Thursday, June 30, 2016

Saving Medicare $ by Raising Eligibility Age?

Traditional Medicare Versus Private Insurance: How Spending, Volume, And Price Change At Age Sixty-Five , an article published in Health Affairs, discusses one topic that we hear periodically-that is, raising the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67. The abstract explains:

To slow the growth of Medicare spending, some policy makers have advocated raising the Medicare eligibility age from the current sixty-five years to sixty-seven years. For the majority of affected adults, this would delay entry into Medicare and increase the time they are covered by private insurance. Despite its policy importance, little is known about how such a change would affect national health care spending, which is the sum of health care spending for all consumers and payers—including governments. We examined how spending differed between Medicare and private insurance using longitudinal data on imaging and procedures for a national cohort of individuals who switched from private insurance to Medicare at age sixty-five. Using a regression discontinuity design, we found that spending fell by $38.56 per beneficiary per quarter—or 32.4 percent—upon entry into Medicare at age sixty-five. In contrast, we found no changes in the volume of services at age sixty-five. For the previously insured, entry into Medicare led to a large drop in spending driven by lower provider prices, which may reflect Medicare’s purchasing power as a large insurer. These findings imply that increasing the Medicare eligibility age may raise national health care spending by replacing Medicare coverage with private insurance, which pays higher provider prices than Medicare does.

A subscription is required to access the full article.

June 30, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

More on Observation Status

Last week Kaiser Health News (KHN) ran an update about Medicare's Observation Status, reminding readers that the requirements of the NOTICE Act go into effect on August 6, 2016.  Medicare Releases Draft Proposal For Patient Observation Notice explains that CMS has asked for comments on the draft notice it created for hospitals to use to explain observation status to patients. One expert quoted in the KHN article "said the notice is written for a 12th-grade reading level, even though most consumer materials aim for no more than an eighth-grade level. It 'assumes some health insurance knowledge that we are fairly certain most people don’t have.'" Others interviewed for the article expressed concerns about the draft of the notice and whether it goes far enough.  A sample of the draft notice can be viewed in the article. The comment period closed on June 17, 2016 and the article notes that the final CMS notice isn't expected until shortly before the law becomes effective.

June 29, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Retirement Advisors and the Fiduciary Standard

Do retirement advisors have to comply with the fiduciary standard when giving clients advice? If you said yes, you'd be right in line with what most folks think. After all, isn't your financial advisory giving you advice about your retirement investments? The New York Times article, Isn’t Honesty the Best Policy? explores this issue.

"The Department of Labor has been working since 2010 to hold everyone who provides financial retirement advice to this standard. After multiple public comment periods and significant consultation with industry leaders, consumer advocates and other experts, the department published a final rule that went into effect this week but provides the industry with a realistic transition period."  But not all are on board with using the fiduciary standard for financial advisors. So there was lobbying and action in Congress. "Their lobbying worked. Republican majorities in the House and Senate pushed through a bill to block the Department of Labor’s rule. On Wednesday, President Obama rightly vetoed it."

But that isn't the end of it. "[T]he Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups are trying a different route. Using similar arguments they made when lobbying Congress, they filed a last-ditch lawsuit in United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas ... to prevent the rule from being enforced." The lawsuit claims that it creates an "unwarranted burden[]" but the author of the article responds to that point: "I almost can’t believe this even needs to be said, but it’s not unwarranted to burden retirement advisers with a requirement that they act in their clients’ best interest."

According to the article, the opposition of the regulations may be speaking from both sides of their mouths, because "[w]hile financial executives complained to the Department of Labor that the rule was “immensely burdensome” and “very difficult” to comply with, they were telling investors on Wall Street that they “don’t see it as a significant hurdle” and that efficiently complying with the rule could provide a competitive edge in the market."

"If the fiduciary standard is good enough for medical care, legal advice and accounting, it is good enough for financial retirement advice. We don’t accept less anywhere else in commerce. Why should we accept it from those we trust to protect our retirement savings?"

Ask your advisor about the advisor's compliance with the fiduciary standard. It's important.

June 27, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Medicare Appeals

The GAO issued a new report on improving the Medicare Appeals process for original Medicare.  Medicare Fee-For-Service: Opportunities Remain to Improve Appeals Process  was released on June 9, 2016.

Here is what the GAO found:

The appeals process for Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) claims consists of four administrative levels of review within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and a fifth level in which appeals are reviewed by federal courts. Appeals are generally reviewed by each level sequentially, as appellants may appeal a decision to the next level depending on the prior outcome. Under the administrative process, separate appeals bodies review appeals and issue decisions under time limits established by law, which can vary by level. From fiscal years 2010 and 2014, the total number of filed appeals at Levels 1 through 4 of Medicare's FFS appeals process increased significantly but varied by level. Level 3 experienced the largest rate of increase in appeals—from 41,733 to 432,534 appeals (936 percent)—during this period. A significant portion of the increase was driven by appeals of hospital and other inpatient stays, which increased from 12,938 to 275,791 appeals (over 2,000 percent) at Level 3. HHS attributed the growth in appeals to its increased program integrity efforts and a greater propensity of providers to appeal claims, among other things. GAO also found that the number of appeal decisions issued after statutory time frames generally increased during this time, with the largest increase in and largest proportion of late decisions occurring at appeal Levels 3 and 4. For example, in fiscal year 2014, 96 percent of Level 3 decisions were issued after the general 90-day statutory time frame for Level 3.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and two other components within HHS that are part of the Medicare appeals process use data collected in three appeal data systems—such as the date when the appeal was filed, the type of service or claim appealed, and the length of time taken to issue appeal decisions—to monitor the Medicare appeals process. However, these systems do not collect other data that HHS agencies could use to monitor important appeal trends, such as information related to the reasons for Level 3 decisions and the actual amount of Medicare reimbursement at issue. GAO also found variation in how appeals bodies record decisions across the three systems, including the use of different categories to track the type of Medicare service at issue in the appeal. Absent more complete and consistent appeals data, HHS's ability to monitor emerging trends in appeals is limited and is inconsistent with federal internal control standards that require agencies to run and control agency operations using relevant, reliable, and timely information.

HHS agencies have taken several actions aimed at reducing the total number of Medicare appeals filed and the current appeals backlog. For example, in 2014, CMS agreed to pay a portion of the payable amount for certain denied hospital claims on the condition that pending appeals associated with those claims were withdrawn and rights to future appeals of them waived. However, despite this and other actions taken by HHS agencies, the Medicare appeals backlog continues to grow at a rate that outpaces the adjudication process and will likely persist. Further, HHS efforts do not address inefficiencies regarding the way appeals of certain repetitious claims—such as claims for monthly oxygen equipment rentals—are adjudicated, which is inconsistent with federal internal control standards. Under the current process, if the initial claim is reversed in favor of the appellant, the decision generally cannot be applied to the other related claims. As a result, more appeals must go through the appeals process.

The GAO recommended:

To reduce the number of Medicare appeals and to strengthen oversight of the Medicare FFS appeals process, we recommend that the Secretary of Health and Human Services take the following four actions:

1. Direct CMS, OMHA, or DAB to modify the various Medicare appeals data systems to

a. collect information on the reasons for appeal decisions at Level 3;

b. capture the amount, or an estimate, of Medicare allowed charges at stake in appeals in MAS and MODACTS; and

c. collect consistent data across systems, including appeal categories and appeal decisions across MAS and MODACTS.

2. Implement a more efficient way to adjudicate certain repetitive claims, such as by permitting appeals bodies to reopen and resolve appeals.

 A pdf of the full report is available here.

 

June 26, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Challenge to California's Aid-in-Dying Law

I don't think we should be surprised to learn that a lawsuit has been filed, challenging California's aid-in-dying law that became effective earlier this month. The LA Times reported on June 9, 2016 that a suit had been filed.  Opponents Sue to Overturn California's New Aid-in-Dying Law explains that two organizations and some individual doctors filed the suit and claim that the law is unconstitutional,"argu[ing] that California’s law is a civil rights violation, stripping terminally ill patients of protections afforded to other Californians." The article notes that the judge assigned to the case denied a TRO but a hearing on the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction will be held in late June. 

 

June 23, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Social Security & Medicare Trustees 2016 Reports Released

It's that time of the year! The Social Security Trustees and the Medicare Trustees released their 2016 reports.  There is always a lot of information in these reports, but what everyone wants to know is when these programs are "running out" of money. According to the Social Security Trustees 2016 report, the SSDI and Retirement funds (combined) are "good" through 2034, although individually the SSDI fund isn't as robust, with its solvency at risk in 2023. 

Here is an excerpt from the summary:

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 was projected to postpone the depletion of Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund by six years, to 2022 from 2016, largely by temporarily reallocating a portion of the payroll tax rate from the Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund to the DI Trust Fund. The effect of updated programmatic, demographic and economic data extends the DI Trust Fund reserve depletion date by an additional year, to the third quarter of 2023, in this year's report. While legislation is needed to address all of Social Security's financial imbalances, the need remains most pressing with respect to the program's disability insurance component.

The OASI and DI trust funds are by law separate entities. However, to summarize overall Social Security finances, the Trustees have traditionally emphasized the financial status of the hypothetical combined trust funds for OASI and DI. The combined funds satisfy the Trustees' test of short-range (ten-year) close actuarial balance. The Trustees project that the combined fund asset reserves at the beginning of each year will exceed that year's projected cost through 2028. However, the funds fail the test of long-range close actuarial balance.

The Trustees project that the combined trust funds will be depleted in 2034, the same year projected in last year's report....

As far as Medicare, the Trustees report solvency through 2028. Here are two excerpts from the Trustees Report (in Section II.A.)

Short-Range Results

The estimated depletion date for the HI trust fund is 2028, 2 years earlier than in last year’s report. As in past years, the Trustees have determined that the fund is not adequately financed over the next 10 years. HI tax income and expenditures are projected to be lower than last year’s estimates, mostly due to lower CPI assumptions. The impact on expenditures is mitigated by lower productivity increases.

Looking at the separate programs Part A (HI) and Part B (SMI) the picture for SMI is a bit better

The SMI trust fund is adequately financed over the next 10 years and beyond because premium income and general revenue income for Parts B and D are reset each year to cover expected costs and ensure a reserve for Part B contingencies. A hold-harmless provision restricts Part B premium increases for most beneficiaries in 2016; however, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 requires a transfer of funds from the general fund to cover the premium income that is lost in 2016 as a result of the provision. In 2017 there may be a substantial increase in the Part B premium rate for some beneficiaries. (See sections II.F and III.C for further details.) ...

 

June 22, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (1)

Good News on the Alzheimer's Front?

Two recent articles made me think that progress is being made in the fight against Alzheimer's.  First I ran into an article in the Chicago Tribune on May 25, 2016 from a Harvard Health Blog postDecline in Dementia Rate Offers 'Cautious Hope' details a recent report from the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Incidence of Dementia over Three Decades in the Framingham Heart Study which we blogged about on February 23, 2016. After discussing the study and its results, the article turns to the question of whether dementia can be prevented:

As the Alzheimer's Association predicts, the numbers of people with dementia may ultimately increase simply because people are living longer. At the same time, the Framingham researchers offer "cautious hope that some cases of dementia may be prevented or at least delayed."

The Framingham results bolster the notion that what's good for the heart is good for the head. If you're pursuing a heart-healthy lifestyle -- following a Mediterranean-style diet, getting the equivalent of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, managing your stress, and engaging with friends and family -- you're likely lowering your risk of dementia in the bargain, too.

The other article also ran on May 25, 2016, this one in the New York Times.  It posits an intriguing question: Could Alzheimer’s Stem From Infections? It Makes Sense, Experts SayThe article references a recent study by Harvard researchers,  Amyloid-β peptide protects against microbial infection in mouse and worm models of Alzheimer’s disease the results of which was published in Science Translational Medicine. The abstract is available here but the full article requires registration.

Here is how the study results are explained in the Times article

The Harvard researchers report a scenario seemingly out of science fiction. A virus, fungus or bacterium gets into the brain, passing through a membrane — the blood-brain barrier — that becomes leaky as people age. The brain’s defense system rushes in to stop the invader by making a sticky cage out of proteins, called beta amyloid. The microbe, like a fly in a spider web, becomes trapped in the cage and dies. What is left behind is the cage — a plaque that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

The article provides a fascinating recap of how the researchers got to this point and notes that "[r]ecent data suggests that the incidence of dementia is decreasing. It could be because of better control of blood pressure and cholesterol levels, staving off ministrokes that can cause dementia. But could a decline in infections also be part of the picture?" The article concludes describing the next steps in this research.

So, good news on the Alzheimer's front? You decide. (I vote yes).

June 22, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

New Concepts from Authorities Who Investigate and Prosecute Scammers and Financial Abusers

On June 15,  I logged into the National Consumer Law Center's webinar on Financial Frauds and Scams Against Elders.  It was very good.  Both David Kirkman, who is with the Consumer Protection Division for North Carolina Department of Justice, and Naomi Karp, who is with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, had the latest information on scamming trends, enforcement issues, and best practices to avoid financial exploitation.  Here were some of the "take away" messages I heard:

  • "Age 78" -- why might that be important?  Apparently many of the organized scammers, such as the off-shore sweepstakes and lottery scams, know that by the time the average consumer reaches the age 78, there a significant chance that the consumer will have cognitive changes that make him or her more susceptible to the scammer's "pitch."  As David explained, based on 5 years of enforcement data from North Carolina, "mild cognitive impairment"  creates the "happy hunting ground" for the scammer.
  • "I make 'em feel like they are Somebody again."  That's how one scammer explained and rationalized his approach to older adults.  By offering them that chance to make "the deal," to invest in theoretically profitable ventures, to be engaged in important financial transactions, he's making them feel important once again.  That "reaction" by the older  consumer also complicates efforts to terminate the scamming relationship. David played a brief excerpt of an interview with an older woman, who once confronted with the reality of a so-called Jamaican sweepstakes lottery, seemed to make a firm promise "not to send any more money."  Yet, three days later, she sent off another $800, and lost a total of some $92k to the scammers in two years.
  • "Psychological reactives."   That's what David described as a phenomenon that can occur where the victim of the scam continues to play into the scam because the scammer is offering the victim praise and validation, while a family member or law enforcement official trying to dissuade the victim from continuing with the scam makes him or her feel "at fault" or "foolish."   An indirect, oblique approach may be necessary to help the victim understand.  One strategy to offset the unhelpful psychological reaction was to show the victim how he or she may help others to avoid serious financial losses. 
  • "Financial Institutions are increasingly part of the solution."  According to Naomi, about half of all states now mandate reporting of suspected financial abuse, either by making banks and credit unions mandatory reporters or  by making "all individuals" who suspect such fraud mandatory reporters.  Both David and Naomi said they are starting to see real results from mandatory reporters who have helped to thwart fraudsters and thereby have prevented additional losses.

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has several publications that offer educational materials to targeted audiences about financial abuse.  One example was the CFPB's 44-page manual for assisted living and nursing facilities, titled "Protecting Residents from Financial Exploitation." 

June 21, 2016 in Books, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (2)

Estate Planning Lessons from the Redstone Saga?

We've previously blogged about the happenings in the case and life of Sumner Redstone. Although one lawsuit was dismissed, it doesn't appear that is the end of the matter. The New York Times ran an article on June 2, 2016, In Sumner Redstone Affair, His Decline Upends Estate Planning. Although the focus of the story is Mr. Redstone's situation, the story notes that this happens perhaps more than we think.

As Americans live longer and more families are forced to cope with common late-in-life issues like dementia, the problem is getting worse. “It’s a huge issue nationally as the elderly population grows and their minds start to falter,” [one attorney interviewed for the story] said. “I’ve seen charities coming after people for multiple gifts: Sometimes these donors don’t remember that they already gave the previous week. Romantic partners, caregivers who take advantage of the elderly — we’re seeing it all.”

Elderly people may be especially susceptible to the influence of people who happen to be around them during their waning days.

Professor David English (full disclosure, co-author and friend) "a professor of trusts and estates at the University of Missouri School of Law and former chairman of the American Bar Association’s commission on law and aging" said

This is an issue for lots of people of even modest wealth... [and] the most common approach is the creation of a trust, either revocable (which means it can later be changed) or irrevocable, that anticipates such a problem and defines what the creator of the trust means by incapacity. This could be a much less rigorous standard than is typically applied by courts... The document should define the meaning of incapacity and, more importantly, indicate who determines incapacity....

The article goes on to examine the importance of trusts that are carefully well-drafted to address issues such as those faced in this case.  However, "sometimes no amount of legal advice can save people from an unwillingness to face their own mortality and cede control while still in full control of their faculties."

June 21, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

More on Technology

It seems every few days (or maybe even more frequently) there is a story about a new tech device that can benefit elders. Here are a few that caught my eye (and I must confess I want each of them)

1. The personal care robot. Asus a few weeks back announced their robot, Zenbo. This entry into the personal robot field is a talking robot.  Although not yet available, seems reasonably priced and has an "elder tech" application:

A big part of the pitch is caring for the elderly, which could be especially popular in nearby Japan, which is struggling with an aging population. Zenbo "helps to bridge the digital divide between generations" by allowing seniors to make video calls and use social networking with simple voice commands, Asus said.

It can also connect to a smart bracelet and alert relatives via smartphone app if their elderly relative has a fall.

A video of the robot in action is available here.

2.  Self-driving cars. I saw a June 5, 2016 On Assignment episode on self-driving cars, Hands Off,  that was quite interesting. When looking for that episode on the web, I ran into this June 5, 2016 article on Forbes about self-driving cars. Consumer Interest In Self-Driving Cars Increasing reports on a recent study regarding self-driving cars, noting that more folks are becoming aware of the technology. So will self-driving cars have an elder-tech application?   The respondents in the study thought this

Big Benefit for the Physically Impaired and Elderly There is a strong belief that a part of the population who will benefit most from self-driving cars are people who are physically impaired. About 70% of the respondents believe autonomous vehicles will provide on-demand mobility for the elderly and handicapped.

I think we can all imagine how self-driving cars have an "elder-tech" application but unlike a car driven by a human, I'm pretty sure the autonomous vehicles won't be able to help the elder in or out of the vehicle, or load her packages. (Maybe that will be in the next iteration...)  That doesn't mean I don't want one!

3. Smart Homes: Then there is this on the "smart home" front (I want one of those as well). With the changes in leadership at Nest, the Washington Post ran this article Why smart homes are still so dumb.  One thought from the article that struck me is the high-tech v. low-tech hurdle.  A survey reported in the story mentioned that some folks thought it too difficult to get everything set up when the low tech alternative is so much easier (think flipping on a light switch easy). 

4. More on wearables:  5 ways wearables will transform the lives of the elderly covers wearables that focus on, among other things, safety, wandering and falls.

The next few years promise to provide incredible advancements in elder tech world. But there is still an irreplaceable value from human interactions.

June 19, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bifocal: Examining Less Restrictive Alternatives to Guardianships

The ABA's Bifocal publication includes a new resource guide designed to help lawyers identify and help to implement decision-making options for persons with disabilities that are less restrictive than guardianships.  

The "PRACTICAL Tool," with the first word intended to serve as an acronym for nine steps that a lawyer can use to identify legal and practical approaches, includes:

  • Presume guardianship is not needed
  • clearly identify the Reasons for concern;
  • Ask if a triggering concern may be temporary;
  • determining whether the concerns can be addressed by Community resources;
  • ask if the person already has a Team to help make decisions;
  • Identify the person's abilities;
  • screen for potential Challenges;
  • Appoint a legal support consistent with the person's values; and
  • Limit any necessary guardianship petition. 

For more, read Resource for Lawyers Targets Options Less Restrictive than Guardianship, Bifocal, the Journal of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, Volume 37, Issue 5. 

June 17, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Caring for the Caregivers

Georgia Public Broadcasting ran a story recently on caring for family caregivers.  Who Cares for Family Caregivers ran on May 23, 2016. The story explains an institute in Savannah, Ga. that is focused on helping the family caregivers, including training.  The story focuses on several family caregiver's stories and notes that there is a bill pending "before the U.S. Senate would offer some help to caregivers. Under the measure they would qualify for up to $3,000 in tax credits."  A video of the story is also available with the transcript.

The website for the institute featured in the story offers a caregiver stress level self-assessment quiz and a caregiver questionnaire for those looking for training as well as other caregiver resources.

June 16, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Elder Tech: A Report to the President

We've blogged on a number of occasions about the "elder tech revolution" and the technology competency of elders.  We're not the only ones watching this issue. In fact, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology issued a report to the President in March of this year. Report to the President Independence, Technology and Connection in Older Age is a detailed look at various issues and technologies.  The executive summary sets the stage

The U.S. population is getting older, and Americans are living longer, on average, than they ever have before. As they age, people are healthier and more active than the generations before them and have fewer functional limitations such as difficulty walking or blindness. Studies show that people are happier on average as they advance into their later decades and enjoy high levels of accumulated knowledge and experience.

Getting older is a time of social, emotional, mental, and physical change. Retirement might change how a person interacts socially every day, affecting a person’s mood and well-being. Cognitive aging—the normal process of cognitive change as a person gets older—can begin, or a permanent change in physical function may arise. Technology offers a path for people who are navigating these changes potentially to prevent or minimize the risks associated with them and to enhance people’s ability to live their lives fully. We, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), sought to identify technologies and policies that will maximize the independence, productivity, and engagement of Americans in their later years.

 

The Committee focused on 4 areas of aging: physical and cognitive changes, hearing loss and lack of social interaction. The report contains "cross-cutting recommendations" as well as area-specific recommendations. The cross-cutting recommendations include federal support and coordination, widespread internet access, adoption of monitoring technology, and encouraging research to develop more innovation. There are 12 area-specific recommendations.

The blog post about the report is available here.

 

June 15, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Improving the Rep Payee Program

Justice in Aging's June, 2016 issue brief focuses on needed improvements to Social Security's Representative Payee program. How SSA Can Improve the Representative Payee Program to Protect Vulnerable Seniors explains the rep payee program, details steps SSA has taken to improve the program and makes recommendations generally as well as to specific parts of the rep payee program.  General recommendations to improve the program overall include 

Prepare for the increased need for representative payees by developing methods to recruit and retain eligible representative payees.

Provide more in-depth training, support, and resources for representative payees and field office personnel.

Promote the use of the supported decision making model to ensure that the capability determination process and resulting appointments promote autonomy and financial independence for as long as possible.

Ensure that third party monitoring and oversight of representative payees includes the appropriate level of oversight and protects older adults from financial abuse.

Specific portions of the program that are studied include the capability determination process, monitoring and oversight,  actions against a misbehaving rep payee, monitoring of direct deposits, training rep payees and identifying those beneficiaries who need rep payees. The report concludes "[g]iven the history of misuse and lack of oversight within the program, SSA must make necessary reforms to prevent repetition of the often dehumanizing instances of fraud and misuse of funds."

 

 

 

June 14, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Elder Abuse in Florida

The Orlando Sentinel ran a story about elder abuse increasing in Florida. Although the data is hard to come by, Elder Abuse on the Rise in Florida explains that:

In Florida, the number of verified cases of elder abuse and neglect has climbed 74 percent since 2011, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. In 2015, the statewide total was 2,525.

More than 800 people have been charged with elder abuse and neglect in Florida in the past five years, according to the Office of State Courts Administrator. More than 370 have been convicted or sentenced.

The story also offers data on a nationwide basis and discusses the difficulties in prosecuting elder abuse cases, such as the victim's close ties to the perpetrator or cognition issues of the victim

The accompanying sidebar provides statistics, Elder Abuse in Florida by the Numbers for the past 5 years, broken down by verified cases of elder abuse or neglect and criminal elder abuse or neglect.

June 14, 2016 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 13, 2016

HUD Supportive Housing

A new report from the GAO covers funding of HUD's supportive housing program. Housing for Special Needs: Funding for HUD's Supportive Housing Programs, GAO Report #16-424 was released on May 31, 2016.  The GAO findings are:

Until program funding for new development ceased in fiscal year 2012, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) used a two-phase process to allocate and award capital advances for Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly (Section 202) and Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities (Section 811). First, HUD headquarters allocated the amount of appropriated funds for capital advances to each of the 18 regional offices using a funding formula, which accounted for regional housing needs and cost characteristics. Funding was further divided among 52 local offices using a set-aside formula and was also split between metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas for Section 202. In 2010, HUD eliminated the set-aside which had guaranteed a minimum amount of funding for each local field office. The process for making capital advance awards did not change, but HUD was better able fund properties at a higher level. Second, applicants submitted applications to the applicable HUD regional office, and staff from these offices evaluated and scored applications based on various criteria, including capacity to provide housing and ability to secure funding from other sources. Applicants in each regional office were ranked highest to lowest and funded in that order. Any residual funds that were not sufficient to fund the next project in rank order were pooled nationwide and HUD headquarters used a national ranking to fund additional projects.

Most but not all states (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) had applicants that received capital advances for Section 202 and Section 811 in fiscal years 2008 through 2011. GAO found that some states had applicants that received capital advances in each of the years reviewed, while other states did not. In the period reviewed, four states had no applicants that received Section 202 capital advance awards, and eight states had no applicants that received Section 811 capital advance awards. HUD officials cited several reasons applicants from some states may not have received funding during this period, including applications that were submitted may have been ineligible or higher-scoring applications from other states may have been selected instead. The capital advance amounts varied. For Section 202, total capital advance amounts for fiscal years 2008-2011 for states that received at least one award ranged from less than $24 million to more than $75 million. For Section 811, total capital advance amounts for fiscal years 2008-2011 for states that received at least one capital advance award ranged from less than $4 million to more than $15 million.

A pdf of the full report is available here.

June 13, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Housing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are Baby Boomers Unique in Isolating Themselves as They Age?

Professor Laura L. Carstensen, PhD, who is the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, has an intriguing essay in a recent issue of Time magazine, focusing on research on social engagement among the Boomer generation.  She writes

The 55-to-65-year olds just about to join the ranks of the elderly are far less socially engaged now than their predecessors were at the same age 20 years ago.   And this pattern emerged across all traditional measures of social engagement:  Boomers are less likely to participate in community or religious organizations than were their counterparts 20 years ago.  They are less likely to be married.  They talk with their neighbors less frequently.  And it doesn't stop with participation in communities and neighborhoods: boomers report fewer meaningful interactions with their spouses and partners than did previous generations, and they report weaker ties to family and friends. 

She asks, "Should we be worried about these trends?"  For her answers, read "Baby Boomers are Isolating Themselves as They Age." (Hint, the subtitle says: "That's bad -- for everyone.")

June 13, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Local Government Challenges as Older Workers Retire

How long do you plan to work, if you are a Baby Boomer? According to one survey from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, we are facing a "brain drain" in local governments. The 'Silver Tsunami' Has Arrived in Government explains the survey "indicates that governments are experiencing an uptick in retirements. More than half -- 54 percent -- of surveyed governments reported an increase in retirements last year from 2014, while just 10 percent reported a decrease."  Here's where the "brain drain" comes in. According to the story "[b]aby boomers at or near retirement age make up a large share of senior-level managers in many agencies. Compared to the private sector, public-sector workers tend to be older and possess higher levels of education."

The article explores reasons why there seem to be so many retirements these days, including the expiration of union contracts, retirement benefits reductions , etc. And since not all Boomers have hit retirement age yet, the "silver tsunami" is expected to continue "over a number of years given that the youngest baby boomers just turned 52 years old."

The article explains that the survey shows not just retirements but an increase in individuals quitting their jobs.

The survey, 7 pages long with 19 questions and results, is available here as a pdf.

June 10, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Old and Homeless

Sometimes we run into stories that really really are sad.  This story in the New York Times is sad. Imagine being old and homeless, whether recently homeless or homeless for a long time. Think about the struggles one has in being homeless. Compound those struggles with the challenges faced by someone who has mobility issues or physical problems identified with being older. Old and on the Street: The Graying of America’s Homeless is an in-depth story that ran on May 31, 2016 and notes [t]he emergence of an older homeless population is creating daunting challenges for social service agencies and governments already struggling to fight poverty.

They lean unsteadily on canes and walkers, or roll along the sidewalks of Skid Row here in beat-up wheelchairs, past soiled sleeping bags, swaying tents and piles of garbage. They wander the streets in tattered winter coats, even in the warmth of spring. They worry about the illnesses of age and how they will approach death without the help of children who long ago drifted from their lives.

Homelessness is not just an issue for elders, but it is an issue that is growing since all of us age. "The homeless in America are getting old... There were 306,000 people over 50 living on the streets in 2014, the most recent data available, a 20 percent jump since 2007, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They now make up 31 percent of the nation’s homeless population."

There are the "recently" homeless some of whom lost jobs and others who can't afford a home on fixed-income, and then there are the long-term homeless.

Many older homeless people have been on the streets for almost a generation, analysts say, a legacy of the recessions of the late 1970s and early 1980s, federal housing cutbacks and an epidemic of crack cocaine. They bring with them a complicated history that may include a journey from prison to mental health clinic to rehabilitation center and back to the sidewalks.

The article notes the incidences of homelessness is somewhat geographic and is rising in the larger metropolitan areas.  The article features interviews with several  elders in California who are homeless.

How do cities respond to the challenges of individuals who are homeless, and especially those elders who are homeless? "The challenges faced ... have forced advocates for the homeless and government agencies to reconsider what kinds of services they need: It is not just a meal, a roof and rehabilitation anymore." 

Assign this article to your students and ask them to create a plan for their city to provide services. It should be an interesting class discussion.

June 9, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Are Physicians' Responsibilities for Older Patients with Firearms?

Florida State Law Professor (and friend) Marshall Kapp has a new article out, and my recent post "He Died with Guns in His Closet" triggered him to share it with us.  Marshall tackles the challenging topic of "The Physician's Responsibility Concerning Firearms and Older Patients," with thoughtfulness and candor.

Professor Kapp opens with observations and predictions about the potential for Americans to continue to own firearms as they age, even if they have declining cognition.  He writes:

In the general population, the presence of firearms in the home is positively associated with the risk for completed suicide and being the victim of homicide. It is well-documented that “[g]un ownership and availability are common among the elderly”and that the rate of use of guns in suicides and homicides by older Americans is significant. Firearms, along with falls and motor vehicle accidents, cause the most traumatic brain injury deaths in the U.S. for people over age 75.

 

Mental illness has been found to be strongly associated with increased risk of suicide involving firearms. The disproportionate incidence and prevalence of cognitive and emotional disorders such as dementia, mild cognitive impairment, and depression--often presenting themselves simultaneously and exacerbating each other--among older persons has been identified clearly. However, many persons with such disorders do not receive a formal clinical evaluation for those issues. Age-associated decline in health status, in combination with other factors, is a risk factor for dementia.

Professor Kapp examines state laws and the collective role of the medical profession regarding firearms as a public health matter, including specific ideas about what might be an individual doctor's "duty to inquire about or report on access to weapons for a patient who demonstrates cognitive changes," and the potential for any such "duty" to impact patient choices about treatment. For example, he reports:

Under current law, physicians, with the possible exception of those practicing in Florida, have latitude to act according to their own discretion when it comes to questioning their patients about guns in the home in this context. According to a coalition of leading health professional organizations and the ABA, physicians are able to intervene with patients whose access to firearms puts them at risk of injuring themselves or others. Such intervention may entail speaking freely to patients in a nonjudgmental way, giving them safety-related factual information, answering patients' questions, advising them about behaviors that promote health and safety, and documenting these conversations in the patient's medical record (just as the physician would document conversations with their patients regarding other kinds of health-related behaviors).

On free speech implications, he writes:

The courts thus far are split in their responses to First Amendment challenges to compelled medical speech brought by physicians qua physicians in their role as patient fiduciaries or trust agents (as opposed to claims brought by physicians seeking protection in their capacity as ordinary citizens). Nevertheless, there is a strong argument for requiring that state laws compelling particular speech by physicians in their physician role be examined under at least a strict scrutiny standard.

And to further whet your appetite for reading the full article, in his conclusion, Professor Kapp advocates for certain changes in state law, including:

State statutes should authorize physicians to inquire of and about their older patients regarding patient access to firearms in the home and to counsel the patient, family members, and housemates about firearms safety, up to and including recommending that firearms be kept away from the patient. However, the states should not enact legislation that positively requires the physician to make such inquiries and engage in counseling, although states should consider a tort standard of care evolving through the common law in a direction that imposes an affirmative obligation on the physician to inquire and counsel.

The full article appears in the Spring 2016 issue of the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy.  

June 9, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)