Tuesday, October 21, 2014
A continuing care operator is fighting a recent ruling by Alberta’s information czar that would reveal how hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars are spent each year at the province’s nursing homes and supportive living facilities. A continuing care operator is fighting a recent ruling by Alberta’s information czar that would reveal how hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars are spent each year at the province’s nursing homes and supportive living facilities. Shepherd’s Care Foundation is asking the courts to overturn a decision by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ordering the release of the complete annual financial returns it and other operators file with Alberta’s health authority. In a notice seeking judicial review, the Edmonton-based organization says making the returns public under the province’s freedom of information legislation would cause significant harm to its business and labour relations interests. Filed as a condition of the facility’s contract with Alberta Health Services, the returns show the amounts a facility derives each year from the public purse and from resident fees. The document also details how much of that money is spent on care, food and administration and whether any surplus or profit is left over at the end of 12 months. The OIPC ruling stems from requests filed with AHS by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees several years ago for the returns of 15 continuing care operators with which it was involved in collective bargaining on behalf of workers.
Monday, October 20, 2014
Earlier this month, CMS announced that it was going to update and improve the Nursing Home Compare site, which should result in more accurate information available for consumers. According to the October 6, 2014 press release, "the expansion and strengthening of the agency’s widely-used Five Star Quality Rating System for Nursing Homes will improve consumer information about individual nursing homes’ quality."
Starting in January, "CMS and states will implement focused survey inspections nationwide for a sample of nursing homes to enable better verification of both the staffing and quality measure information that is part of the Five-Star Quality Rating System." CMS is also adding to the quality measures used. Also CMS will be doing some "focused survey inspections" for verification purposes of the information that is being submitted.
According to the Center for Medicare Advocacy October 16, 2014 weekly alert, a new law, "[t]he Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation Act of 2014 (IMPACT Act of 2014) ... supports one of the key changes –providing funding to implement a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires nursing home staffing data reported on Nursing Home Compare to be electronically-submitted and "based on payroll and other verifiable and auditable data."
Check it out!
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Planning for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) is in full swing. The website has been launched and there is also a WHCOA blog available. You can also sign up for email updates to stay in the loop on WHCOA developments.
Monday, October 6, 2014
Remember as little kids our parents taught us that sharing was a good thing? Sharing has its benefits, as we all know, and I'm sure we have all talked about shared housing in our classes. One of the hottest trends right now is car sharing.
There is an organization that is devoted to shareablity. The website, Shareable "is an award-winning nonprofit news, action and connection hub for the sharing transformation. What’s the sharing transformation? It’s a movement of movements emerging from the grassroots up to solve today’s biggest challenges, which old, top-down institutions are failing to address."
It appears that Seoul, South Korea has taken sharing to an entirely new dimension as they are the "sharing city." Sharing City Seoul: A Model for the World reports on Seoul's Sharing City initiative, started in 2012. The story Is Seoul the Next Great Sharing City? explains that city leaders determined to position "it... to be a model city for sharing. A new, city-funded project called Sharing City, Seoul aims to bring the sharing economy to all Seoul citizens by expanding sharing infrastructure, promoting existing sharing enterprises, incubating sharing economy startups, utilizing idle public resources, and providing more access to data and digital works." The laudable goals of becoming the model sharing city include "to create jobs and increase incomes, address environmental issues, reduce unnecessary consumption and waste, and recover trust-based relationships between people."
How does this connect to elder law? The Next Great Sharing story explains that part of the sharing initiative includes shared housing, "connecting senior citizens who have extra rooms with students who need a room." There is also information about shared meals and other initiatives. Think how the sharing model could help eliminate isolation amongst elders!
Is it working? The Model story from June of 2014 provides an update: Housing and Inter-generational Connection: To address the housing crisis and reduce the social isolation of seniors, a program was created to match young people with idle rooms in seniors’ houses. There have been 28 matches to date."
Thanks to my dear friend and colleague, Professor Mark Bauer, for sharing the article with me.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Families for Better Care recently released a report card to grade states on nursing homes. Check it out to see if your state gets a passing grade! Families for Better Care is a Florida-based "non-profit citizens advocacy group" devoted to "creating public awareness of the conditions in our nation’s nursing homes and other long-term care settings and developing effective solutions for improving quality of life and care."
Their Nursing Home Report Cards is a "project that analyzes, compares and ranks state’s nursing home quality." The website allows a user to look at overall grades for states in various categories as well look at a specific ranking for a state that includes key findings, grade and rank for 2014 compared to 2013. There is also an interactive map that allows the user to quickly look at a state's "grade." The website also includes a list of the top states and the worst states.
Check it out.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
We have blogged on several occasions about the issues surrounding caregiving, including the need for caregivers, who provides care, etc. Ever wonder what caregiving costs the caregiver? If I said $5,000 per year, would you say that was more than you thought, or less? What if I told you almost 30% of caregivers spend $10,000 or more? Surprised?
Caring ran a story on the costs of caregiving based on a report they recently compiled. Nearly Half of Family Caregivers Spend Over $5,000 Per Year on Caregiving Costs reports that nearly 50% of the "family caregivers spend more than $5,000 per year on caregiving expenses" (the study considers a family caregiver to be "someone who takes care of a family member or friend, but is unpaid for ... services.... [and] caregiving expenses include out-of-pocket costs for medications, medical bills, in-home care, nursing homes and more." What are the breakdowns for this group of caregivers? "16% spend from $5,000 to $9,999 * 11% spend from $10,000 to $19,999 * 7% spend $20,000 to $29,999 * 5% spend $30,000 to $49,999 * 7% spend $50,000 or more each year." The report includes some other interesting statistics and includes this interesting observation
Caregiving not only has an effect on finances, but it can also impact current employment and future retirement plans, too. One-third of family caregivers (33%) spend more than 30 hours per week on caregiving, making it almost the equivalent of a full-time job. Half of caregivers have made changes to their work schedule to accommodate caregiving, while 30% often arrived late or left early and 17% missed a significant amount of work.
More details about the report and the cost of caregiving are available here
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Seems like there have been several interesting developments in the past few weeks regarding end of life decision making. Thanks again to Charlie Sabatino, Executive Director of the ABA Commission on Law & Aging. former NAELA president, national expert on end of life issues and all around great guy, for sending me an email about the series run on WNYC public radio. The station ran a 3 part series on "death beds" The first, Death Beds: Terminally Ill, But Constantly Hospitalized aired on September 8, 2014. The second, Death Beds: Too Little, Too Late for Many New Yorkers Seeking Hospice aired the next day, and the third, Death Beds: Living Wills Slowly Take Root aired on September 10, 2014.
Each includes the audio recording as well as the print story. Worth a listen!
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
(Thanks to Judy Stein, Executive Director for the Center for Medicare Advocacy (CMA) for sharing this).
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Following several months of investigation of complaints from older adults and their family members, in 2004 the Pennsylvania Attorney General announced a civil suit against an array of companies and individuals, including several attorneys, alleging their participation in a scheme to defraud through sales of unnecessary revocable living trusts and unsuitable annuities and insurance products. The alleged target was "senior citizens age 65 and older."
Ten years later, one of the Pennsylvania attorneys named in that original investigation, Brett B. Weinstein, has been disbarred. This particular disciplinary action has been a lo-o-o-o-ng-time coming.
Beginning as early as 2000, the Pennsylvania disciplinary board received complaints about Weinstein's role in the sales by non-lawyer third-parties of so-called "living trusts," often packaged with high-priced annuities. Weinstein himself rarely met with the clients, and provided little in the way of legal advice or counseling. He was formally cautioned about his use of unsupervised non-lawyers to provide legal advice and in 2001 he entered into a written Assurance of Voluntary Compliance.
The conduct, however, apparently did not stop. An undercover investigator was used to document continued problems. In recommending disbarrment, the Disciplinary Office concluded that from 2002 to 2012, acting on his own and in concert with others, Weinstein "assisted sales and delivery agents for a series of estate planning companies in the un-authorized practice of law." Further, he engaged in "false and misleading conduct, failed to consult with his clients concerning their objectives and placed his own interests above his responsibilities to his clients."
In discussing the case against Weinstein and rejecting his attempts to justify his conduct, the Disciplinary opinion points to a long-history of concerns about attorneys involved with living trust "mills" in other states (including Colorado, Missouri, and Ohio), where the products are pushed on older persons with little or no analysis of the clients' real legal needs and specific financial circumstances. Read here for the complete Disciplinary findings and the PA Supreme Court Order dated July 28, 2014.
September 16, 2014 in Consumer Information, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Put me in coach---a phrase often associated with a competitive sport of some sort. We think about coaches for teams, but we need to broaden our perspective, to think about coaches in a much broader aspect: life coaches, marriage coaches, business coaches, study coaches, and now... retirement coaches. The NY Times ran an article, Finding an Identity Beyond the Workplace: There's More to Retirement Than Financial Planning. We have heard stories before of people whose identities are so intertwined with working, that they are lost when they retire. Coaches can help those folks, and others, in finding goals for their post-work time.
This entry in the non-sport coaching field, retirement coaching, can help with goals and motivation, according to the article. "Retirement coaches ... are popular these days. The cadre has emerged in the crowded coaching field to cater to a growing number of boomers who are grappling with what’s next." According to one expert quoted in the article, part of this need for assistance is longevity--with the years post-working stretching out longer in the future, people are looking for help in defining what to do in those years.
Here's how one retirement coach describes what they do "[w]hen someone retires, they tend to be literally levitating with excess productivity that can’t be channeled ... We help them slowly build a basket of activities."
So what's in the basket? It could be a veritable potpourri of activities, such as "part-time work, humanitarian endeavors, entrepreneurial adventures and artistic pursuits, [as well as] ... a search for legacy and significance ...." A significant number of clients of one coach are described by the coach as "hav[ing] some kind of ‘give back’ gene. They want to get involved with a charitable board, or find ways to be a teacher or tutor.”
There are plays to be run in retirement coaching, just like in sports. It takes time for the recently retired to learn those plays and to be prepared for the "game." This means the first play run will be "a self-assessment that examines values and strengths and clarifies goals, hopes and dreams for the future." The playbook involves running numbers, too, using "retirement calculators to be sure they won’t outlive their savings." But although a football coach can use a stop watch to see how fast a player can run the 100, it's more intangible with retirement coaching. "[I]t’s far harder to compute in advance how to best navigate the intangibles like building a new social network and finding value in how you spend your time in retirement."
How long do you need your coach? It simply depends. Cost does as well. There isn't quite as much regulation for these types of coaches as there are in sports, but there still are at least two organizations, according to the article. So why use a coach? One of the coaches is quoted: “This is a fresh track adventure ....Be patient. For the first time in your life, you need to be able to deal with white space. People get addicted to busyness. White space is the source of creativity and strategic thinking, so don’t fill up your dance card too fast.”
Since all of us are "in the game" of life and aging, we all need to think about our retirement readiness. Now we can have our own coach for that, and maybe there will be an app as well. (Please note my sports analogies are an attempt, feeble as it may be, to have a bit of fun in writing this post. Any sports analogy errors are definitely my own).
Monday, September 8, 2014
We all know how prevalent financial scams are, and that they are becoming more and more sophisticated. One of my colleagues, and dear friend, forwarded an email to me purportedly from his financial institution-and the email had the correct last 4 #s of his credit card! He promptly contacted the financial institution because it looked so authentic, only to find out it was a scam. The institution insisted there was no data breach. He promptly closed that account. I'm sure you have had similar experiences, or know someone who has (every semester I ask my students whether any of them have been victims of identity theft. Unfortunately, there is always at least one).
Governing ran a story a couple of weeks ago about state efforts to combat financial scams that target elders. The article, States Fight Financial Scams Aimed at Seniors, quotes Mary Twomey of the National Center on Elder Abuse, that the advancement in fighting scams is happening at the state level. For example, the article indicates that in 2014 "lawmakers in at least 28 states and the District of Columbia introduced legislation addressing the issue. Some measures focus on enhancing criminal penalties. Others target caregivers who exploit elderly charges. Some require financial institutions to report suspected exploitation."
We all know the dearth of statistics makes it a challenge to really understand the magnitude of the problem. The article quotes some studies with statistics, including a recent one from the Journal of General Internal Medicine "that found that one in 20 older adults in New York state reported that they had been financially exploited, usually by a family member, but sometimes by a friend or home-care aide."
The article also reviews some of the innovations in certain states, such as Colorado which requires training of law enforcement to recognize exploitation and abuse, with each department required to have a minimum of 1 trained officer by 01/01/2015; and North Carolina, which allows "courts ... to freeze the assets of a defendant charged with financial exploitation of a senior or disabled adult, if the victim has lost more than $5,000."
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
We get calls of all types, on our cell phones and for those of us who still have them, our land lines. Imagine a phone call offering you counseling on end of life options. Sound far-fetched? Not so much for some. Kaiser Health News (KHN) ran a story in late August, Operator? Business, Insurer Take On End-of-Life Issues By Phone. The article describes a company "Vital Decisions... [where] [a]fter sending a letter (people rarely respond) counselors essentially cold-call to offer what they describe as “nondirected” end-of-life counseling" to those who are quite ill. The company uses social workers to make the calls, which are short (about 15 minutes). Here's what the program is designed to achieve:
to build a relationship over the phone, [with the patient] so [the patient] might be comfortable discussing his situation and his goals. Then he’ll be empowered to communicate those things with others, including his family and his doctors. He could also choose to allow the counselor to talk to his doctors or family directly. It’s paid for by insurers and federal privacy rules permit this for business purposes.
According to Vital Decision's CEO, the goal is to facilitate discussions about end of life care and empower the patient's decision-making. "The goal is for patients to receive care in those final months that aligns with what the patient wants, even if that's the most aggressive treatment available." Some are skeptical of this phone approach because of the lack of in-person interaction and the challenges to remain neutral, which is why one expert calls for "full transparency from insurers and the company to guard against bias in the sessions."
Sunday, August 31, 2014
Recently I participated in a series of roundtable discussions about end-of-life decision making and care. Community members, doctors, hospital staff and representatives of long-term care providers participated. There were several memorable moments. At one point, a former hospital employee said that it had been her job to get "living wills" signed by patients before surgery. Another administrator confessed she wished there was a Medicare billing code, so that her staff could conduct a proper discussion of living wills and similar advance directives with patients.
According to the New York Times, there may be such a billing code, at least for private insurance. From the front page of Sunday edition, "Coverage for End-of-Life Talks Gaining Ground."
"Five years after it exploded into a political conflagration over 'death panels,' the issue of paying doctors to talk to patients about end-of-life care is making a comeback, and such sessions may be covered for the 50 million Americans on Medicare as early as next year.
Bypassing the political process, private insurers have begun reimbursing doctors for these 'advance care planning' conversations as interest in them rises along with the number of aging Americans. People are living longer with illnesses, and many want more input into how they will spend their final days, including whether they want to die at home or in the hospital, and whether they want full-fledged life-sustaining treatment, just pain relief or something in between. Some states, including Colorado and Oregon, recently began covering the sessions for Medicaid patients.
But far more significant, Medicare may begin covering end-of-life discussions next year if it approves a recent request from the American Medical Association, the country’s largest association of physicians and medical students. One of the A.M.A.’s roles is to create billing codes for medical services, codes used by doctors, hospitals and insurers. It recently created codes for end-of-life conversations and submitted them to Medicare."
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
We have blogged previously on hospice, and a new article adds to the body of literature on the subject. The Journal of Palliative Medicine published an article by Dr. Joan Teno, Dr. Michael Plotzke, Dr. Pedro Gozalo, and Dr. Vincent Mor, A National Study of Live Discharges from Hospice. The study recognizes that there are various reasons that a person may leave hospice care, such as "patients decide to resume curative care, their condition improves, or hospices may inappropriately use live discharge to avoid costly hospitalizations." The abstract offers the following conclusion-about 20% of "hospice patients are discharged alive with variation by geographic regions and hospice programs. Not-for-profit hospices and older hospices have lower rates of live discharge." Why is it important to study this? As the introduction to article points out, there are instances when a provider may improperly discharge a patient and the timing can be telling: improper admission to hospice at the beginning or an effort to avoid costs. Building on existing research, this study finds similar results in some areas, but makes some important conclusions that deserve additional study
Provide and state variation raises concern that live discharges are not driven by patient preference but by provider and market behavior. Hospice programs that exceed their aggregate reimbursement caps (a marker for hospices with an excessive average hospice length of stay) had nearly double the rate of live discharges compared to hospice programs that did not exceed their aggregate cap.
The authors suggest there are certain red flags that should alert regulators that more careful scrutiny is needed for a specific hospice.
A hospice program with a high rate of live discharges deserves regulatory scrutiny especially when they have a pattern of hospitalization and hospice readmission. With increased hospice competition or potential future changes in hospice payment policies, hospices may change their enrollment and pattern of live discharges to maximize their profitability. Potentially, live hospice discharges represent a vulnerability of the Medicare Hospice Benefit. Hospices with high rate of these patterns of live discharges should trigger further regulatory review that examine whether their hospice enrollees were eligible, adequately informed about the Medicare hospice benefit before electing hospice, and whether the hospice program did a good enough job of advance care planning to avoid hospitalizations.
Monday, August 18, 2014
A number of years ago I audited a very interesting course in a gerontology program with the title "Housing the Elderly." It occurred to me at the time, however, that the title was a bit unfortunate, as it implied "warehousing" old folks rather than truly accomodating potential needs. Fortunately, over time I have sensed a growing appreciation of the significance of the distinction.
I was reminded of this while reading "For an Aging Parent, an 'In-Law Suite' Can Provide a Home within a Home" in the Washington Post. The article describes the experience of one family's decision to add a bedroom suite on the first level of their home to meet the needs of a aging parent. According to housing experts quoted in the article "demand for in-law suites is growing."
The article contrasts "true in-law suites" -- defined as a "living space integrated into a house to accomodate an older or disabled reative" -- with "accessory dwelling units" or ADUs. ADUs "function as separate dwelling units and often are intenteded for rental." As I recall, a few years ago, prefabricated versions of ADUs were popular in the media and dubbed "granny pods." Does anyone know whether granny pods ever caught on? The article suggests that building codes and zoning codes may present barriers to certain types of supplemental construction. I suspect that it would also be easy to trigger homeowner association restrictions.
The article suggests practical considerations:
- The suite should be comfortable and private to foster a feeling of independence....
At the same time, it should be close and connected to the family living area.
Place the suite on the main floor so that it has access to shared living spaces without the barrier of stairs.
Incorporate wide hallways and doorways (at least 36 inches) in the suite and adjoining living spaces to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers and people walking side by side.
- Integrate features that are attractive but safe and accessible, such as smooth flooring, lever handles for doors and faucets, non-skid bathroom flooring, a large curbless shower, a shower bench, a hand-held shower head, a chair-height toilet and sturdy, good-looking grab bars.
Many of these are core principles for "Universal Design," a housing construction movement that can be traced back to the early 1960s.
Building or selecting a new house? Consideration of universal design features may make it possible to stay at home much longer as you age. AARP offers additional suggestions in a recent interview with Universal Design Specialist Richard Duncan. And more info is available at UniversalDesign.com including citations to local, state or federal laws that may mandate certain elements of universal design for new construction.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
The Washington Post ran a fascinating article on a particular Medicare scam. A Medicare Scam That Just Kept Rolling was published August 16, 2014 and focuses on power wheelchairs. The article offers a detailed look at how this particular scam worked.
The wheelchair scam was designed to exploit blind spots in Medicare, which often pays insurance claims without checking them first. Criminals disguised themselves as medical-supply companies. They ginned up bogus bills, saying they’d provided expensive wheelchairs to Medicare patients — who, in reality, didn’t need wheelchairs at all. Then the scammers asked Medicare to pay them back, so they could pocket the huge markup that the government paid on each chair.
This eye-opening article points out that the depth and breadth of the scam remains largely unknown, but is on its way out.
But, while it lasted, the scam illuminated a critical failure point in the federal bureaucracy: Medicare’s weak defenses against fraud. The government knew how the wheelchair scheme worked in 1998. But it wasn’t until 15 years later that officials finally did enough to significantly curb the practice.
The article is accompanied by a video that shows in "four easy steps" how to perpetrate a Medicare scam as well as a sidebar with slides showing how the power wheelchair scam works. Variations of the scam are more than 40 years old and have morphed with the times.
If you aren't shaking your head in wonder now, consider why these scams can happen:
[F]or Medicare officials at headquarters, seeing the problem and stopping it were two different things.
That’s because Medicare is an enormous system, doing one of the most difficult jobs in the federal government. It receives about 4.9 million claims per day, each of them reflecting the nuances of a particular patient’s condition and particular doctor’s treatment decisions.
By law, Medicare must pay most of those claims within 30 days. In that short window, it is supposed to filter out the frauds, finding bills where the diagnosis or the prescription seem bogus.
The way the system copes is with a procedure called “pay and chase.” Only a small fraction of claims 3 percent or less — are reviewed by a live person before they are paid. The rest are reviewed only after the money is spent. If at all.
The whole thing is set up as a kind of honor system, built at the heart of a system so rich that it made it easy for people to be dishonorable.
The article talks about comparisons--the amount of money spent on power wheelchairs as compared to the total amount of dollars spent in the Medicare universe and although the amount spent on wheelchairs is a lot, it's a small amount in that universe. The article mentions the steps the government has taken to end the motorized wheelchair scam such as competitive bidding and rent-to-own. So if the wheelchair scam is on the decline, what's the next one? According to the article, orthotics and prosthetics. Stay tuned...
Monday, August 11, 2014
NCLC's Consumer Rights Litigation Conference on November 6-9, 2014 in Tampa, FL has scholarships available for consumer rights advocates.
REGISTER ONLINE TODAY by clicking on this link here: Register Online
Source: National Consumer Law Center
Thursday, July 31, 2014
As readers of this Blog may recall, back in April 2008 NBC's Dateline program aired a segment called "Tricks of the Trade" that incorporated use of hidden cameras to record portions of seminars that allegedly showed insurance salesmen trained to market certain types of deferred payment annuities. The NBC program alleged that the sales techniques specifically and improperly targeted or misled older consumers.
Tyrone M. Clark and his company, Brokers' Choice of America (BCA), brought suit against NBC and certain employees in federal court in Colorado, claiming the Dateline program violated state law, including allegations of defamation. Clark and BCA also alleged constitutional violations. The federal district court dismissed the complaint in 2011.
On July 9, 2014 the Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the alleged 4th Amendment violations, but remanded for further proceedings on the allegations of defamation. At the heart of Clark's claim was the argument that a full, unedited viewing of his seminar for insurance salesmen would reveal that students were properly counseled that such "annuities were not for everyone" and that salespeople must give "full disclosure of various advantages and disadvantages of the annuity products." In other words, Clark claimed Dateline's excerpts were misleading, and therefore defamatory.
The Tenth Circuit's ruling on defamation stressed that it was reviewing the district court's ruling on NBC's motion to dismiss and thus must view the facts alleged in the complaint "as true and in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party," i.e., Clark and BCA. The 10th Circuit concluded, "Whether these allegations will survive summary judgment remains to be seen. The factual basis of the complaint ... is sufficient to state a plausible claim."
Further, the Tenth Circuit upheld the request by Clark and BCA to discovery of the full, unedited tapes surreptitiously recorded by NBC, production that NBC has resisted:
"BCA would be greatly prejudiced in its ability to prove the defamation claim without access to the unedited film. Dateline's First Amendment interests do not involve the disclosure of confidential information or confidential sources. The fact-finder is entitled to the best evidence available, particularly in a case like this, which asks whether the media's zeal to report and perhaps sensationalize should be tempered by its responsibility not to defame. For all of those reasons, BCA's factual allegations are sufficient to warrant discovery of the unedited film. The Colorado statue [on newsperson's privilege] is a shield, not a sword."
For additional details, see the 10th Circuit's ruling on Broker's Choice of America, Inc. v. NBC Universal, Inc. and commentary from the Colorado Bar Association's Legal Connection news.
Friday, July 25, 2014
The Consumer Rights Litigation Conference, put on by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), is set for November 6-9 in Tampa Florida. This is the preeminent program for consumer rights advocates and there are several sessions with a special focus on protection of older persons. Sessions include:
"Reverse Mortages: New Changes and Old Challenges to Foreclosure," with Odette Williamson and Margot Saunders, NCLC, focusing on "emerging issues in reverse mortgages, including the new 'ability to pay' determinations and protections for dispossessed spouses." (Friday morning, Nov. 7)
"Retirement Benefits and Bankruptcy, Do they Mix?" by Tara Twomey (NCLC), asking whether a "fresh start jeopardizes the debtor's ability to receive social security benefits" and to what extent are "retirement savings off the table for nonsecured creditors." (Saturday morning, Nov. 8)
"Challenging Financial Fraud and Scams Aimed at Older Adults," by David Kirman (North Carolina Department of Justice) and Stephan A. Weisbrod (Weisbrod, Mattis & Coply PLLC), examining legal tools that can be used to challenge these practices, including private actions and suits brought under state statutes, such as California's Financial Elder Abuse Act. (Saturday afternoon, Nov. 8)
Thursday, July 24, 2014
The CarTalk Guys on National Public Radio have a crazy tradition of breaking their one hour radio program into "three halves" (okay, they have a lot of crazy traditions -- I'm focusing on just one). In that tradition, I'd been thinking about how the practice of "elder law" might also have three halves, but then I realized that perhaps it really has five halves. See what you think.
- In the United States, private practitioners who call themselves "Elder Law Attorneys" usually focus on helping individuals or families plan for legal issues that tend to occur between retirement and death. Many of the longer-serving attorneys with expertise in this area started to specialize after confronting the needs of their own parents or aging family members. They learned -- sometimes the hard way -- about the need for special knowledge of Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance and the significance of frailty or incapacity for aging adults. They trained the next generations of Elder Law Attorneys, thereby reducing the need to learn exclusively from mistakes.
- Closely aligned with the private bar are Elder Law Attorneys who work for legal service organizations or other nonprofit law firms. They have critical skills and knowledge of health-related benefits under federal and state programs. They also have sophisticaed information about the availability of income-related benefits under Social Security. They often serve the most needy of elders. Their commitment to obtain solutions not just for one client, but often for a whole class of older clients, gives them a vital role to play.
- At the state and federal levels, core decisions are made about how to interpret laws affecting older adults. Key decisions are made by attorneys who are hired by a government agency. Their decisions impact real people -- and they keep a close eye on the financial consequences of permitting access to benefits, even if is often elected officials making the decisions about funding priorities. I would also put prosecutors in this same public servant "Elder Law" category, especially prosecutors who have taken on the challenge of responding to elder abuse.
- A whole host of companies, both for-profit and nonprofit, are in the business of providing care to older adults, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, group homes, home-care agencies and so on -- and they too have attorneys with deep expertise in the provider-side of "Elder Law," including knowledge of contracts, insurance and public benefit programs that pay for such services.
- Last, but definitely not least, attorneys are involved at policy levels, looking not only to the present statutes and regulations affecting older adults, but to the future of what should be the legal framework for protection of rights, or imposition of obligations, on older adults and their families. My understanding and appreciation of this sector has increased greatly over the last few years, particularly as I have come to know human rights experts who specialize in the rights of older persons.
Of course, lawyers are not the only persons who work in "Elder Law" fields and it truly takes a village -- including paralegals, social workers, case workers, health care professionals, and law clerks -- to find ways to use the law effectively and wisely. Ironically, at times it can seem as if the different halves of "elder law" specialists are working in opposition to each other, rather than together.
My reason for trying to identify these "Five Halves" of Elder Law is that, as with most of us who teach courses on elder law or aging, I have come to realize I have former students working in all of these divisions, who began their appreciation for the legal needs of older adults while still in law school. Organizing these "halves" may also help in organizing course materials.
I strongly suspect I'm could be missing one or more sectors of those with special expertise in Elder Law. What am I forgetting?