Tuesday, March 13, 2007

ABA launches Kinship Care Legal Resource Center

From the website:

The ABA Center on Children and the Law is proud to make available this Kinship Care Legal Resource Center. Kinship care, commonly defined as the "full-time care, nurturing, and protection of children by relatives, members of their tribes or clans, or other adults who have a family relationship to a child," is a growing phenomenon across the United      States. Today, more than six million children-approximately one in twelve-are growing up in households headed by grandparents (4.5 million children) or other relatives (1.5 million children). Here in our nation's capital, an astounding 14.5% of all children live in grandparent-headed households. This new Resource Center is intended to serve as a toolkit  for attorneys, judges, and other child-serving practitioners working with kinship families and having difficulty navigating the complex existing and emerging legal issues.

Visit the ABA KCLRC.

Thanks to Sharon Durken of the Minnesota Kinship Care Association for bringing the new ABA resource to my attention.

March 13, 2007 in Other | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 12, 2007

On-line test assists in evaluating seniors' driving abilities

There is now a   web-based test that offers a standardized method to rapidly detect brain   impairment and dementia. A study published in the February 2007 edition of   the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports that the Automatic   Clock Drawing Test ™, a commercially available product, Times2Tell   ™, through SpecialtyAutomated Systems Corporation (www.specialtyautomated.com), is   the first of its kind to fully automate one of the most widely used cognitive   assessment tests, the clock drawing test. This new, sensitive, multimedia,   and interactive test also offers a uniform, objective, and user-friendly   method to screen and monitor drivers in departments of driver's licenses,   doctors' offices, and clinical settings. It allows agencies to administer   thousands or millions of clock drawing tests on computers.  As a   computerized device, it effectively saves significant time, paper, labor, and   costs associated with administering, scoring, and interpreting results of the   traditional paper-based clock drawing tests. The Automatic Clock Drawing   Test ™ offers great potential for fitness-to-drive evaluations to   reduce crashes and high-profiled tragedies involving dementia drivers.

Undetected cognitive impairment (CI) and dementia are among the   greatest challenges to face the health care system today.  This study   reported cutoff scores, which is a big breakthrough. More than half the   subjects, aged 64 to 99 years, were referred for medical evaluation on the   basis of their Automatic Clock Drawing Test ™ scores.  The   researchers also found significant consistency between the test results and   crash history of drivers. Each driver who reported a crash failed at 10% or   more.  Scores and completion time for these automated tests were   directly linked with age.

Read more in the ABA Elder Law E-news (via Jon Forman).

March 12, 2007 in Other | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 9, 2007

AARP Summer Internship Opportunities

Internships at AARP encompass a vide variety of skills and tasks, designed to provide students with a positive learning and professional experience, and to help AARP achieve its social change goals. Recent internships at AARP have included:

  • Developing and implementing a statewide network of professionals working on issues related to older adults caring for their grandchildren.
  • Research, fact-checking, and writing for AARP The Magazine.
  • Outreach and consumer education activities related to Medicare prescription drug coverage.
  • Research and analysis of legislative activities on health care reform.
  • Analysis of research data and drafting of research reports.
  • Staffing an online community on health and aging.
  • Assisting with marketing of exhibit space for AARP’s member event and lifestyle conferences.
  • Preparing press information and general media relations.
  • Coordinating statewide  events for AARP members and volunteers.

More information here.

Caveat--few if any of these opportunities are available to law students.

March 9, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

CMS investigates Humana on Part D channelling

Federal officials are investigating whether one health-insurance company that sells prescription-drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries inappropriately diverted its most expensive customers to a competitor.  Sierra Health Services, which offers Medicare Part D prescription-drug plans under the brand name SierraRx, alleges that Humana Inc. telephoned its highest-cost customers and recommended they purchase coverage from Sierra instead.  Humana counters that it merely passed along information to its customers about a competing product that might better suit their needs, and said federal regulators approved its actions. The dispute between the two companies, and the involvement of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), highlights the difficulty of offering comprehensive prescription-drug coverage to the oldest, sickest and costliest Medicare participants.  Sierra executives met with CMS officials at the agency’s headquarters in Baltimore last Wednesday. CMS spokesman Jeff Nelligan would only comment: “We’re aware of this issue and reviewing it.”  Sierra made its accusations during a hastily arranged conference call with investment analysts last Tuesday. The company had looked in January at its drug claims and did not like what it saw.

Source/more:  The Hill

March 9, 2007 in Medicare | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Census: Aging Facts in honor of Older Americans Month in May

CMS announces new enrollment period for Medicare Advantage plans

The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 allows people with the Original Medicare Plan to join a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t include Medicare prescription drug coverage outside of the normal MA enrollment periods at any time in 2007 or 2008. Thus, this opportunity is in addition to the existing enrollment periods listed below:

  • The Annual Enrollment Period from November 15 – December 31
  • The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period from January 1 – March 31
  • Any Special Election Periods
  • The Initial Enrollment Period for individuals new to Medicare

People with Medicare who have a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan can stay in their drug plan if they join a Private Fee-for-Service Plan that doesn’t offer Medicare prescription drug coverage. However, if they join a Medicare Advantage Plan (such as an HMO, PPO, or Regional PPO) that doesn’t offer Medicare prescription drug coverage, their enrollment in the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan will be automatically cancelled. This means they won’t have Medicare prescription drug coverage and could face a late enrollment penalty should they later choose to re-enroll in a drug plan.  Before this happens, the person with Medicare will be contacted by their new plan to confirm that the person wants to make this choice, and understands the consequences.

This new open enrollment period doesn’t apply for people who want to join a Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA) Plan, Medicare Advantage Plan that offers Medicare prescription drug coverage, or a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

Thanks to the Center for Medicare Advocacy for sending me this post.

March 8, 2007 in Medicare | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Minnesota AG sues California trust mill

Minnesota's Lori Swanson today became the third state attorney general in under a year to take legal action against a so-called "trust mill."  Swanson today filed suit against two California businesses operated by the same family. Swanson alleges the two bilked Minnesota seniors out of millions of dollars.  She charges that American Family Legal Plan (AFLP) inappropriately sold "living trusts" to as many as 2,000 Minnesota seniors. She also charges Heritage Marketing and Insurance Services, a related company, with selling annuities deceptively.  Both companies are owned and controlled by father-and-son partnership Jeffrey and Stanley Norman and allegedly preyed on the same elderly people.  "These companies deceptively sold boilerplate living trusts to senior citizens regardless of whether those trusts were suitable for the seniors' estate planning or financial needs," Swanson said.

Read more about the lawsuit at Legal News Line.

March 8, 2007 in Retirement | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

CMA: New Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage Plans

The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 allows people with the Original Medicare Plan to join a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t include Medicare prescription drug coverage outside of the normal MA enrollment periods at any time in 2007 or 2008. Thus, this opportunity is in addition to the existing enrollment periods listed below:

  •      The Annual Enrollment Period from November 15 – December 31
  •      The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period from January 1 – March 31
  •      Any Special Election Periods
  •      The Initial Enrollment Period for individuals new to Medicare

People with Medicare who have a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan can stay in their drug plan if they join a Private Fee-for-Service Plan that doesn’t offer Medicare prescription drug coverage.   However, if they join a Medicare Advantage Plan (such as an HMO, PPO, or Regional PPO) that doesn’t offer Medicare prescription drug coverage, their enrollment in the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan will be automatically cancelled. This means they won’t have Medicare prescription drug coverage and could face a late enrollment penalty should they later choose to re-enroll in a drug plan.  Before this happens, the person with Medicare will be contacted by their new plan to confirm that the person wants to make this choice, and understands the consequences.

This new open enrollment period doesn’t apply for people who want to join a Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA) Plan, Medicare Advantage Plan that offers Medicare prescription drug coverage, or a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

Source:  Center for Medicare Advocacy/CMS

March 7, 2007 in Medicare | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

AARP says prescription drug prices for those 50+ increased 2x inflation rate

For the sixth year in a row, manufacturers' prices of brand-name prescription drugs rose last year at roughly twice the rate of inflation, according to a report released Tuesday.  The annual report by AARP, the nation's largest organization of Americans aged 50 and older, found that prices for the 193 drugs most commonly used by that age group increased an average of 6.2 percent in 2006, while the Consumer Price Index rose 3.2 percent.   The pharmaceutical industry called the study "inaccurate and misleading."  Referring to data collected by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry argued that increases in prescription drug spending slowed for the sixth year in a row, and that retail prescription prices increased only 1.5 percent last year.  "Expert data strongly suggest that AARP's numbers simply do not reflect the true amounts paid by seniors for their medicines. And they do not reflect the clear downward trend in prescription drug price growth," said Ken Johnson, vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.  In its study, AARP reported that since the end of 1999, average drug prices have increased nearly 54 percent, while overall inflation rose about 20 percent.  "Over time, escalating drug prices will make Medicare drug plans unaffordable for older Americans. One way to address high drug prices is to take full advantage of Medicare's bargaining power and allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices," said David Sloane, AARP's senior managing director for government relations and advocacy.

Read more:  Atlanta Journal Constitution

Read the AARP report.

March 7, 2007 in Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Dole and Shalala will head up VA hospitals investigation

President Bush named former Sen. Bob Dole and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala on Tuesday to lead an investigation of problems at the nation's military and veterans' hospitals.  "We have a moral obligation to provide the best possible care and treatment to the men and women who served our country," Bush said in a speech to the American Legion. "They deserve it and they're going to get it."  Already grappling with low approval ratings and eager to avoid charges that he failed to act promptly, Bush said an interagency task force of seven Cabinet secretaries, led by Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, would be convened to determine what can be done immediately to improve veterans' care.  The president announced last Friday he had ordered a comprehensive review of conditions at the nation's network of military and veteran hospitals, which has been overwhelmed by injured troops from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The review came in the wake of disclosures of shoddy outpatient health care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, one of the nation's premier facilities for treating veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read more at Yahoo News/AP.

How serious is the President about improving our vets' care?  You be the judge:  look at his 2008 budget proposal. 

March 6, 2007 in Retirement | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Medicare advisory groups says Part C plans cost taxpayers more

Medicare private managed-care plans, known as Medicare Advantage, are unfairly favored over traditional Medicare, according to a highly influential commission.  The privately administered HMO-style plans, which cover 8.3 million seniors, cost 12 percent more per patient, and program payments are twice that of traditional government-administered Medicare, according to a report released by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, the independent panel of experts that advises Congress on the Medicare program.  "Medicare beneficiaries should be able to choose between the fee-for-service Medicare program and the alternative delivery systems that private plans can provide, so long as the choice is financially neutral to the program," the MedPAC commissioners said in the report.  It would be a better idea to make reimbursement the same and allow the private plans to compete on equal footing, they said.  "The free market's so-called 'invisible hand' is picking taxpayers' pockets," said Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.  "Medicare's overpayments to private plans cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars," he said. "That's why MedPAC continues to advise Congress to stop wasting money on inefficient private plans.

Source/more:  UPI.

March 6, 2007 in Medicare | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 2, 2007

Same-sex couples win partial pensions victory in Canada Supreme Court

What has been cast as the last great battle for same-sex equality ended Thursday with a partial victory in Canada’s highest court.  While the Supreme Court said same-sex partners widowed before Jan. 1, 1998, were wrongly denied Canada Pension Plan survivor benefits for years, it limited retroactive compensation to one year.  The judges ruled 7-0 against extending those payments all the way back to 1985 when equality rights took effect under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Instead, the judgment makes any same-sex partner widowed after 1985 eligible for CPP survivor benefits averaging about $500 a month, plus 12 months’ arrears.  That’s far short of the compensation sought by about 1,500 claimants or their estates who fought a class-action battle.
The high court essentially said that Ottawa, unless it has acted in bad faith, can’t be asked to reach far back in time to legally apply a modern-day understanding of rights.  "Achieving an appropriate balance between fairness to individual litigants and respecting the legislative role of Parliament may mean that charter remedies will be directed more toward government action in the future and less toward the correction of past wrongs," says the judgment.  The high court struck down part of a law passed in 2000 that granted CPP survivor benefits only to gay partners widowed after Jan. 1, 1998, calling it an unjust breach of equality rights. However, the ruling gives the federal government credit for what it calls a "good-faith" effort to update its laws.

Source/full story:  Halifax Chronicle Herald, http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/562131.html

March 2, 2007 in Social Security | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Blog meister on vacation

I wFlakeill be in the North Woods under 3 feet of snow for the next few days--see you next week.

KD

March 1, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Minnesota governor signs executive order creating Veterans Long Term Care Commission

In response to ongoing patient care issues at the Minneapolis Veterans Home, Governor Tim Pawlenty  today (Wednesday, Feb. 28)  signed an executive order (07-02) establishing a Veterans Long Term Care Commission. The Commission will be charged with identifying “the best approach for the future operation, management, administration and governance of the Veterans Home.”
Yesterday, Gov. Pawlenty directed the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to send staff into the facility to monitor operations, and intervene in patient care activities as necessary. In addition, the Governor and Health Commissioner Dianne Mandernach are directing the Veterans Home to hire an outside long term care consultant within two weeks. The consultant will be able to assume responsibility for day-to-day operation of the facility.  “The chronic problems at the Minneapolis Veterans Home are unacceptable to me and to all Minnesotans,” Governor Pawlenty said. “We are taking immediate action to improve the situation and long term action to fix the way the system works.  Our veterans deserve excellent care and we won’t stop until we’ve achieved that goal.”  Gov. Pawlenty and Commissioner Mandernach announced the measures in response to a number of recent events pointing to significant problems at the facility. Two recent MDH complaint investigations involving the facility found evidence of “neglect” in monitoring a patient with diabetes for hypoglycemia, and “significant errors” in administering drugs to two patients with medication allergies.  All three of the patients involved in the two complaint investigations subsequently died. However, MDH investigators focused on errors in the treatment of the patients, and did not attempt to draw any conclusions about whether the errors caused the patients’ deaths.   
Commissioner Mandernach also cited recent routine inspections – or “surveys” – that found multiple rule violations at the Veterans Home. The most recent survey was conducted last November, and a follow-up survey is currently in progress.

Visit Hometown Source. com for more info.  http://hometownsource.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=766&Itemid=29

March 1, 2007 in Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | TrackBack (0)