’m a firm believer that we’re too complacent in what we’re doing. And that scares me. So if we don’t make changes or if it takes a really long time, what do you see the future is being if we don’t get some of these things done soon?

“I think our current senior living model is broken. And that in ten years it’s not going to be what it is today. We have to make drastic changes now and already we’re already outdated.”

Francis LeGasse, Chief Curiosity Maverick and CEO of Assured Assisted Living

Corky: My big concern is that we’re going to continue to lose Medicaid. There will be more people that have to use Medicaid than people who can afford private pay. It’s just the way life is. There’s those that have done really, really well in life. And then there’s and there’s the average person. They’ve done everything that they could possibly do. It’s just the luck of the draw.

Francis:  Or that they’re okay for a couple of years, maybe, but not 15 years.

Corky: And that’s where it needs focus. Now, how are you going to do that? In Colorado, you can’t do it without more taxes. I don’t know what the answer is to that.

Francis: It’s creative, collaborative solution that has to bring multiple people that outside the industry.

Corky: No ifs, ands or buts.

Katherine: Oh, there’s so much to talk about in this industry, but we really, really appreciate the insight and information. So tell us a little bit about the Colorado Assisted Living Association.

Corky: We are problem solvers. Obviously we want to maintain our lead in the government affairs arena. Also, in the education arena with our conferences, and with our online education that we have. And so, we want the Association to be a problem solver for the assisted living people that are practicing in Colorado. And those are the big, big issues. We also want to look at maybe some more in programs, i.e. better health care programs, property and casualty programs, and help the members through their membership to be able to have maybe a little more coverage and a little less premium. Those are the things that we started to talk about.

Francis: Tell us a little bit about the Kyle group and how people can find you.

Corky: Well, the Kyle group, you can find us on the Internet, on the Web, at www.KyleGroup.com. Kyle Group is a professional lobbyist firm that represents associations and businesses before the Colorado legislature, before regulatory agencies and local governments, city councils and so on like that. We help change public policy one way or the other. We’re facilitators. We’re educators.

Katherine: Excellent. Well, we really enjoyed our conversation.

Corky: This was fun, guys.

Francis: We appreciate it. And thank you for what you’re doing. Colorado Assisted Living Association is so needed, and thank you for the continued efforts to have a voice for the smaller assisted living facilities and also for our seniors that are maybe the low income. I think that’s often they get lost in the noise. So thank you very, very much.

Announcer: Thanks for listening. The Mavericks want to hear from you. Leave us your comments, questions and ideas for future podcasts.

Mavericks of Senior Living is sponsored by Serenity App, Inc. and Assured Assisted Living. This episode was produced by Katherine Wells and Francis LeGasse.   You can subscribe to Mavericks for Senior Living on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher. You can also find us on TwitterFacebook, or via email at challenges@mavericksofseniorliving.

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