Monday, March 2, 2015
The White House Council of Economic Advisors released "The Effects of Conflicted Investment Advice on Retirement Savings" in February 2015, and the report is a must-read for anyone teaching courses on aging policy.
The major focus of the analysis is on evidence of "conflicts of interest" for those advising individuals on roll-over investment of IRA accounts, but the findings undoubtedly have relevance beyond that window on retirement planning.
The decision whether to roll over one’s assets into an IRA can be confusing and the set of financial products that can be held in an IRA is vast, including savings accounts, money market accounts, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, individual stocks and bonds, and annuities. Selecting and managing IRA investments can be a challenging and time-consuming task, frequently one of the most complex financial decisions in a person’s life, and many Americans turn to professional advisers for assistance. However, financial advisers are often compensated through fees and commissions that depend on their clients’ actions. Such fee structures generate acute conflicts of interest: the best recommendation for the saver may not be the best recommendation for the adviser’s bottom line.
The report focuses on the quantifiable cost from conflicted advice, concluding that savers receiving such advice "earn returns roughly 1 percentage point lower each year." But isn't there also a deeper cost, as the large swath of middle-income Americans, who may have justified fears of being able to safely evaluate investment risk and their investment advisors, do nothing productive with their savings?
The New York Times editorial board draws upon the White House Council's report to call for adoption of reality-based rules on fiduciary duties for the financial services industry. See NYT's "Protecting Fragile Retirement Nest Eggs."
Sunday, March 1, 2015
This week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the latest challenge to the ACA, in King v. Burwell. The New York Times offers historical perspective about an earlier journey to enact federal legislation that mandated the nation's first broad health care coverage, the Medicare program:
Lyndon B. Johnson was often derided for being egocentric, but when it came time to sign his landmark bill creating Medicare, 50 years ago this July, he graciously insisted on sharing the credit with the 81-year-old Harry Truman. At almost the last moment, Johnson decided to change the location from Washington to Truman’s presidential library in Independence, Mo.
During the ceremony, Johnson noted that in 1945, the newly installed President Truman had called for national health insurance, planting “the seeds of compassion and duty which have today flowered into care for the sick, and serenity for the fearful.” Johnson then presented his host with the nation’s first Medicare card. Deeply moved, Truman later wrote in a letter to Johnson that the ceremony was “the highlight of my post-White House days.”
For more details, read "LBJ and Truman: The Bond That Helped Forge Medicare."
For more on this week's Supreme Court challenge, from the Washington Post, see "Five Myths About King v. Burwell."
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
USA Today reports on home care workers "joining a nationwide movement" to raise wages, with rallies planned for "more than 20 cities in the next two weeks."
As described by journalist Paul Davidson,
"Like the fast food workers, the 2 million personal care and home health aides seek a $15 hourly wage and the right to unionize, which is barred in some states. Their median hourly wage is about $9.60 and annual pay averages just $18,600 because many work part-time, according to the Labor Department and National Employment Law Project. That puts the industry among the lowest paying despite fast-growing demand for home-based caregivers to serve aging Baby Boomers over the next decade.
'Home care providers living in poverty don't have a stable standard of living so they can provide quality care,' says Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which is spearheading the home care aides' movement and backed the fast-food worker strikes."
According to a representative of "Home Care Association of America, which represented agencies that employ personal-care aides," companies attempt to "balance the ability to keep care affordable with attracting employees."
Thanks to Dickinson Law 3L student Jake Sternberger for pointing me to this news item.
February 24, 2015 in Consumer Information, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) is offering a free webinar on "Medical Debt: Overview of New IRS Regulations and Industry Best Practices" on March 4, 2015 from 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern Time.
The hosts describe the webinar as follows:
This webinar will present an overview of the IRS final regulations governing financial assistance and collection policies of nonprofit hospitals. The regulations require nonprofit hospitals to have written financial assistance policies; regulate debt collection by nonprofit hospitals and third party
agencies; and prohibit the imposition of "chargemaster" rates to patients eligible for financial assistance.
Find out how to use the regulations to help clients who owe medical debts to nonprofit hospitals and protect them from lawsuits, liens, and credit reporting damage. The webinar will also review the voluntary best practices on medical account resolution issued by the Healthcare Financial Management Association.
Here is the link for REGISTRATION. Thanks to the National Senior Citizens Law Center (soon to be "officially" Justice in Aging) for sharing news of this educational opportunity of clear relevance to older persons and their families.
Friday, February 20, 2015
Seasons 22 Restaurants, with locations in more than ten states nationwide, has a reputation for dining that emphasizes farm-to-table freshness, naturally seasoned cooking, and with a pledge that nothing on the menu is over 475 calories. Cutting edge, and hip.
Not so hip are the allegations by the EEOC that since 2010 the chain "engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice of age discrimination in hiring hourly workers," as described in a lawsuit filed by the EEOC this month:
"According to the lawsuit, various Seasons 52 management hiring officials would travel to new restaurant openings to oversee their staffing. Older, unsuccessful applicants across the nation were given varying explanations for their failure to be hired, including 'too experienced,' the restaurant's desire for a youthful image, looking for 'fresh' employees, and telling applicants that Seasons 52 'wasn't looking for old white guys.'
Age discrimination violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-20561-JLK, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks monetary relief for applicants denied employment because of their age, the adoption of strong policies and procedures to remedy and prevent age discrimination by Seasons 52, and training on discrimination for its managers and employees.
'This case represents one example of the barriers to hiring that some job applicants face,' said Malcolm S. Medley, district director for the EEOC's Miami District Office. 'Eradicating barriers to employment opportunities is a priority of the Commission.'"
Thanks to students in the Elder Law class at George Washington Law for sharing news of this case, which includes the response by Darden (the parent company) spokesman, denying the allegations and pledging to "defend this claim vigorously."
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
A long-running investigation of a doctor in Illinois for Medicaid and Medicare fraud is coming to a close. Michael Reinstein, "who for decades treated patients in Chicago nursing homes and mental health wards," has pleaded guilty to a felony charge for taking kickbacks from a pharmaceutical company. As detailed by the Chicago Tribune, on February 13, Reinstein admitted prescribing, and thus generating public payment for, various forms of the drug clozapine, widely described as a "risky drug of last resort."
The 71-year old doctor has been the target of the state and federal prosecutors for months, and he's also agreed to pay (which is, of course, different than actually paying) more than $3.7 million in penalties. He may still be able to reduce his prison time from 4 years to 18 months, if he "continues to assist investigators."
The investigation traces as far back as 2009, as detailed by a Chicago-Tribune/ProPublica series that revealed he had prescribed more of the antipsychotic drug in question to patients in "Medicaid's Illinois program in 2007 than all doctors in the Medicaid programs of Texas, Florida and North Carolina combined." Further, the Tribune/ProPublica series pointed to autopsy and court records that showed that, "by 2009, at least three patients under Reinstein's care had died of clozapine intoxication." Reinstein's, and one assumes, the pharmaceutical company's, defense was that the drug could have appropriate, therapeutic effects for patients, beyond the limited "on-label" realm.
Assuming that the government ever sees a dime in repayment, from either the doctor or the drug company, my next question is what happens to that money? At a minimum, shouldn't there be review of the effect of the drugs on these patients, some of whom may have been administered the drug for years? We keep reading that the drugs are "risky," but shouldn't there be evidence of real harm -- or perhaps even benefit -- from the documented "off-label" use? Certainly, prosecutions for off-label drugs are understandable attempts to claw-back, or at least reduce, public expenditures. But isn't more at stake, including the search for relief or workable solutions for patients who are in distress?
In March 2014, for example, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the maker of generic clozapine, reportedly agreed to pay more than $27.6 million to settle state and federal allegations that it induced Reinstein to prescribe the drug. Recovering misspent dollars is important. But I also would like to see evidence of the harm alleged by the government -- or the benefit asserted by the defendants -- from the administration of the drugs. Isn't objective study of the history of these real patients a very proper use of the penalties?
February 18, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Thursday, February 12, 2015
New rules from the "Administration on Aging of the Administration for Community Living." Honestly, is that the longest title for any unit in federal government? AoA and ACL operate under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and recently issued new final rules governing Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs.
Ombudsmen have traditionally had important roles to play as advocates for elderly or disabled residents in facility-based care.
The new rules complete the process of approval that commenced with proposed rules in June 2013. The effective date for the new rules -- deferred to permit implementation and training -- is July 1, 2016.
In a recent email to interested stakeholders, David Godfrey, senior attorney at the ABA's Commission on Law and Aging, comments positively on the new rules:
"Exciting news! ... A culmination of several years of collaborative work with our partners, this rule guides implementation of the portions of the Older Americans Act governing grants to states for operation of Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman programs.
- Key issues this rule addresses include:
- Responsibilities of key figures in the system, including the Ombudsman and representatives of the Office of the Ombudsman;
- Responsibilities of the entities in which LTC Ombudsman programs are housed;
- Criteria for establishing consistent, person-centered approaches to resolving complaints on behalf of residents;
- Appropriate role of LTC Ombudsman programs in resolving abuse complaints; and
- Conflicts of interest: processes for identifying and remedying conflicts so that residents have access to effective, credible ombudsman services."
As noted in the introduction to the new rules, a major reason for the change is to achieve better consistency across the nation, while still preserving the "independence" that has been a hallmark of the best programs.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Part 2 of the provocative New America Media series on "Death of a Black Nursing Home," describes a pervasive, discriminatory impact by states in deciding how to use Medicaid funding for health and long-term care. In "Why Medicaid's Racism Drove Historically Black Nursing Home Bankrupt," Wallace Roberts writes:
"About 90 percent of Lemington’s residents were Medicaid recipients. The industry’s average, however, is 60 percent, so Lemington’s mission of providing care for low-income people from the area put it at a competitive disadvantage.
Lemington’s over-reliance on Medicaid was the principal reason its debt grew from a few hundred thousand dollars in 1984, to more than $10 million, including a $5.5 million mortgage on a new facility in 1984.
Pennsylvania’s Medicaid payments for nursing home reimbursement were too low to enable the home to hire enough trained staff. Lemington’s former human resources director, Kevin Jordan, noted that the home was “always scrambling to cover payroll” and spent lots of money on 'legal fees fighting the union.'”
The article details serious mistakes made by individuals in the operation of Leimington Home for the Aged, but also points to essential problems in Medicaid funding that doomed the facility to failure. The author calls for reforms, including a consistent, national approach to long-term care funding, to eliminate -- or at least reduce -- the potential for misallocation of money by states:
"Although the leadership of Lemington Home must bear the responsibility for those legal judgments and the fate of an important institution, the racist history imbedded in Medicaid’s rules for the past 80 years should share the brunt of the blame for bankruptcies at hundreds of long-term care homes largely serving black, latino and low-income elders.
One needed change would be to award nursing homes in African American, Hispanic and low-income neighborhoods serving large numbers of Medicaid recipients larger “disproportionate share payments.” Under the law, such homes receive additional reimbursements for serving a larger-than-usual proportion of very poverty-level residents. But the higher rate also doesn’t kick in unless a facilty has at least a 90 percent occupancy rate, which many homes like Lemington can’t easily reach. Rules relaxing that standard would bring badly needed revenue to vulnerable homes.
Congress could also require that all nursing homes accept a minimum number of Medicaid patients so as to spread the financial burden.
But to truly do the job, Medicaid should be federalized—taken out of the hands of state and local officials, many of whom use get-tough rhetoric in elections to stigmatize and punish often-deserving people...."
The full articles are interesting -- we will link to any future parts of this bold series.
February 4, 2015 in Current Affairs, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Republican chairs of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Finance Committee recently wrote to the head of Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), demanding explanation for why 22 states and D,C. are "failing" to implement federal laws about Medicaid eligibility and asset transfer rules for Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) benefits. They write:
"We are troubled to learn that many states have not implemented all of the eligibility and asset transfer requirements enacted by OBRA and DRA. Information provided to us by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General (OIG) shows that, as of November 2013, only 28 states reported they implemented all of the relevant provisions from these two laws. Thus, although it has been over 20 years since enactment of OBRA and nearly 10 years since DRA, the remaining 22 states and the District of Columbia have yet to comply with federal law. California, which accounts for 12 percent of Medicaid LTSS spending, reported that it has not implemented the majority of the relevant provisions. As a result, federal Medicaid dollars may be paying for care for individuals who are not eligible for coverage under federal law, which puts a strain on resources for those individuals who are eligible and in need."
The Chairmen ask for answers to a list of questions (by February 27), focusing on what action CMS is taking or will take to bring states "into compliance." For example, they ask "How is CMS ensuring that federal Medicaid dollars are not being used to support coverage for individuals ineligible for LTSS under federal law?"
Here is the legislators' full letter, addressed to Marilyn Tavenner at CMS, dated January 23, 2015.
For another perspective on potential disparities among the states in administering Medicaid eligibility rules for LTSS, see AARP's Public Policy Institute Report on "Access to Long-Term Services and Supports: A 50-State Survey of Medicaid Financial Eligibility Standards" released in September 2010.
This letter presents an interesting juxtaposition with the Armstrong case now pending in the Supreme Court. On the one hand, federal and state governments are arguing in court that there is no private standing to challenge "underfunding" of federally mandated Medicaid programs; on the other hand Congress seems to be demanding that CMS stop any potential for overfunding Medicaid beneficiaries.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Directly from the White House:
The first White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA) was held in 1961, with subsequent conferences in 1971, 1981, 1995, and 2005. These conferences have been viewed as catalysts for development of aging policy over the past 50 years. The conferences generated ideas and momentum prompting the establishment of and/or key improvements in many of the programs that represent America’s commitment to older Americans including: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the Older Americans Act.
The 2015 White House Conference on Aging
2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The 2015 White House Conference on Aging is an opportunity to recognize the importance of these key programs as well as to look ahead to the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans for the next decade.
In the past, conference processes were determined by statute with the form and structure directed by Congress through legislation authorizing the Older Americans Act. To date, Congress has not reauthorized the Older Americans Act, and the pending bill does not include a statutory requirement or framework for the 2015 conference.
However, the White House is committed to hosting a White House Conference on Aging in 2015 and intends to seek broad public engagement and work closely with stakeholders in developing the conference. We also plan to use web tools and social media to encourage as many older Americans as possible to participate. We are engaging with stakeholders and members of the public about the issues and ideas most important to older individuals, their caregivers, and families. We also encourage people to submit their ideas directly through the Get Involved section on this website.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
On November 14, 2014, the Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's decision in a deceptively simple contract dispute. The question was whether a son, who was his mother's agent under a power of attorney, could be held personally liable for $8,700 incurred by his mother in nursing home costs. The ruling in Andover Village Retirement Community v. Cole confirmed the son's contractual liability.
When I first read about the case, I thought I would find another example of the often confusing use of "responsible party" labels for agents in a nursing home admission agreement, a topic I've written about at length before. However, the Ohio case was a new spin on that troublesome topic. According to the opinion, Andover Village actually presented two separate documents to the son at the time of his mother's admission. One document was an admission agreement that the son signed, pledging:
“When Resident's Responsible Person signs this Agreement on behalf of Resident, Resident's Responsible Person is responsible for payment to [Andover] to the extent Resident's Responsible Person has access and control of Resident's income and/or resources. By signing this Agreement the Resident's Responsible Person does not incur personal financial liability.”
The second document, titled "Voluntary Assumption of Personal Responsibility," was also signed by the son, but this time it stated, “I, Richard Cole, voluntarily assume personal financial responsibility for the care of Resident in the preceding Agreement.”
The court viewed the second document as the son's personal guarantee, and it was this document that triggered the court to find the son personally liable for his "voluntary" assumption of the obligation to pay costs not covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
The Ohio court leaves me with another question, not directly addressed in the decision. Did the son really make a knowing and voluntary decision to assume personal liability for costs, especially costs that can break most individual's piggy banks? Or, did the son sign a stack of papers he was told were routine and necessary for his mother to be admitted? Admissions to nursing homes are often made when everyone, the resident and the family members, is under stress.
At a minimum, I would like to think that a family's consultation with an experienced elder law attorney at the time of admission would have made a difference.
For facilities that are Medicare or Medicaid eligible -- and that is most nursing homes -- key federal laws, set forth at 42 U.S.C. §§ 1395i-3(c)(5)(A)(ii), 1396r(c)(5)(A)(ii) provide: “With respect to admissions practices, a skilled nursing facility must . . . not require a third party guarantee of payment to the facility as a condition of admission (or expedited admission) to, or continued stay in, the facility.”
I expect that an experienced elder law attorney would be familiar with this restriction on "mandatory" guarantees and would help the son see that for the nursing home to be compliant with federal law, any guarantee must be truly voluntary. Advice from an experienced elder law attorney would help to guard against the not-so-voluntary signing of a stack of papers that are presented as "necessary" to admit the resident. Perhaps a facility would refuse to admit the mother unless the son signs the "voluntary" agreement, but if that happens, it would be clear that the facility is violating the intention of federal law to protect individuals -- and families -- from waiving certain rights as a condition of admission or continued residence.
With that experienced lawyer's advice, a son could make a knowing and intentional decision to serve as his mother's contractual guarantor, and thus would be alert in advance to the ways that even small gaps can occur that are not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance. (Those small gaps can add up!) Alternatively, if the son is not willing or able to serve as his parent's guarantor, another facility might be the better choice.
In law school classes about elder law, we do teach Medicaid planning approaches, but frankly, that is usually a small part of any course. The majority of our time is spent on the abundant ways that individuals and families can be helped by an attorney who understands the full panoply of rights and obligations that attend growing older in the U.S. and beyond.
Hat tips to Pennsylvania attorney Jeffrey Marshall and Florida attorney Joseph Karp for alerts to the Ohio case.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Reason for celebration. Not only did Congress act, but it came together to help those with disabilities. The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act cleared the Senate on Tuesday on a vote of 76 to 16, which is the last step on its way to the President. As Gail Russell Chaddok of the Christian Science Monitor observes:
"But the reasons for its success go deeper and point to potential bipartisan paths forward on one of Congress’s most intractable issues: entitlement reform. The aim of the ABLE Act is to remove bureaucratic obstacles to help Americans save their own money to help pay for long-term care. To some activists, that could provide a template for reforming Medicare and Social Security in the next Congress.
The ABLE Act helps people with disabilities save for college and retirement. Under current law, a child diagnosed with a disability can’t have assets worth more than $2,000 or earn more than $680 per month without forfeiting eligibility for government programs like Medicaid. The ABLE Act would allow a tax-free savings account up to $100,000 to pay for disability-related expenses."
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Mark Friedman, an elder law and special needs attorney from New Jersey, recently wrote to comment on the important series offered by National Public Radio on use and misuse of certain medications in long-term care settings. Here is what Mark said:
"NPR ran a story on 'chemical restraints,' - nursing homes using anti-psychotic drugs to make unruly residents more pliable. According to the article, the residents are usually Alzheimer’s or dementia patients, and anti-psychotics can make the residents easier for staff to manage. But the drugs can be dangerous, increasing a resident’s risk of falls and exacerbating health problems. At high doses, anti-psychotics can also sap away emotions and personality and put the resident into a 'stupor.'
Administering drugs in this manner, any drugs, including anti-psychotics, without medical need and for the convenience of staff, is contrary to federal regulations. Unfortunately, it may also be widespread.
The NPR story includes a tool drawn from CMS data that shows the rate of residents on anti-psychotics at nursing homes across the country. You can look up the facility in which your loved one resides.
The news coverage shows that this issue is getting increased attention, and that’s a good thing. I think that as Americans age and more people have spouses and parents in nursing homes, the use of anti-psychotics as chemical restraints will have to diminish or end. People won’t stand for their loved ones being drugged into a stupor."
Thanks, Mark, for making sure we included this topic and the latest links for more coverage and your additional commentary. Along the same lines, I listened to an interesting follow-up conversation on AirTalk, a Los Angeles public radio affiliate's program, discussing "How California is Doing in the National Fight to Curb Over-Medication of Nursing Home Patients." That program, now available as a 23-minute podcast, included an articulate medical professional, Dr. Karl Steinberg, who described how he sees medication practices changing in long-term care, including better use of behavior health techniques, rather than medication, to help residents.
December 16, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Sunday, November 30, 2014
Justice Department Reaches $437,500 Agreement with City of Ocean Springs, MS to Resolve Disability Discrimination Lawsuit
The Justice Department announced a comprehensive settlement today, resolving a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the proposed consent decree, the City will pay $437,500 in damages to a psychiatric treatment facility that was discriminated against by the City. The decree also requires systemic reforms to the City's land use and zoning practices to eliminate barriers for providers of mental health services to people with disabilities and combat the stigma of mental illness. The complaint, also filed in federal court today, alleges that the City discriminated against Psycamore, LLC, an outpatient psychiatric treatment facility, when it denied a certificate of occupancy and a use permit because Psycamore treats patients with mental illness.
Saturday, November 29, 2014
On November 26, 2014, in Nay v. Department of Human Services, the Oregon Court of Appeals invalidated a 2008 attempt by the state to expand Medicaid estate recovery rules to reach assets conveyed prior to death by the Medicaid recipient to his or her spouse.
The court's ruling analyzes the portion of federal statutory law that permits, but does not require, states to expand Medicaid estate recovery programs to cover "any other real or personal property and other assets in which the [deceased] individual had any legal title or interest at the time of death... including such assets conveyed to a survivor, heir, or assign of the deceased individual through joint tenancy, tenancy in common, survivorship, life estate, living trust or other arrangement." Analysis of this language, which was mirrored by Oregon statutory law, leads the court to conclude that some ownership interest at time death of the Medicaid recipient must be present to make the asset a valid target of Medicaid estate recovery:
"Therefore, we conclude that 'other arrangement' in the context of the definition of “estate” means that assets transferred from the deceased 'individual'—the Medicaid recipient—by operation of law on account of or occurring at the recipient's death are included in that definition. Thus, the 'including' clause in the federal permissive definition of 'estate' incorporates nonprobate assets that are transferred from the Medicaid recipient to a third party by operation of law or other mechanism, but in which the deceased Medicaid recipient retained legal title or 'any' interest at the time of his or her death."
"By including the 'interspousal transfer' text in the pool of assets from which the state can recover from the surviving spouse's estate, the rule includes assets that necessarily were transferred before the recipient's death. Because we have concluded that such predeath transfers are antithetical to the definition of estate as provided by federal and state law (requiring that the recipient have an interest in the property at the time of his or her death), we conclude that DHS's amendments of OAR 461–135–0835(1)(e)(B)(iii) relating to interspousal transfers exceeded its statutory authority granted by ORS 416.350 and 42 USC section 1396p, and we hold those provisions invalid."
Monday, November 24, 2014
Several high profile incidents, such as those reported here in our Blog and here by the Philadelphia Inquirer, involving attorneys disciplined or convicted of theft of client funds, have triggered proposed changes in Pennsylvania's Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys. The rule changes proposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Disciplinary Board include:
- imposing restrictions on an attorney's brokering or offering of "investment products" connected to that lawyer's provision of legal services;
- clarifying the type of financial records that attorneys would be required to maintain and report, regarding their handling of client funds and fiduciary accounts;
- clarifying the obligation of attorneys to cooperate with investigations in a timely fashion;
- clarifying the obligation of suspended, disbarred, or "inactive" attorneys to cease operations and to notify clients "promptly" of the change in their professional status.
The Disciplinary Board called for comments on the proposed rule changes, noting that although individual claims against the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security are confidential, "Fund personnel can attest that from time to time, the number of claims filed against a single attorney will be in double digits and the total compensable loss will amount to millions of dollars." The comment window closed on November 3. 2014.
In recommending changes, the Disciplinary Board noted common threads running through many of the cases, including:
November 24, 2014 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, November 21, 2014
On November 19, attorneys representing families and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania argued consolidated cases before a panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, involving use of short-term annuities in connection with applications for Medicaid-funded care. The argument follows appeals from a January 2014 decision on summary judgment motions by the Western District of Pennsylvania in the case of Zahner et al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
A key issue on appeal is whether use of "shorter" term annuities is permitted by the language of federal Medicaid statutes referring to actuarially-sound annuities, or whether such use automatically constitutes a transfer of assets for less than fair value, and thus is treated as a prohibited gift. HCFA Transmittal 64 is the subject of much of the very technical debate.
The jurists on the panel are Judge Theodore McKee (the male judge's voice on the recording), Judge Marjorie Rendell, and Senior Judge Dolores Sloviter (the softer voice on the recording). Interestingly, rather early in the argument, at least two of the judges interject to make the observation that "there is nothing wrong with Medicaid planning, per se," noting, rather, that the issue is the extent to which specific planning approaches have been directly addressed by federal law.
Listening to the oral argument in this case provides an opportunity for students in advanced legal studies on asset planning to consider cutting edge legal issues and policy concerns. The argument is also an opportunity for even first-year law students to discuss argument techniques, and to consider what does or does not work well with judges (and vice versa). It was a "hot" bench and there was a lot of interruption from both sides.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
I recently read an HHS Inspector General report about Medicare paying for HIV drugs ... for the dead....The OIG report, Medicare Paid for HIV Drugs for Deceased Beneficiaries, released on Halloween (shades of trick or treat), is available here as a pdf.
OIG report # OEI-02-11-00172 focuses on HIV drugs and the prompt for the investigation was "ongoing concerns about Medicare paying for drugs and services after a beneficiary has died."
The report found that under the existing policy (which allows this to occur), Medicare continued to pay for HIV drugs for 150 decedents. Medicare cuts off payments "for drugs with dates of service more than 32 days after death [because] CMS's practices allow payment for drugs that do not meet Medicare Part D coverage requirements. Most of these drugs were dispensed by retail pharmacies."
Why just look at HIV drugs because isn't it likely that this continued payment could be occurring beyond just this group of drugs? CMS agrees that "these "findings have implications for all drugs because Medicare processes PDE records for all drugs the same way. Considering the enormous number of Part D drugs, a change in practice would affect all Part D drugs and could result in significant cost savings for the program and for taxpayers."
The OIG report recommends a change in practice to "prevent inappropriate payments for drugs for deceased beneficiaries and lead to cost savings for the program and for taxpayers. CMS concurred with [the OIG] recommendation."
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
I've heard about the backlog for SSD appeals, but I had no idea how much of a backlog exists until I read the story in the October 19, 2014 Washington Post. Waiting on a Social Security disability appeal? Get in line — a very long line brings a new perspective on waiting lists. The story reports that there are 990,399 (you read that right, 990,399) SSD appeals waiting for ALJ hearings. We have been hearing a lot about the backlog with the VA (526,000 according to the story) so why haven't we heard about the SSDI case backlog? Want to know how long it takes for a backlog of almost one million cases to occur? According to the Post story, the backlog has been going on since President Ford's administration, but a significant increase occurred between 2008-20014. Why did this occur? "[T]he system became, in effect, too big to fix: Reforms were hugely expensive and so logistically complicated that they often stalled, unfinished. What’s left now is an office that costs taxpayers billions and still forces applicants to wait more than a year — often, without a paycheck — before delivering an answer about their benefits." As well, factor in the "Great Recession" and Boomers. The article also mentions budget cuts to SSA as well as the government shutdown in 2013.
A sad irony-the story quotes one of the ALJs in S. Florida who had 2 claimants die before their appeals were heard, but the ALJ still had to hear the case of one, because if the decedent were determined to have been disabled, then the decedent's surviving child might receive benefits.
Although SSD waiting lists outnumber both VA and Patents, according to the story, the wait time to decision is shorter than that for the VA and Patent office. The SSA ALJs "are the moral centerpiece of this system: a symbol that the government intends to apply the old American ideal of due process before the law to the vast new caseloads of the American welfare state. They are also the system’s biggest problem — a 40-year-old clog in the pipe." A law prof at GW, Richard Pierce, takes the position "that the government should eliminate the judges altogether and just let the bureaucrats with the paperwork decide. [Professor Pierce] said that the main thing these hearings bring to the process — that face-to-face interaction between judges and applicants — often adds only pathos, not useful information."
A push to shrink the backload resulted in a drop of both cases and wait time in 2010 but a review of the decisions noted an uptick in the award of benefits. It would seem, from reading this article, that part of the problem is outdated requirements and resources available to the judges (or lack thereof). SSA has lessened the pressure on the ALJs to some extent, so now the ALJs are "limited ... to 720 cases a year and [SSA] imposed new checks to make sure the “yes” decisions are as well thought-out as the 'noes.'" The uptick in benefits awards has dropped, with the award of benefits at 44%. Despite the fact that SSSA has hired more ALJs, the backlog is pushing one million. The Post reports that there were an additional 13,000 added in the first two weeks of October! The story concludes by noting that the backlog isn't limited to just the ALJs. The Appeals Council also has a backlog: "There are 150,383 people waiting for an Appeals Council decision. The average wait there is 374 days."
Friday, September 12, 2014
In a GAO study titled "Inability to Repay Student Loans May Affect Financial Security of Small Percentage of Retirees," researchers reveal that a significant -- and growing -- proportion of "student loan" debt is owed by Americans aged 65 or older. In addition to the growth in the total amount of "senior" student loan debt, from $2.8 billion in 2005 to $18.2 billion in 2013, the GAO findings include:
- Relatively few households headed by individuals 65 or older hold student loan debt -- the number is about 706,000 households in the U.S. -- but the amount they owe may be significant, with estimates that the median debt owed is around $12,000, as compared to a median for those aged 64 and younger of $13,000.
- Most -- about 82% -- of this debt was for the individual's own education. It is not known whether how "old" the loans are.
- Older borrowers hold defaulted federal student loans at a higher rate -- and defaults can have conquences, including offsets on Social Security payments. Generally speaking, student debts cannot be discharged in bankruptcy; however adjustments may be possible to keep the individual's monthly income above the poverty threshold.
For more discussion on the GAO report, see "Senior (Citizen) Student Debt Rising," in Inside Higher Ed by Michael Stratford. Hat tip to Professor Laurel Terry for pointing out this new study.