The Maine Secretary of State’s Office released on Monday [June 25] the language of a November ballot initiative that would raise taxes on wealthier Mainers to pay for home care for the elderly and disabled.
Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said in a press release said that the final wording of the question on an act that would establish universal home care for seniors and persons with disabilities was based on feedback from the public, who had until June 15 to offer comments.
Thursday, July 19, 2018
During a session at the first day of the 21st Annual Pennsylvania Elder Law Institute, we had an interesting dialogue about how best to utilize Physician Orders of Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) forms. One attorney described how clients sometimes arrive at her law firm for advice on various estate planning matters, including a blank POLST form that was given to them in the hospital. The client asks, in essence,"what should I do with this?" One attorney said she walks through the form with clients, but always emphasizes that the most important part of the process is the conversation with the client's physician about her choices that should be happening before completing the document.
Along that line, there is a timely post on the Health Affairs Blog today, with the headline "Counting POLST Form Completion Can Hinder Quality." The authors, two physicians in Oregon, describe an incident in which a patient reported feeling pressured at a hospital to complete a POLST form, and they raise the potential for the pressure being a side effect of that patient's health plan keeping track of frequency of completion of POLSTs or other advance directives for all patients 65 or older, marking a high rate of completion as success. They observe:
Many stakeholders have been concerned about how best to measure the quality of advance care planning and use of the POLST form. Some health plans and payers measure the frequency of POLST form completion without a clearly delineated eligible denominator population. Use of such a metric erodes the quality of the POLST program as the following case illustrates. . . .
When health care professionals encourage patients who are “too healthy” to complete a POLST form (instead of an advance directive), even when orders are for “CPR/Full Treatment,” they may cause harm. If the patient later loses decision-making capacity and clinically deteriorates to a condition in which he or she would have desired a comfort-oriented approach, the presence of the inappropriate POLST may increase the decision-making burden on the family. Another concern is that some healthy patients have been denied life insurance because their medical record inappropriately includes a POLST form; the company incorrectly believing the patient has a limited life expectancy.
The authors argue persuasively that:
Accordingly, we do not believe that POLST forms should be mandated or counted as a quality measure. Instead, POLST quality measures should count conversations about patients’ goals for care as they near the end of their lives.
I recommend the full article, linked above, including review of their "seven imperatives to preserve POLST quality."
July 19, 2018 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Programs/CLEs, State Statutes/Regulations, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
McKnight's Senior Living Newsletter editor Lois Bowers wrote an article that alerted me to the June 2018 publication of a new study of unlicensed residential care facilities. From the abstract:
Residential care facilities operating without a state license are known to house vulnerable adults. Such unlicensed care homes (UCHs) commonly operate illegally, making them difficult to investigate. We conducted an exploratory, multimethod qualitative study of UCHs, including 17 subject matter expert interviews and site visits to three states, including a total of 30 stakeholder interviews, to understand UCH operations, services provided, and residents served. Findings indicate that various vulnerable groups reside in UCHs; some UCHs offer unsafe living environments; and some residents are reportedly abused, neglected, and financially exploited. Regulations, policies, and practices that might influence UCH prevalence are discussed.
The study included visiting unlicensed facilities in Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
For the full report see Unlicensed Care Homes in the United States: A Clandestine Sector of Long-Term Care, by Michael Lepore, Angela M. Greene, Kristie Porter, Linda Lux, Emily Vreeland, and Catherine Hawes, published in the Journal of Aging and Social Policy.
July 17, 2018 in Consumer Information, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, July 16, 2018
PA Elder Law Institute Session on CCRCs and LPCs Will Discuss Pending Legislation and Indicators on Financial Performance
As I mentioned earlier, Pennsylvania's annual Elder Law Institute is July 19 and 20 in Harrisburg. On the morning of the first day, I'm on a panel examining new issues in Continuing Care Retirement Communities (and Life Plan Communities), along with Linda Anderson, an elder law attorney, Kimber Latsha, who frequently represents health care and senior living providers including CCRCs, and Dr. David Sarcone, a Dickinson College business professor with background in accounting and health care management.
I'm especially looking forward to the discussion of Pennsylvania 2018 House Bill 2291, introduced in April of this year, but already moving from one committee, to its first of three considerations on the floor, to the Rules Committee, with amendments. In other words, this bill seems to have "legs." The sponsors of the bill are calling it an "Independent Senior Living Facility Privacy Act." As with most catchy titles for pending legislation, the details are a bit more complicated. In this instance the bill's lead sponsor is from a county where a single CCRC was investigated by the State Department of Human Services following a complaint that "staffing levels" were inadequate, leaving certain residents allegedly at risk. The Department of Human Services issued an adverse order in May 2017 related to certain aspects at the facility and apparently that order is the subject of administrative appeals.
The provider contests the order, and in written testimony submitted to the Pennsylvania House Committee on Aging and Older Adults Services, the CEO explained his company's position that the investigators were abusing their authority by entering independent living (IL) units, questioning IL residents, and thus failed to respect the individual autonomy of residents not actually living in "personal care" facilities, facilities that would be subject to HS authority:
"We feel that DHS is inappropriately applying the term 'premises' [from the personal care regulations] as the grounds and building on the same grounds, used for providing personal care services. Each senior apartment is a 'separate individual leasehold,' where an inhabitant, the lessee of the apartment leases an apartment and is afforded the enjoyment and freedom to engage family and third party services."
At the core of this issue is a question about expectations of the public and the residents about care in "independent living" units of a licensed "continuing care community." (Pennsylvania has at least one pending wrongful death suit involving an entirely different CCRC, where one issue is whether the CCRC's alleged awareness of an IL resident's worsening dementia was ignored. She allegedly died of complications of exposure after wandering and being locked out of her IL apartment complex on a cold night.)
The proposed legislation would exclude "independent senior living facilities" (including public housing outside of the CCRC context) from future state Human Services investigations, including investigations by the Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
I expect we will also be talking about financial performance numbers of both for-profit and nonprofit CCRCs -- especially as some of the numbers suggest that some operations both sides of the industry "profit" line may be struggling to "live within their means."
In other words, there will be some especially "hot" topics for discussion.
July 16, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, July 15, 2018
Over the weekend, a reader asked about the ultimate outcome of a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy reorganization, involving Sears Methodist Retirement System's CCRC properties in Texas, that we reported on back in 2014. The specific question was "what happened to the refundable entrance fees?"
The bankruptcy court approved escrow and repayment terms of refundable fees for "certain" residents as part of a proposed reorganization plan, with the purchaser(s) of one or all of the 8 involved CCRCs having the option of "assuming" or reaffirming resident agreements; but I need to research more to find out the ultimate outcome, once the dust settled. I've reached out to a few folks to see if there was a final accounting.
In picking up the research on the Sears Methodist case, that reminded me I had not reported in this blog on another CCRC bankruptcy court proceeding, filed as a reorganization under Chapter 11 in late 2015 involving what was then known as Westchester Meadows CCRC in New York.
The August 23, 2016 opinion for In re HHH Choices Health Plan, LLC is interesting, thoughtful, and remarkably accessible for nonlawyers. The issues addressed carefully include:
- Where the debtor in the Chapter 11 proceeding is a nonprofit organization, what rules apply for possible for-profit and nonprofit bidders? For example, could state law governing and limiting transfers of assets of a nonprofit organization apply? The Court concludes that although a new operator would need to comply with state laws (such as the Department of Health's licensing rules), the Bankruptcy Code controls bidding and sale of a bankrupt debtor's assets.
- What standards apply if one bidder, for a lower price, would continue operations as a nonprofit, while the other bidder, for a higher price (and thus more attractive to unsecured creditors), would convert to for-profit operations? Here, the Court observes that New York state law makes it "clear that price alone is not determinative, and that fulfilling the corporate mission can be decisive if creditors are all being paid in full." However, that rule was "clear" only if all the debtor's creditors would be fully paid, which would not be the outcome here. After careful consideration of case precedent, the Court concludes it can confirm a lower-priced sale of the assets, where the buyer satisfies certain standards and is better aligned with the charitable mission of the operation, including in this instance protection of the interests older residents.
The Court's concludes:
July 15, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, July 12, 2018
What Lessons Will Emerge From Arizona Investigation of 92-Year Old Woman Who Shot and Killed Her 72-Year Old Son?
Reading the news of a July 2 shooting was chilling, especially for anyone associated with long-term care or elder care. According to Arizona news reports, Anna Mae Blessing, age 92, explained, "You took my life, so I'm taking yours." She used a handgun, drawing it from the pocket of her robe, to shoot multiple times, killing her 72-year old son.
Ms. Blessing had been living in an apartment, along with her son and his girlfriend; she was reportedly upset about her son's plan to transfer her to an assisted-living facility. The apartment was located in Fountain Hills, east of Scottsdale, Arizona. Ms. Blessing also reportedly attempted, unsuccessfully, to shoot her son's girlfriend, who fought her off, dislodging both the first and a second handgun.
Followup stories reported the sheriff's office had responded at least six times to "domestic" calls at that location during the previous six months.
According to a sheriff office statement, Ms. Blessing is now charged with first degree murder, one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of kidnapping.
On the one hand, it could be tempting to dismiss this story as an isolated, sad, ironic tragedy.
But what I've been seeing is that senior living providers, especially those offering assisted living, are recognizing that something is deeply amiss about an individual's perception that assisted living is so horrible as to warrant this reaction.
Steve Moran who publishes the Senior Housing Forum asks "Why did she have such an aversion to assisted living?" He muses, "This is a fixable problem....." For more of Steve's thoughts read: "The Headline: Woman, 92, Killed Son Who Tried Putting Her in Assisted Living."
In an editorial titled "Assisted Living's Image Problem," Lois Bowers, Senior Editor for McKnight's Senior Living News, writes:
The Blessing case undoubtedly is a complex one, with more probably in play than a simple suggestion of a move to assisted living. But even so, it presents an opportunity for introspection for the senior living industry as well.
I mean, it seems that at least one person thought that assisted living was so terrible that a prison cell was preferable. And yes, this appears to be an extreme case, but it's not the first time that an older adult has resisted moving into a senior living community.
We know that senior living can offer physical and mental health benefits for older adults. So how can the industry improve at allaying their fears and educating them about those benefits?
And what can the industry do to educate the general public about the differences between assisted living communities and skilled nursing centers? More elucidation is needed, as was made obvious by articles in the lay press about the Blessing incident that used “assisted living” and “nursing home” interchangeably, despite a press release from the sheriff's office that specified that Thomas suggested assisted living to his mother (I know; I saw the press release).
We know that assisted living communities are different from SNFs, and we know that both types of facilities have evolved over the years, and yet I see this confusion regularly in the general media. I've seen government officials make this mistake, too.
So what's the solution? Surely, sales professionals educate individual prospects and their family members when they conduct tours and hold special events at their communities. Campaigns such as the American Seniors Housing Association's Where You Live Matters effort undoubtedly help, too, as does the advocacy work by organizations representing senior living operators.
I was in Arizona the day the story broke. I confess, I spent extra time with my arm around my own 92-year old mother that week -- at her home in assisted living.
July 12, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
I've written in the past about the use of "gun trusts" as a legal device to handle passage of guns to others, while avoiding some laws related to registration by gun owners.
There's another way to think about trust documents with guns, to provide a safeguarding process within families. As one article suggests,
Talk to your loved one about how to safely transfer ownership of their guns if they should become incapacitated. Consider writing a “gun trust,” a legal document outlining that process.
For more, read the Kaiser Health News's piece, Worried About Grandpa's Guns? Here's What You Can Do. Thanks, Matt Lawrence, for sharing this story.
Friday, June 29, 2018
A newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania, Nicole Brambila, has another interesting article related to law and aging. She is examining what happens when struggling nursing home operations require intervention to protect existing residents. Following the collapse of Skyline Healthcare facilities, which had been operating nine nursing homes in Pennsylvania, state authorities found it necessary to step in, and to hire a temporary manager. Ms. Brambila begins:
The collapse of the nursing home operator caring for about 800 residents in nine Pennsylvania facilities, including one in Berks County, that required the state step in with a temporary manager will cost $475,000, the contract shows.
In April, the Pennsylvania Department of Health stepped in with a temporary manager at nine properties operated by Skyline Healthcare LLC over concerns the New Jersey-based company's finances may have put residents at risk.
State officials tapped Complete HealthCare Resources, which manages Berks Heim Nursing and Rehab, to step in as temporary managers until buyers could be found. The contract, obtained by the Reading Eagle under Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law, ended June 9. New owners purchased the Skyline homes last month, but Complete HealthCare stayed on through the transition.
The management fee is paid by fines collected from nursing home facilities.
Over the past five years, the state has stepped in more than a dozen times with temporary managers for poor performing nursing homes, at a cost of more than $4.2 million, according to health data provided to the newspaper.
The average cost for managing these troubled homes exceeded $335,000.
There is a lot to unpack here, including exactly how a state collects fines from financially defaulting providers. Other states facing related issues in Skyline operations include Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. According to the article Skyline recently purchased the some of the properties from Golden Living Centers, also the center of controversies, but then turned around and sold its interest 14 months later.
For the full story, read "Pennsylvania to pay $475,000 for temporary nursing home manager." Ms. Brambila seems to be carving out an important niche for her investigatory reporting, by focusing on senior issues. She recently wrote an important series on guardians in the Pennsylvania courts, also for the Reading Eagle, as we described here.
June 29, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Maine November Ballot Initiative Will Test Mandate for State to Provide Home Care for the Elderly and Disabled
States are certainly embracing their roles as laboratories for change in core policies. Here's an interesting state ballot initiative to create state-mandated "home care."
Karen Vaughn, a woman living with quadriplegia in her own apartment for some 4o years, was held against her will in a care facility after hospitalization for a temporary illness. She wanted to go home. The state argued it could no longer find a home care agency that could provide the level of services Ms. Vaughn needed following a tracheostomy in 2012.
Ms. Vaughn's case gave a federal district judge in Indiana the opportunity to revisit the Supreme Court's landmark Olmstead decision from 1999. In ruling on cross motions for summary judgment, the court rejected the state's arguments as based on complexity in reimbursement rates, not availability of appropriate care providers. Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson observed, in ruling in favor of Ms. Vaughn, that
The undisputed medical evidence establishes that at or near the time of the filing of this Complaint, Ms. Vaughn’s physicians believed that she could and should be cared for at home—both because home healthcare is medically safer and socially preferable for her, and because Ms. Vaughn desires to be at home. . . . That support has continued throughout the pendency of this litigation, through at least April of 2018 when Dr. Trambaugh was deposed. Based on the evidence before this Court, it concludes as a matter of law that Ms. Vaughn has established that treatment professionals have determined that the treatment she requests—home healthcare—is appropriate.
[State] Defendants' own administrative choices—namely, the restrictions they have imposed on Ms. Vaughn’s home healthcare provision pursuant to their Medicaid Policy Manual—have resulted in their inability to find a caregiver, or combination of caregivers, who can provide Ms. Vaughn’s care in a home-based setting. It may be the case that other factors, such as the nursing shortage or inadequate reimbursement rates, contribute to or exacerbate the difficulty in finding a provider. But, at a minimum, Ms. Vaughn has established that Defendants' administrative choices, in addition to their denials of her reasonable accommodation requests, have resulted in her remaining institutionalized.
June 28, 2018 in Current Affairs, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
How Far Can Courts Go in Reassigning Income to a Community Spouse When it Affects Medicaid Payments?
It is a while since I've had a chance to report on an interesting Medicaid planning case. Perhaps that alone is a sign of the times?
Last month in Michigan, however, an appellate court weighed in on an interesting question about the power of courts to reallocate income, from the institutionalized spouse to the community spouse, where such a decision would impact payment sources for the nursing home. In a per curiam decision, the court considered a pair of similar cases, where the state probate courts had entered protective orders that directed "all income" received by an institutionalized spouse (IS) be paid to the community spouse for maintenance purposes. The State Department of Health and Human Services objected, as clearly the state winds up paying more for the IS's care if the community spouse gets all the IS's income.
Does the probate court have authority -- jurisdiction? -- to make such a ruling? What criteria are relevant to the allocation of income? In other words, is the probate court the right place to avoid inadequate safeguards against impoverishment of the community spouse? Interestingly, the Court, at footnote 13, distinguished the two cases from past attempts to make gifts or use protective proceedings for planning purposes before an initial determination of Medicaid eligibility. The court summarized its ultimate decision:
For the reasons explained in this opinion, we conclude that the probate courts have the authority to enter protective orders providing support for a community spouse whose institutionalized spouse is receiving Medicaid benefits. However, we also conclude that the probate courts’ authority to enter such support orders under the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC), MCL 700.1101 et seq, does not include the power to enter an order preserving the community spouse’s standard of living without consideration of the institutionalized spouse’s needs and patient-pay obligations under Medicaid. Given that the orders in this case were entered without consideration of Joseph’s and Jerome’s needs and patient-pay obligations under Medicaid, we find that the probate courts abused their discretion by entering the orders at issue in this case. We therefore vacate both support orders and remand for a reconsideration of Beverly’s and Ramona’s need for support under the proper framework.
For more, read the full decision in In re Estate of Vansach, Michigan Court of Appeals, May 22, 2018.
Counsel representing the community spouse has posted his own take on the decision, describing it as a win, in a post titled BRMM Wins Significant Elder Law Case in Michigan Court of Appeals.
No success in finding a mirror image article from the DHHS lawyers. With the split decision, I suppose they could have written DHHS Wins Significant Elder Law Case in Michigan Court of Appeals.
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Recently a U.S. reader of some of our "Filial Friday" posts in the the Elder Law Prof Blog inquired about Germany's reinvigorated use of filial support laws. He asked:
"Is an inlaw responsible for adult support in Germany? For example, if an [American] person is married to a German [living in the U.S.], the German doesn't work [in the U.S.] and has no income, will the American spouse's income be garnished to pay for the adult care of the mother in law?"
In reading an English translation of Title 3 provisions of the German Civil Code on "Obligation to Maintain," I find that only a spouse of an indigent or "lineal" relatives are identified as having an obligation to maintain "each other." See Sections 1601 and 1608.
However, when adult children in the U.S. receive requests from Germany authorities, they are often asked to provide detailed financial information, including identification of all marital property in the U.S. Recent German correspondence I reviewed asked the American daughter, "Do you or your spouse/partner in a registered civil partnership hold assets?" The married daughter was then asked to identify the "type of assets, including cash, savings, capital, land or property, and the value." This type of request for financial information seems to arise under Section 1605 of the Civil Code, which provides:
"Where the person with an obligation to maintain lives under the matrimonial property regime of community of property, his obligation to maintain towards relatives is determined as if the marital property belonged to him."
Further, Section 117 of Germany's Social Security Law provides that where the government is providing social welfare benefits, liable family members must "inform the social welfare body of their income and asset situation."
So far, I haven't seen an American child of an indigent German parent "compelled" to pay maintenance, despite German government inquiries and letters suggesting this is possible if family members fail to cooperate voluntarily. I suspect there are instances where the demands for financial information are frightening enough that some Americans agree to provide "some" voluntary support. I'm always interested when Americans receive requests from foreign authorities under this new wave of filial law obligations. The cross-border fact patterns are perfect for my Conflict of Laws course. One of these days, we'll probably see some formal test cases.
Americans aren't the only ones surprised by the vigor with which German authorities are seeking reimbursement for state care costs from relatives. Here's one man's dilemma from 2014, captured in a German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, as translated into English for the Financial Times.
Monday, June 25, 2018
For academics, this decision could be relevant to many courses, including estate planning, family law, property law, and contract law, and, of course, constitutional law. Did a state divorce law, potentially effectuating revocation of a former wife as the named beneficiary of her former husband's life insurance policy, conflict with the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution? The case has drawn attention in part because it offers an "early look" at analysis rendered by President Trump nominee Justice Gorsuch, in his lone dissent.
Naomi is also interested in the dissent. She writes in part:
Rather than critique Justice Gorsuch’s interpretation of the Contracts Clause, I want to focus on another aspect of his dissent: he twice (approvingly) cites to a brief filed by more than a dozen women’s groups supporting Kaye Melin (the majority does not mention this issue at all).
It is important to acknowledge that, while virtually all states provide for revocation of beneficiary provisions in wills in favor of an ex-spouse, only about half the states (and the Uniform Probate Code) have extended this revocation to nonprobate assets, such as life insurance policies. There is a policy debate among states about whether automatic revocation is a good idea, and Congress does not provide for such automatic revocation in federally regulated nonprobate assets.
In addition, there is little empirical evidence concerning what policyholders actually want or expect will happen upon divorce. Indeed—and here is one of the two contexts in which Gorsuch cited the women’s brief—“[a] sizeable (and maybe growing) number of people do want to keep their former spouses as beneficiaries.” The growth of collaborative divorce, for example, shows that divorce is not necessarily the messy, take-no-prisoners assumption that underlies modern divorce revocation statutes. As Justice Gorsuch noted, citing to a brief filed by the U.S. government in a 2013 case that argued a state divorce revocation statute should be preempted, there may well be legitimate reasons why a decedent did not change a beneficiary designation, ranging from wanting to support the ex-spouse’s care for joint children to feelings of connection. Justice Gorsuch cited the Women’s Law Project brief again in addressing alternatives to the state’s choice. . . .
For Professor Cahn's full analysis, including her interesting conclusion, see Svenn v. Melin: The Retro View of Revocation on Divorce Statutes.
Friday, June 22, 2018
A recent press release from Department of Veterans Affairs announced the VA's decision to release "annual" ratings for its nursing homes. From the opening words, the language in the notice is, shall we say, interesting.
Today [June 12, 2018] the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) extended its unprecedented 18-month record of transparency disclosures by making public for the first time its annual nursing home ratings. View the ratings here.
The data show that, overall, VA’s nursing home system – composed of more than 130 community living centers – compares closely with private sector nursing homes, even though the department on average cares for sicker patients in its nursing homes than do private facilities.
In fact, the overall star rating for VA’s nursing homes compared to the 15,487 private sector nursing homes rated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) shows that VA has a significantly lower percentage (34.1 percent lower) of one-star, or lowest rated, facilities than the rest of the nation.
Of note, 60 of VA’s nursing homes improved their quality score from last year to this year (2nd Quarter FY17 to 2ndQuarter FY18). Only one facility had a meaningful decline in that metric, and that facility was already rated with four stars.
Extending President Trump’s Commitment to VA Transparency, Quality Improvement
For years, the Obama administration had resisted making certain VA quality data public. But under President Trump’s leadership, transparency and accountability have become hallmarks of VA....
In addition to the press release, interested readers will want to follow USA TODAY and Boston Globe articles analyzing statistical reports from the VA, including Secret VA Nursing Home Ratings Hide Poor Quality Care From the Public (June 17, 2018); Lawmakers Demand Secrete NVA Nursing Home Data Be Released After USA TODAY, Boston Globe Report (June 19, 2018).
On June 20, 2018, USA Today followed up its series of articles with an editorial, pointing to incomplete information released by the VA:
Veterans can now go online to see comparative data for VA hospitals and outpatient clinics and choose private alternatives if VA care is wanting. But Veterans Affairs evidently hasn't yet learned that lesson for its operation of nursing homes. Though it released limited appraisal information after reporters inquired, the agency continues to withhold underlying quality data such as infection and injury rates at its elderly care facilities.
This information needs to be made public, not just when reporters ask for it but for any veteran or family of a veteran considering care at a VA nursing home. Private nursing homes are required by federal law to make this information available, and so should taxpayer-financed VA facilities.
Thursday, June 21, 2018
I've been thinking a lot lately about the tone and words used by individuals in advocating for change. Part of the reason I think about that is many of our students will choose the roles of advocates for change.
Another, perhaps more obvious impetus for this contemplation is the increasing use of demonization to characterize "others" you disagree with. In the language of debate, such an approach is an ad hominem attack, where the argument is directed against the person rather than the position they are maintaining. And it seems the usual adjective to add for that style is to call it a "vicious ad hominem attack."
I understand anger. I understand the emotion that can fuel heightened language. But, the plain fact of the matter is, that style often is not effective in achieving change in the law, especially in the courtroom. I get it, that rationality sometimes isn't effective either. That's enormously frustrating. But what I tend to see as a response to vicious ad hominem attacks is for the target to either respond in kind (more shouting, more name calling) or go "underground." It causes the target to double-down on his or her own personal, now equally angry, position. And courts do not respond well at all to such a style of advocacy.
As I'm typing these words, I'm thinking about some of the advocacy that is being used by opponents of guardianships. I see the occasional such comment (sometimes too long to attach to a post) on the Elder Law Prof Blog. Again, I understand the anger of family members who perceive a loved one to be the victim of a self-dealing agent, whether that bad agent was a guardian, a trustee, someone acting under a power of attorney, or simply someone who was made an accommodation party on a joint account. The anger is justified.
But, when the opponents of the bad agents cast an overbroad net against all courts or all judges or, even, all guardians, using, dare I say, "trumpian" adjectives and nouns to characterize all individuals serving in such roles, it just isn't very effective. It closes the door to change in the law. At least, that's my 2 cents on the topic. We need better solutions for instances where individuals did not choose their own trustworthy agents.
I was struck by a couple of news stories I read today by individuals who use anger to characterize disease, especially dementia. Now, here, I think the anger and harsh language as a rhetorical tool is different, and has a different effect. For example, a recent article described actor Don Cheadle's anger, sorrow, and disbelief following the loss of his mother. He is described as saying:
"She went through a real tough spell. She had dementia and it's just an evil, mean disease. To watch someone just deteriorate in that way, it's hard to believe."
Here, even though obviously the disease isn't a sentient being, the characterization of it as evil, as, in essence, an enemy, seems more effective. The desire might be for an army to rally to oppose the devastation wrought by the disease.
Just a bit of mid-week musing. Some of this is probably influenced by being the daughter of a judge who worked 7 days a week for 30+ years, far harder and longer than necessary for his job or any job. Or, it could be my musing is the result of far too much caffeine as I work on summer law reform projects, and as I try to sort out what arguments are the most likely to be effective.
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Eric Carlson, Nancy Stone and Lori Smetanka have joined forces to write an important new guideline for advocacy under the revisions issued by CMS in 2016 for nursing facility care, with an eye towards additional changes likely to occur under the Trump administration.
After surveying the most important reforms, they advise:
The revised regulations contain both positives and negatives for nursing facility residents and their advocates. The positives include expanded requirements for person-centered care, care planning, and resident choice and participation in health care services. The revised regulations also strengthen the NHRA’s prohibitions against facilities requiring a third-party guarantee of payment or a waiver of legal rights, and protections for residents from improper transfer/discharge. In addition, the regulations have added requirements for a facility grievance official and procedures.
It is disappointing, however, that the revised regulations do not require a registered nurse around the clock or a minimum staffing standard. Even though unnecessary restraints are included in the definition of “abuse” and the requirements for drug regimen reviews and reporting of unnecessary drugs were expanded, the revised regulations compromise the focus on ending the misuse of antipsychotic medications.
In addition, the Trump administration has proposed a repeal of the ban on predispute arbitration agreements and delayed enforcement remedies for certain Phase 2 requirements. The administration is also considering the repeal or further modification of other revised regulations (e.g., regulations on grievance procedures, quality assurance, and ombudsman discharge notices).
The authors explain the importance of advocacy in this time of change:
Even though CMS and the states are responsible for implementing these regulations, regulation implementation, if left solely to government agencies and providers, is usually scattershot and inadequate. For the revised regulations to truly become the national standard of care, nursing facility residents and their advocates must be prepared to assert resident rights over and over again. Another unfortunate reality is that nursing facilities may be hostile or apathetic toward the revised regulations and the survey agencies can only do so much, given that federal law requires surveys only once a year. For these reasons, it is up to residents, families, and advocates to be knowledgeable about the federal law and make nursing facilities accountable when they fall short.
For the full picture, read Advocating for Nursing Facility Residents Under the Revised Federal Requirements, published April 2018 in the NAELA Journal, and available online as a PDF.
June 20, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, June 18, 2018
One of our good readers sent us an item by CityLimits.org tracking recent complaints made to (and about) the NY Attorney General. The title of the article is They Say Legal Guardians Ripped Them Off-- and the State AG Let Them. I've come to expect that when I see an investigative piece on problems with guardians, I will read comments from a range of national advocates, such as Dr. Sam Sugar of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship or Richard Black with the Center for Estate Administration Reform. Both individuals comment in this particular piece.
There are many challenges ahead for much needed reform efforts, including the fact that different laws can govern different forms of fiduciary relationships. For example, even though the article focuses in major part on "guardians," a label used to describe individuals or entities appointed by the court to assist an individual deemed incapacitated and unable to handle his or her own affairs without such a court-appointment, the article demonstrates that the problems can arise outside the guardianship arena.
In the opening tale for the article, the individual in need of assistance, a 31 year old disabled daughter, was apparently the the beneficiary of her deceased father's trust. The father became entangled with an untrustworthy individual shortly before his death, and that person was named the trustee. The actions by that individual -- described in the article as a "disbarred" lawyer and former state senator -- control much of the dynamic. It is not clear from the article whether the daughter's parents were estranged before the death of her father, thus sidelining the mother from accessing the trust in trying to help their daughter. Guardians later appointed by court for the daughter reportedly contributed to the costs for the estate. Yet key allegations of abuse focus on the actions of the alleged untrustworthy trustee, who was selected for this fiduciary role by the father, not the court.
The article reports on this as an example where the AG has allegedly declined to intervene following reports of fiduciary abuse.
Guardianship reform is important and, thank goodness, is ongoing in many states. But true reform is needed in the hearts and minds of abusive individuals in a variety of financial caregiving relationships, not just guardianships. The challenges for courts and law enforcement officers, including AGs and other prosecutors, will only grow without a stronger ethical commitment at the core.
June 18, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)
Friday, June 15, 2018
Sad news is emerging from Los Angeles that Stan Lee, the legendary comic book author, film producer, Marvel Comic magnate and occasional actor (often with brilliant, subtle cameos) went to court this week. He was seeking a temporary restraining order against Keya Morgan, sometimes described as a business partner and long-time manager, who reportedly had been serving as a caregiver for Lee after the death of his wife last year. Stan Lee is 95 and the grounds alleged in the petition include "elder abuse." The court granted Lee a temporary order on June 13, and scheduled a further hearing for July. The defendant denies all charges.
Here are additional details from CNN Entertainment, including a collage of clips, sometimes sadly ironic given the charges, from some of Mr. Lee's appearances in films over the years.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
The Evolution of Email Scammers: Moving from Granny, to Granny's Lawyers and Financial Companies as Their Targets
In my Elder Protection Clinic days, I met with family members of older adults victimized by off-shore scammers. In one notable case, the older mother, normally a savvy woman about her personal finances, had succumbed to the flattery of someone posing as a financial advisor, who offered her various new "investments." He knew just how to work her, appealing to her "business acumen," using internet maps to learn about her neighborhood and thus to make it seem his office was in a building near her bank in a suburb of Pittsburgh. Even after her daughter, with the help of a legitimate financial advisor who caught the unusual activity on the mother's accounts, shut down any easy means of access to her mom, the mother continued to believe the perpetrator was just bad at financial advice, and not totally corrupt.
The elderly mother's judgment on who to trust was impaired, but the impairment was specific and hard to recognize because she otherwise functioned fairly well. The combination of the perpetrator's flattery, his appeal to her once-strong financial skills, and the fact that she was lonely, trapped in her house as her physical strength was waning, all contributed to the success of the scam. It all began with a single email.
A recent announcement by the FBI of a coordinated law enforcement effort to disrupt international scammers reveals how the scamming industry has evolved. The FBI explains:
Operation WireWire—which also included the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service—involved a six-month sweep that culminated in over two weeks of intensified law enforcement activity resulting in 74 arrests in the U.S. and overseas, including 42 in the U.S., 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius, and Poland. The operation also resulted in the seizure of nearly $2.4 million and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.
A number of cases charged in this operation involved international criminal organizations that defrauded small- to large-sized businesses, while others involved individual victims who transferred high-dollar amounts or sensitive records in the course of business. The devastating impacts these cases have on victims and victim companies affect not only the individual business but also the global economy. Since the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) began formally keeping track of BEC [business e-mail compromise] and its variant, e-mail account compromise (EAC), there has been a loss of over $3.7 billion reported to the IC3.
BEC, also known as cyber-enabled financial fraud, is a sophisticated scam that often targets employees with access to company finances and trick them—using a variety of methods like social engineering and computer intrusions—into making wire transfers to bank accounts thought to belong to trusted partners but instead belong to accounts controlled by the criminals themselves. And these same criminal organizations that perpetrate BEC schemes also exploit individual victims—often real estate purchasers, the elderly, and others—by convincing them to make wire transfers to bank accounts controlled by the criminals.
Foreign citizens perpetrate many of these schemes, which originated in Nigeria but have spread throughout the world.
Law firms were among the most frequent targets of the scammers, who posed as clients to access funds held in the law firms' trust accounts. For more on the industry, read "It's Time to Stop Laughing at Nigerian Scammers -- Because They're Stealing Billions of Dollars," from the Washington Post.
June 14, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, International, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, June 11, 2018
My good friend and colleague, Pennsylvania Elder Law Attorney Linda Anderson, has a thoughtful essay about her personal journey in elder law in a recent issue of GPSolo, the ABA journal for solo, small firm, and general practitioners. Her closing paragraphs address several core issues, comparing her elder law focus with traditional tax and estate planning concerns. I enjoyed her use of classic lines from the movie Jaws.
My early work with elder clients or their adult children across a variety of asset levels certainly involved tax and estate planning. But it became clear that serving and protecting these clients demanded more than just good lawyering, that good planning needed “a bigger boat.” It entailed comprehensive knowledge of the Social Security, Medicaid, and VA benefits bureaucracies, close engagement with insurance providers, geriatric care managers, social workers, and other professionals, as well as close monitoring of state and federal regulatory and policy changes and housing and age discrimination laws, among others. The eventual next step for me was completing the requirements to become a certified elder law attorney (CELA).
Solo or general practice attorneys do not have to become dedicated elder law experts when taking on clients seeking long-term care and funding planning. Take those clients, but be prepared to augment tax and estate planning expertise with a deep dive into areas of elder and special needs law and funding mechanisms. All this is doable, of course, but the biggest difference is in mindset. Attorneys often approach estate and long-term care planning as transactional or episodic--needs arise, documents are drafted or revised, and we and the clients move on. But the nature of the legal work I've touched on above demands a continuing, flexible outlook and a lot of homework. When in doubt, consult with or refer your client to a CELA-qualified attorney. These attorneys are listed in the website for the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF, nelf.org). Another resource for lawyers (who may or may not be CELA-qualified) is the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA, naela.org). Both organizations are excellent sources for information and referrals.
Finally, as we all learn in time, everything that we've covered here will become very personal for each of us. This may first happen through our parents or siblings as they transition and age, but it's necessarily part of our own futures as well. That's true whether you're a Baby Boomer looking at 70, a Gen Xer thinking that 40 is “old,” or any age in between.
Aging is the one shark we cannot escape. But as attorneys, we know how to plan and can build our clients' (and our own) “boats” to manage aging as well as possible.
June 11, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Medicaid, Medicare, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, June 8, 2018
Duke University Law graduate and 2018-19 Bristow Fellow H. Hunter Bruton uses filial support laws in China and contrasting government policies in Japan to explore public policy choices affecting the relative responsibilities of family and government to provide care for aging adults. The author's 2018 article for the University of Minnesota Law Review begins:
This Essay aims to fill that gap by formulating policy recommendations from the lessons of China and Japan--two countries that have taken divergent approaches to facilitating familial and communal eldercare. Conventional wisdom paints cultural portraits with a broad brush: inescapable forces fight against familial and communal eldercare in the West, while Eastern cultures revere the elderly. But cultural ideals and characterizations do not always accord with reality. Similar to the United States, cultural and societal trends in both China and Japan have resisted government efforts to place the eldercare burden on families and communities. This Essay explores how each government’s response has altered eldercare practices and elucidates general principles applicable to the American-eldercare context.
Part I begins by defining eldercare and explaining the benefits of familial and communal eldercare. It concludes with a brief survey and analysis of familial and communal eldercare’s past, present, and future in America. With the goal of increasing familial and communal eldercare in mind, this Essay turns towards two differing international examples. Part II scrutinizes China’s solution--mandating familial and communal eldercare to alleviate government costs. Part III analyzes Japan’s approach--institutionalizing encouragement of familial and communal eldercare. Each Part also evaluates American analogs, and possible reform opportunities in the United States. An all-inclusive assessment and comparison would require empirical studies and elaboration beyond this Essay’s scope. Instead of purporting to meet these demands, this Essay intends to chronicle the successes and shortcomings of China and Japan and give American policymakers a better understanding of pertinent considerations in formulating eldercare policy.