Rarely does an investigative report manage to unite industry executives, academics, and regulators in such a way as the recent Frontline/ProPublica Life and Death in Assisted Living.
Unfortunately for the producers and writers, they have united all three elements in expressing how their report misrepresented the industry.
The Frontline show originally aired on July 30, 2013, on PBS for one hour, and the accompanying four-part series written by A.C. Thompson (who hosted and co-produced the Frontline show) appeared concurrently in ProPublica. They claim to have spent over a year on the project. It is unclear when they developed their focus, but it would be hard for any observer not to see an agenda in what they produced.
We read the first part in the column by Thompson on ProPublica and forwarded it to Frank Haffner, President of American Senior Living, and a 30-year veteran of both building senior housing and servicing seniors. He urged us to watch the Frontline report (full disclosure: we have worked with Mr. Haffner for the past thirty years, including earning fees for consulting to his operation.) Though Mr. Haffner provides a product that is higher end and different in its focus from Emeritus, he expressed that Granger Cobb, President and CEO of Emeritus, and his company provided a fine product in its price range, and that Cobb was a long-time committed person to the senior citizen community.
After watching the Frontline show and reading the 50-page, four-part column by A.C. Thompson, we focused on four points:
1. Why did the entire series focus only on Emeritus? Was there any focus on the rest of the Assisted Living industry and/or comparison to home health care?
2. Why was the data so dated? All references were to 2008 and 2009 with only one from 2010. This industry has been evolving for 30 years, but the study was using four-to-five-year-old data.
3. Why were no regulators mentioned in either the show or the publication? There are state regulators in all 50 states, but none were referenced.
4. Why in all cases -- the show, the interviews on the Frontline website and the ProPublica column -- was there so much focus on federal regulation? There is none at this time.
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