Thursday, September 3, 2015
Third Circuit Rules Medicaid Applicants' Short-Term Annuities Are Not "Resources" Preventing Eligibility
In a long awaited decision on two consolidated cases analyzing coverage for nursing home care, the Third Circuit ruled that "short-term annuities" purchased by the applicants cannot be treated by the state as "available resources" that would delay or prevent Medicaid eligibility. The 2 to 1 decision by the court in Zahner v. Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Human Services was published September 2, 2015, reversing the decision (linked here) of the Western District of Pennsylvania in January 2014.
The opinion arises out of (1) an almost $85k annuity payable in equal monthly installments of $6,100 for 14 months, that would be used to pay Donna Claypoole's nursing home care "during the period of Medicaid ineligibility that resulted from her large gifts to family members"; and (2) a $53k annuity purchased by Connie Sanner, that would pay $4,499 per month for 12 months, again to cover an ineligibility period created by a large gift to her children.
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) argued that the transactions were "shams" intended "only to shield resources from the calculation of Medicaid eligibility." However, the majority of the Third Circuit analyzed the transactions under federal law's "four-part test for determining whether an annuity is included within the safe harbor and thus not counted as a resource," concluding:
Clearly, if Congress intended to limit the safe harbor to annuities lasing two or more years, it would have been the height of simplicity to say so. We will not judicially amend Transmittal 64 by adding that requirement to the requirements Congress established for safe harbor treatment. Therefore, Claypoole's and Sanner's 14-and 12-month contracts with ELCO are for a term of years as is required by Transmittal 64.
Further, on the issue of "actuarial soundness," the court ruled:
[W]e conclude that any attempt to fashion a rule that would create some minimum ratio between duration of annuity and life expectancy would constitute an improper judicial amendment of the applicable statutes and regulations. It would be an additional requirement to those that Congress has already prescribed and result in very practical difficulties that can best be addressed by policy choices made by elected representatives and their appointees.
The her short dissent, Judge Marjorie Rendell explained she would have affirmed the lower court's ruling in favor of DHS on the "grounds that the annuities ... were not purchased for an investment purpose, but, rather, were purchased in order to qualify for benefits." In addition, she accepted DHS' argument the annuities were not actuarially sound.
September 3, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
UCLA's Center for Health Policy Research has issued its August 2015 report on "The Hidden Poor," using county-by-county data to demonstrate that "federal" definitions of poverty are not a sufficient measure of true poverty for seniors. What are the "hidden poor?" The UCLA report explains: "The Hidden Poor are defined as those who have incomes above 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), but who do not have enough income to make ends meet as calculated by the Elder Index."
A recent article in the Sacramento Bee highlights key components of the analysis:
More than 300,000 elderly Californians are officially poor, as measured by the federal government, but their numbers triple to more than 1 million when the “hidden poor” are counted, according to a new study from UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research.
National poverty guidelines say that for a single elderly adult living alone, the poverty line is $10,890 a year, but UCLA’s “elder index” puts it at $23,364 in California.
Those “hidden poor” Californians over 65 tend to be Latino or black. Their greatest concentrations are found in rural counties with overall low income levels, topped by Imperial County, where more than 40 percent of the elderly are the hidden poor....
The study said population groups with especially large proportions of the hidden poor include grandparents raising grandchildren, elderly with adult children living at home, and single elders.
Accurate measurements of poverty are core to planning of resources for any age group, including seniors. How does your state account for needy seniors?
Friday, August 28, 2015
Medicaid Eligibility: Ohio Supreme Court Addresses Effect of Post-Admission, Pre-Eligibility Transfer of Home
One year and six days after hearing oral argument in Estate of Atkinson v. Ohio Department of Job & Family Services, a divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State in a Medicaid eligibility case involving transfer of the community home. The majority, in a 4-3 vote, ruled that "federal and state Medicaid law do not permit unlimited transfers of assets from an institutional spouse to a community spouse after the CSRA (Community Spouse Resource Allowance) has been set." However, the court also remanded the case to the lower court for recalculation of the penalty period under narrow, specific provisions of state and federal law.
Attorneys representing families in "Medicaid planning" scenarios will be disappointed in the ruling, because it rejected "exempt asset" and "timing" arguments that would have permitted some greater sheltering of assets after the ill spouse's admission to the nursing home.
At the same time, the complex reasoning and specific facts (involving transfer of the family home out of the married couple's "revocable trust" to the community spouse), will likely create additional business for elder law specialists, especially as the majority distinguished the 2013 federal appellate court ruling in Hughes v. McCarthy, that permitted use of spousal transfers using "annuities."
The dissent was strongly worded:
It is clear that the law treats the marital home very carefully to prevent spousal impoverishment at the end of life. And that is the public policy we should be embracing. Based on the plain language of the federal statutes and the Ohio Administrative Code, as well as the holding of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Hughes v. McCarthy, 734 F.3d 473, I would hold that the transfer of the home between spouses prior to Medicaid eligibility being established is not an improper transfer and is not subject to the CSRA cap.
To view the oral argument of the case before the Ohio Supreme Court, see here.
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Justice in Aging offers a very interesting examination of training standards for the broad array of persons who assist or care for persons with dementia, including volunteers and professionals working in health care facilities or emergency services. The series of 5 papers is titled "Training to Serve People with Dementia: Is Our Health Care System Ready?" The Alzheimer's Association provided support for the study.
The papers include:
- Paper 1: Issue Overview
- Paper 2: A Review of Dementia Training Standards across Health Care Settings
- Paper 3: A Review of Dementia Training Standards across Professional Licensure
- Paper 4: Dementia Training Standards for First Responders, Protective Services, and Ombuds
- Paper 5: Promising Practices-Washington State-A Trailblazer in Dementia Training
To further whet your appetite for digging into the well written and organized papers, key findings indicate that "most dementia training requirements focus on facilities serving people with dementia," rather than recognizing care and services are frequently provided in the home. Further there is "vast" variation from state to state regarding the extent of training required or available, and in any licensing standards. The reports specifically address the need for training for first responders who work outside the traditional definition of "health care," including law enforcement, investigative and emergency personnel.
If you need an example of why dementia-specific training is needed for law enforcement, including supervisors and staff at jails, see the facts contained in Goodman v. Kimbrough, reported earlier on this Blog.
August 27, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Traditional estate practice attorneys are facing ever-increasing competition from commercial sites offering document preparation for set fees, usually through use of on-line templates for wills and similar estate planning documents. LegalZoom, Inc., the brainchild of attorneys, including Brian Lee and Robert Shapiro (of O.J. Simpson trial fame) and begun in 2001, is one of the biggest commercial document companies.
Traditional lawyers point out that they provide not just "documents" but core counseling and advice about the larger issues that may be involved in proper estate planning. Recently, however, I've noticed LegalZoom is also touting availability of "legal help" through its television commercials, with the tagline "Real Attorneys. Real Advice." Here's a link to one recent example.
The small print at the bottom of the page at the end includes full names and locations of the several attorneys who say "hi" during the television commercial, plus the following:
"This is an advertisement of a prepaid legal services plan, not for an individual attorney. This is not an attorney recommendation or legal advice. No comparative qualitative statements intended.... For the attorneys' full addresses, a list of non-appearing attorneys and more information, please visit legalzoom.com."
Earlier this year, LegalZoom filed an antitrust lawsuit against the North Carolina Bar, asserting that the organization was "unreasonable barring" the company from offering a prepaid legal services plan in its state. The suit cites the February 2015 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission. LegalZoom filed an amicus brief in that case outlining its theory that misuse of state bar regulatory authority to restrict access to legal advice harms consumers.
August 26, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Property Management, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
An interesting approach to the topic of aging faculties in higher education recently came across my virtual desk in the form of an advertisement for an upcoming webinar (with an interesting price tag to match). The title of the program is "Managing and Supporting an Aging Workforce," offered by Academic Impressions (a company I'm not familiar with) on November 15, 2015 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. EST.
The brochure advises "Given the nature of this topic, this online training is appropriate for human resources professionals, department chairs, deans, and senior administrators who deal with faculty and personnel issues."
Here's the description, which strikes me as charting a careful approach to helping (encouraging?) older faculty members make the decision to retire, without running afoul of age discrimination laws.
Experienced academic and administrative employees are the pillars for many institutions in higher education. However, with many faculty and staff members working well into their 60’s and 70’s, administrators face the challenge of supporting an aging workforce while having the appropriate policies and procedures in place.
Learn how to better balance the interests of your employees with the needs of your institution. This webcast will cover:
Laws governing discrimination and how to remain in compliance
Appropriate steps for dealing with diminishing capabilities
Performance reviews, policies, and procedures
Monday, August 24, 2015
In a recent guardianship case reviewed by the North Dakota Supreme Court, the alleged incapacitated person (AIP), a woman suffering "mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease and dementia," did not challenge the need for an appointed representative, but proposed two friends, rather than any relatives, to serve as her co-guardians. The lower court rejected her proposal, finding that a niece, in combination with a bank, was better able to serve as her court-appointed guardian/conservator.
On appeal, the AIP challenged the outcome on the grounds that the court had made no findings that she was without sufficient capacity to choose her own guardians. In The Matter of Guardianship of B.K.J., decided on July 30, 2015, the ND Supreme Court affirmed the appointment of the niece, concluding that although state law requires consideration of the AIP's "preference," no special findings of incapacity were necessary to reject that preference.
Contrary to [the AIP's] argument [State law] does not require the district court to make a specific finding that a person is of insufficient mental capacity to make an intelligent choice regarding appointing a guardian. While it might have been helpful to have a specific finding, we will not reverse so long as the district court did not abuse its discretion in appointing a guardian.... Here, it is clear the district court was not of the opinion [that the AIP] acted with or has sufficient capacity to make an intelligent choice. Rather, the district court's findings noted [she] testified that she did not trust [her niece] anymore, but was unable to recall why . . . .
Decisions such as these can be inherently difficult to manage, at least in the early stages, especially if the AIP is unlikely to cooperate with the decision-making of the "better" appointed guardian.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
An interesting dispute is moving forward in federal court in California, involving interpretation of coverage under a long-term care insurance (LTCI) policy. The case is Gutowitz v. Transamerica Life Insurance Company, (Case No. 2:14-cv-06656-MMM) in the Central District of California. UPDATE: link to Order dated August 14, 2015.
In 1991, plaintiff Erwin Gutowitz purchased a long-term care insurance policy, allegedly requesting the "highest level of long-term care coverage available," and presumably paying the annual premiums for more than 20 years. Eventually, following a 2013 diagnosis of Alzheimer's, Erwin Gutowitz needed assistance, moving into an apartment at Aegis Living of Ventura, which was licensed in California as a "Residential Care Facility for the Elderly" (an RCFE). With the help of his son as his designated health care agent, he then made a claim for long-term care benefits under his policy. The claim was denied by Transamerica on the ground that the location was not a "nursing home" as defined in the LTCI policy.
Insurers understandably prefer not to pay claims if they can avoid doing so. In this case the insurer attempted to avoid the claim on the grounds that only certain types of facilities (or a higher level of care) were covered under this policy's "Daily Nursing Home Benefit."
On August 14, 2015, United States District Judge Margaret Morrow issued a comprehensive (34 page) order, copy linked above, denying key arguments made by Transamerica in its summary judgment motions.
August 18, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, August 16, 2015
The National Aging & Law Conference is scheduled for October 29-30, 2015 at the Hilton Arlington, Arlington, VA. A number of ABA commissions and divisions are sponsors of this conference including the Commission on Legal Problems of the Elderly, the Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits & Services, the Senior Lawyers Division and the Real Property, Trust & Estate Law Section. The website describes the conference
The 2015 National Aging and Law Conference (NALC) will bring together substantive law, policy, and legal service development and delivery practitioners from across the country. The program will include sessions on Medicare, Medicaid, guardianship, elder abuse, legal ethics, legal service program development and delivery, consumer law, income security, and other issues.
The 2015 National Aging and Law Conference marks the second year that this conference has been hosted by the American Bar Association. This year’s agenda will include 24 workshops and 4 plenary sessions on key topics in health care, income security, elder abuse, alternatives to guardianship, consumer law, and legal service development and delivery. The focus of the agenda is on issues impacting law to moderate income Americans age 60 and over and the front line advocates that serve them.
August 16, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, August 14, 2015
In a recent article for the University of Baltimore Law Review, John C. Craft, a clinical professor at Faulkner University Law, draws upon the history of legislation governing powers of attorney to advocate a return to effectiveness of the POA being conditioned by an event, such as proof of incapacity. Professor Craft, who is the director of his law school's Elder Law Clinic, writes:
Section 109 in the Uniform Power of Attorney Act should be revised making springing effectiveness of an agent's powers the default rule. Springing powers of attorney provide a type of protection that may actually prevent power of attorney abuse. The current protective provisions in the UPOAA focus in large part on the types of abuse that occur after an agent has begun acting for the principal. As opposed to arguably ineffective “harm rules” intended to punish an unscrupulous agent, springing powers of attorney are a type of “power rule” intended to limit an agent's “ability to accumulate power . . . in the first place.” The event triggering an agent's accumulation of power -- the principal's incapacity -- may never occur. A financial institution may prevent an unscrupulous agent from activating his or her power and conducting an abusive transaction simply by asking for proof that the principal is incapacitated. In addition, making springing effectiveness the standard serves the goal of enhancing a principal's autonomy.
For his complete analysis, read Preventing Exploitation and Preserving Autonomy: Making Springing Powers of Attorney the Standard.
August 14, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Earlier this summer, a North Carolina appellate court reversed a trial court's finding that "membership fees" tied to condominium purchases in a retirement community were "unconscionable." In a class action suit filed by residents against Cedars of Chapel Hill LLC., this summer's ruling permits the defendant company to continue to market and sell its retirement condos as "fee simple" units in combination with "continuing care member" contracts, although the court also remanded for a jury trial before the lower court.
In a highly technical ruling that examined state real estate transfer fee rules, the North Carolina's marketable title act, and arguments under the common law about unequal bargaining power, the appellate court rejected summary judgment in favor of the residents. The court addressed allegations of both procedural and substantive unconscionability in the contracting process. The court explained in part:
Substantive unconscionability “refers to harsh, one-sided, and oppressive contract terms.” … The terms must be “so oppressive that no reasonable person would make them on the one hand, and no honest and fair person would accept them on the other.” Brenner v. Little Red Sch. House Ltd., 302 N.C. 207, 213, 274 S.E.2d 206, 210 (1981). Plaintiffs, in raising this issue, contended that the fees in question were “exorbitantly high,” that the documents at issue were “decidedly one-sided in favor of the Company,” and that plaintiffs lacked “ability ... to negotiate any of the terms of the covenants and conditions in question in this case.” Plaintiffs further noted that the market for CCRCs in Chapel Hill is very small, leaving few alternatives.
…[W]e find plaintiffs' arguments unavailing. We recently held that “the times in which consumer contracts were anything other than adhesive are long past.” Torrence v. Nationwide Budget Fin., ––– N.C.App. ––––, ––––, 753 S.E.2d 802, 812 (quoting AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, –––U.S. ––––, ––––, 131 S.Ct. 1740, 1750, 179 L.Ed.2d 742, 755 (2011)), review denied, cert. denied, 367 N.C. 505, 759 S.E.2d 88 (2014). The mere fact that plaintiffs lacked the ability to negotiate contract terms does not create substantive unconscionability, nor does the fact that defendants were among the only providers of CCRC facilities. We hold that plaintiffs did not adequately demonstrate unconscionability as a matter of law, and that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to unconscionability, which precluded summary judgment.
For more of this ruling, see Wilner v. Cedars of Chapel Hill LLC., 773 S.E 2d. 333 (N.C. Ct. App., 2015).
For reactions from the parties' representatives, see NC Appeals Court Ruling Favors Cedars of Chapel Hill Condo Fees.
For an additional, interesting discussion of business perspectives on retirement developer control, written prior to the most recent appellate court ruling, see Two Pitfalls of Leveraging Developer Influence, from a North Carolina law firm blog.
This case -- revealing the range of complexities in contracts for senior housing and services -- is another example of why I added "Contracts" law to my teaching package, with elder law!
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Mary Jane Ciccarello, co-director of the Borchard Center on Law and Aging, recently sent us the latest news on the fellowships announced for the 2015-16 grant year. There is strong competition for these key sources of funding for recent law school graduates to engage in new or expanded initiatives in law and aging. The new fellows include:
- Krista Granen, a 2015 University of California-Hastings graduate, who will partner with Bay Area Legal Aid in San Francisco to implement a multi-faceted project to provide direct services, establish a mobile “pop-up” clinic to accommodate seniors’ physical and capacity based impairments, and promulgate resource materials in the intersectional areas of consumer protection and Social Security. Her project will promote economic security for low-income seniors residing in Santa Clara County, a county that simultaneously experiences extreme class stratification and a dearth of necessary legal services.
- Jennifer Kye, a 2014 UVA graduate, at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, who will implement a three-part project focused on increasing vulnerable seniors’ access to Medicaid home and community-based services. Her project will include: (1) systemic advocacy at the state level to expand the availability and improve the delivery of these critically needed home-based services; (2) development of a self-help manual that will allow seniors to advocate for themselves in accessing services in their own homes; and (3) direct representation of low-income older adults in obtaining and keeping home-based services and supports.
- Stephanie Ridella Vittandsm, a 2014 Chicago-Kent graduate, who will continue her work at the Chicago Center for Disability and Elder Law, advocating for low-income seniors in housing matters, including eviction defense, public housing voucher termination defense, and representing seniors evicting tenants or family members from their homes. By prioritizing time-sensitive housing cases and conducting expedited intake interviews, she can continue to intervene in emergency housing cases. She will continue to administer the Pro Se Guardianship Help Desk, which provides assistance to petitioners seeking guardianship over family members.
- Shana Wynn, a 22015 graduate of North Carolina Central Law School, who joins Justice in Aging (formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center) and the Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP) in Washington, DC. Ms. Wynn will work closely with Justice in Aging attorneys to formulate policy recommendations to improve the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) representative payee program for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients and Social Security beneficiaries. Ms. Wynn will partner with NLSP to provide pro bono services to low-income seniors and secure access to healthcare and public benefits such as SSI. The primary goal of the project is to identify and address problems relating to SSA’s representative payee program as a means to better protect our most vulnerable seniors from misuse of their modest incomes.
August 12, 2015 in Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Grant Deadlines/Awards, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Legal Practice/Practice Management | Permalink | Comments (1)
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Avenging angels or unholy alliance? A lawsuit filed by the New Mexico Attorney General in December 2014 against Preferred Care Partners Management Group, a large, privately held management company operating nursing homes in New Mexico and nationally, raises interesting questions about whether AGs should be teaming with private lawyers to pursue cases of alleged malpractice, abuse or fraud affecting consumers. The Plano, Texas-based defendant asserts that "lobbying" of state attorney generals by private firms to pursue questionable claims is improper, pointing to campaign contributions paid by law firms or individual lawyers, as well as contingent fee arrangements that defendants argue reduce the States' accountability.
Current Attorney General Hector Balderas blasted back at the company through a spokesman. “Bilking taxpayers for inadequate care and denying helpless and vulnerable residents basic services will not be tolerated,” he said. “Our office will continue to aggressively protect New Mexico’s taxpayers and our most vulnerable populations.”
Currently, the New Mexico case is in federal court, following the defendant's removal from the original filing in state court. The law suit -- and the issue of private/public partnerships in pursuing claims on behalf of consumers and/or taxpayers -- is generating a lot of attention in the business world. Recent coverage includes linked news stories by the New York Times, the Albuquerque Journal, and McKnight's LTC News.
August 11, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink
Monday, August 10, 2015
The Public Policy Institute (PPI) of California recently profiled demographic changes likely to affect that state in coming decades, including the impact of a projected increase, to 20%, of the proportion of the population aged 65+. One especially interesting component is the impact of seniors who are likely to be "single," especially those without the assistance of children, spouses, or other close family members, a trend that seems likely to be true nationwide. From PPI's report (minus charts and footnotes):
Family structures in this age group will also change considerably—in particular, marital status will look quite different among seniors in 2030 than it does today.... The fastest projected rates of growth are among the divorced/separated and never married groups. Between 2012 and 2030, the number of married people over age 65 will increase by 75 percent—but the number who are divorced or separated will increase by 115 percent, and the number who are never married will increase by 210 percent....
Another significant change will be in the number of seniors who have children. Those who have never been married are much less likely to have children than those who have been married at some point. As a result, seniors in the future will be more likely to be childless than those today.... In 2012, just 12 percent of 75-year-old women had no children. We project that by 2030, nearly 20 percent will be childless. Since we know that adult children often provide care for their senior parents, these projections suggest that alternative non-family sources of care will become more common in the future.
Thus, just as we're making noise about supporting seniors' preference to "age at home," we may be over-assuming that family members will be available to provide key care without direct cost to the states. Hmmm. That's problematic, right?
More from the California PPI report, including some conclusions:
California's senior population will grow rapidly over the next two decades, increasing by an estimated 87 percent, or four million people. This population will be more diverse and less likely to be married or have children than senior are today. The policy implications of an aging population are wide-ranging. We estimate that about one million seniors will have some difficulties with self-care, and that more than 100,000 will require nursing home care. To ensure nursing home populations do not increase beyond this number, the state will need to pursue policies that provide resources to allow more people to age in their own homes....
The [California In-Home Service & Supports] IHSS program provides resources for seniors to hire workers, including family members, to provide support with personal care, household work, and errands. One benefit of hiring family members is that they may provide more culturally competent care. Medi-Cal is already the primary payer for nursing home residents, and the state could potentially save money by providing more home- and community-based services that support people as they age, helping to keep them out of institutions. Finally, the projected growth in nursing home residents and in seniors with self-care limitations will require a larger health care workforce. California’s community college system will be a critical resource in training qualified workers focused on the senior population.
The San Diego Union-Tribune follows up on this theme in California Will Have More Seniors Living Alone, by Joshua Stewart.
August 10, 2015 in Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Retirement, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, August 7, 2015
In the wake of devastating reports about poor accountability following inspections of nursing homes in Pennsylvania under a previous governor, plus a new civil lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office, the current Pennsylvania Secretary of Health has announced a state task force to study certain issues.
According to the state press release, the task force "will be charged with identifying ways the department can advance quality improvement in Pennsylvania's long-term care facilities. The goal is to review current regulations and identify areas that the department may improve to ensure that nursing homes are operating at the highest level regarding the quality and safety of their residents."'
The Secretary's office indicates that in addition to "members of the Governor's Office, the secretaries of the Pennsylvania departments of Aging, Human Services, and State," appointed task force members include:Jaqueline Zinn, PhD - Temple University (Business School)
Mary Naylor, PhD, FAAN, RN - University of Pennsylvania (Nursing, Gerontology)
Steven Handler, MD - University of Pittsburgh (Medical School, Biometric Informatics)
Rachel Werner, MD, PhD - University of Pennsylvania (Medical School, Quality of Care)
Dana Mukamel, PhD – University of California, Irvine (Public Health, Quality of Care)
David Grabowski PhD - Harvard University (Medical School, Health Care Policy)
Barbara Bowers RN, PhD, FAAN - University of Wisconsin (Institute of Aging, Long Term Care)
Pennsylvania State Senator Pat Vance
Pennsylvania State Representative Mathew Baker
On the positive side, it is good to see non-Pennsylvanians appointed to the team, all with excellent credentials. Perhaps on the less positive side, it seems to be a very large team, made up mostly of very prominent but busy "volunteers," two factors which in my experience can reduce efficiency.
For news accounts of the potential political factors that may be play in this recent history, see here and related articles linked below.
August 7, 2015 in Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink
Thursday, August 6, 2015
From a recent NPR piece on Knowing How Doctors Die Can Change End-of-Life Discussions:
Dr. Kendra Fleagle Gorlitsky recalls the anguish she felt performing CPR on elderly, terminally ill patients. It looks nothing like what we see on TV. In real life, ribs often break and few survive the ordeal.
"I felt like I was beating up people at the end of their life," she says. "I would be doing the CPR with tears coming down sometimes, and saying, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, goodbye.' Because I knew that it very likely not going to be successful. It just seemed a terrible way to end someone's life."
Gorlitsky now teaches medicine at the University of Southern California and says these early clinical experiences have stayed with her. Gorlitsky wants something different for herself and for her loved ones. And most other doctors do too: A Stanford University study shows almost 90 percent of doctors would forgo resuscitation and aggressive treatment if facing a terminal illness.
This selection also reminded me about an important essay from a few years ago, How Doctors Die, by Dr. Ken Murray. Hat tip to my Dickinson Law colleague Professor Laurel Terry for sending me this NPR piece.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
In recent weeks, I've been doing background research on "cross-border retirement" issues and therefore I was interested to read that ElderLawGuy Jeffrey Marshall's brother has retired to Mexico and "loves it."
For some, the reasons may include comparative costs for a range of services, including support for "independent" living, or more skilled care, as documented by the PBS News Hour program on "Why Foreign Retirees Are Flocking to Mexico." The program interviews retirees in central Mexican communities near Lake Chapala. The program compares "average cost for independent living" in U.S. retirement communities of "about $2,500 per month, with one Mexican community's prices for "rent, all utilities, connections for internet, television ... plus three meals a day" at "just a little over $1,000 a month."
But, as the program touches on (only briefly), Medicare benefits don't apply in Mexico (although, perhaps they should?). And there are also important questions about reciprocity in care for Mexican retirees who may have spent many working years in the U.S.
Monday, August 3, 2015
The Arizona Republic recently reported on Arizona legislation affecting home care agencies that will become effective in 2015, after a similar bill was vetoed in 2014 by a previous governor. According to news reports, the new law requires agencies to disclose to consumers whether they do background checks on employees, what type of training they use for employees, the costs of services and their hiring and firing practices.
In my experience, such a "disclosure" focus is different than setting minimum substantive standards for home care, and puts a great deal of responsibility for evaluation of "disclosed" information on consumers, who when it comes to long-term care, may already be under stress.
"We want to help the consumer understand better and make an educated decision," said Mark Young, president of the Arizona In-Home Care Association (AZNHA) who helped press for passage of the bill. "A lot of times, clients get in crisis mode when they need to make these decisions because they don't know about the industry."
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, passed unanimously in the Senate and by a 51-8 margin in the House. Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill into law April 1.
Home-care service owners could be charged with a misdemeanor if their company does not comply with the new regulations, the attorney general's office said. But the law does not apply to volunteer caregivers and home-care service organizations already licensed by the state or federal government.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
The legislation carrying the name Notice of Observation Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility (NOTICE) Act, that has now passed both the House and Senate, goes to President Obama for signature. If signed by the president, it will still be another year before its official effective date.
Sadly, it doesn't actually fix the problem for the patients with the fact that hospitals frequently attempt to hold patients on a fictional "observation only" status. Money is still the issue. Hospitals want to avoid harsh potential Medicare penalties associated with readmissions of "admitted" patients. At the same time, the lack of "admitted status" reduces the ability of patients to seek Medicare coverage for rehabilitation care post-hospitalization. But now the patients get better "notice" of their status -- and the potential for it to affect Medicare coverage and therefor out-of-pocket expense for the patients.
As detailed in new stories in Southern California media, an important suit by University of California San Diego (UCSD) against University of Southern California (USC) highlights a battle between public and private research enterprises. Control over millions of dollars is stake for Alzheimer's-related research. From the San Diego Union-Tribune in a Sunday feature article by Larry Gordon, Gary Robbins and Bradley Fikes:
In the lawsuit, U.C. San Diego alleges that USC, [Alzheimer's researcher Paul] Aisen and eight colleagues conspired to take research data involving more than 1,000 patients and other assets, including an estimated $100 million in federal and private funding to a new Alzheimer's study center in the San Diego Area. Aisen and USC deny any wrongdoing and contend that UC San Diego is trying to inhibit the freedom to move jobs and is threatening the data's security.
A Superior Court judge in San Diego last week denied USC's request to block UC San Diego's access to that data.
Richard Seligman, the associate vice president for research administration at Caltech who has more than four decades of experience dealing with grants, said he had never heard of such a lawsuit even though competition for grants and noted faculty has gotten more fierce.
Stakeholders interested in the outcome of the research are reported to be taking note of the suit, with Mary Carrillo, the chief science officer for the Alzheimer's Association quoted as saying the association wants a "speedy resolution" of the lawsuit to keep research going forward.
Left in an uncomfortable middle ground are the National Institutes of Health and its subsidiary National Institute on Aging, which provides about $11 million per year to the UC Alzheimer's Center. While confirming that UC San Diego still holds that grant, officials at those agencies said they must approve whether funding like that stays put or moves to another school with a principal investigator like Aisen.
For additional background on the lawsuit, see a related Los Angeles Times piece here. Reporters from the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune have collaborated on these stories.
On Friday, July 24, a California trial court ruled that the key research data must be returned to UCSD and therefore does not go "with" the faculty member, Aisen, recruited away from San Diego by USC. Details here.
As further evidence of the battle for primacy in southern California medical research, USC and UCSD have each courted the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, with University of California-San Diego energing as the winning suitor for "affiliation." Details here.