Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Justice in Aging has released a new brief on the revised nursing home regulations this one focusing on admissions, A Closer Look at the Revised Nursing Facility Regulations Admission. Here's the executive summary:
The revised regulations broadly prohibit facilities from using admission agreements or other documents that waive a resident’s rights. A resident cannot waive the protections of federal nursing facility law, or protections derived from any state or local nursing facility law. A resident also cannot waive his or her right to Medicare or Medicaid coverage, or any responsibility that the facility may have for the resident’s personal property. A facility cannot obligate a family member or friend to become liable for the nursing facility bill, although the facility can require the resident’s agent to agree to pay the resident’s money for the nursing facility expenses. The revised regulations prohibit pre-dispute arbitration agreements, but this consumer protection currently is blocked by a court order. Prior to admission, a facility must give notice of any special characteristics or service limitations.
The brief concludes with 4 suggestions for advocates and residents: careful review of the contract, sign the contract after residency in the SNF has begun, contest contract paragraphs that are improper and get a lawyer.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
It's not final, it's not been passed, and changes are likely, but the current health care bill, known as the American Health Care Act, has a significant impact on elders. Last week's CBO report engendered a lot of discussion about the impact of this new health care proposal. The New York Times ran an article last week discussing it, No Magic in How G.O.P. Plan Lowers Premiums: It Pushes Out Older People. The article explains that lower premiums are on the way for some under this proposal. But, the way the lower premiums are achieved? "[T]he way the bill achieves those lower average premiums has little to do with increased choice and competition. It depends, rather, on penalizing older patients and rewarding younger ones. According to the C.B.O. report, the bill would make health insurance so unaffordable for many older Americans that they would simply leave the market and join the ranks of the uninsured."
We know that insurers want to have a broad pool to spread the risk. Typically, "older customers cost substantially more to cover than younger ones because they have more health needs and use their insurance more. By discouraging older people from buying insurance, the plan will lower the average sticker price of care." Ready for some sticker shock? Under the proposal, according to the story, the plan "increases the amount that insurers can charge older customers, and it awards flat subsidies by age, up to an income of $75,000. ... On premiums alone, prices would rise by more than 20 percent for the oldest group of customers. By 2026, the budget office projected, 'premiums in the nongroup market would be 20 percent to 25 percent lower for a 21-year-old and 8 percent to 10 percent lower for a 40-year-old — but 20 percent to 25 percent higher for a 64-year-old.'"
The story explains that it's not just the premiums that give the whole picture. Tax credits factor into this as well. Here is where the real sticker shock comes in. "[T]he change in tax credits matters more. The combined difference in how much extra the older customer would have to pay for health insurance is enormous. The C.B.O. estimates that the price an average 64-year-old earning $26,500 would need to pay after using a subsidy would increase from $1,700 under Obamacare to $14,600 under the Republican plan." Did you see that-an increase from $1,700 to $14,600...
The semester is quickly drawing to a close, but the bill could be a basis for an interesting class discussion on social policy, if you have time.
Monday, March 20, 2017
Wonder what is in the new health care bill? New Health Plan Broken Down appears in the Centre Daily Times on March 12, 2017. The article is written by Amos Goodall, a prominent elder law attorney (and graduate of Stetson's LL.M. in Elder Law). The article explains changes to the individual mandate (penalty repealed and replaced), preexisting conditions protection (none), age-based premiums (5:1 ratio & will be up to states which ration), cost-sharing subsidies (will be eliminated), over the counter drugs (adding reimbursement from HSA, FSA or Archer MSA), Medicaid expansion (changes financing) and per capita caps.
To read more about these and other proposed changes, click here.
Thanks to Amos for sending me the link to the story.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Today is Call Congress About Medicaid day. Here is the information from the Medicare Rights Center:
Tell Congress to protect our care by joining today’s national call-in day. Urge your representative to vote “no” on the American Health Care Act... Call 866-426-2631 to contact your member of Congress.
The message is to vote no for changes to Medicaid and Medicare. The Medicare Rights Center also offers a one page issue brief on the proposed changes to Medicare, available here.
Regardless of your views, it is always important to make your voice heard.
Thanks to Kim Dayton, the elderlawprof blog founder, for sending me a note on this.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
The teachers' pension fund in Puerto Rico is the latest example of an under-funded government-operated retirement plan. A unique complication of the Puerto Rico teachers' plan is the decision to opt out of Social Security as a separate form of retirement income. In a recent New York Times article, the reporter makes the the analogy to a Ponzi scheme:
Puerto Rico, where the money to pay teachers’ pensions is expected to run out next year, has become a particularly extreme example of a problem facing states including Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania: As teachers’ pension costs keep rising, young teachers are being squeezed — sometimes hard. One study found that more than three-fourths of all American teachers hired at age 25 will end up paying more into pension plans than they ever get back.
“I think they’re really being taken advantage of,” said Richard W. Johnson of the Urban Institute, a co-author of the research. “What’s so tragic about this is, often the new hires aren’t aware that they’re getting such a bad deal.”
The problem is magnified by the fact that the Puerto Rico teachers union — like many teachers and police unions around the country — opted out of Social Security long ago, hoping it could save both workers and the government money by not paying Social Security taxes.
That decision was predicated on the assurance that the workers’ pensions would be well managed and adequately funded. But in Puerto Rico, as in some other places, that has not been true for decades.
For more, read In Puerto Rico, Teachers' Pension Fund Works Like a Ponzi Scheme.
Monday, February 27, 2017
NPR had a good recent summary of the politics behind opposition to full implementation of fiduciary duty standards for investment brokers in providing retirement advice:
Over the past two weeks, the Trump administration has taken steps to delay and perhaps scuttle a new rule designed to save American workers billions of dollars they currently pay in excessive fees in their retirement accounts.
The Obama administration spent 5 years crafting the rule through the Labor Department. It requires that financial advisers and brokers act in their customers' best interest when offering them investment advice for their workplace retirement accounts. Firms must comply by April [2917 under the current rule].
As the commentary pointed out, early-on Trump pledged to support the interests of ordinary working Americans and to take on Wall Street:
In his inauguration speech, President Trump talked about giving America back to everyday working Americans. In one of the more memorable moments, the president said, "The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer."
The fiduciary duty rule for investment brokers directly signals the tension between President Trump's pledge to working Americans and his career-long focus on big business.
AARP supports the rule, recognizing that the U.S. has an "under savings" problem. Distrust of investment advisers plays into the reluctance of ordinary Americans to engage in professionally-assisted planning for the future. Will AARP rally retirees to resist repeal or delay of the fiduciary duty rule?
For more, read or listen to Trump Moving to Delay Rule that Protects Workers from Bad Financial Advice.Trump Moving To Delay Rule That Protects Workers From Bad Financial Advice and White House to Investors: Put Savers' Interests First.
Warren Buffett has been counseling -- for years -- to avoid high fee "experts" for investment advice, recommending the use of index funds instead. See e.g. Newsday's "Warren Buffett Says Don't Waste Money on Investment Fees."
Sunday, February 26, 2017
CNN has published an investigative report on sexual assault of residents in nursing homes. Sick, dying and raped in America's nursing homes opens with these paragraphs "Some of the victims can't speak. They rely on walkers and wheelchairs to leave their beds. They have been robbed of their memories. They come to nursing homes to be cared for... Instead, they are sexually assaulted... The unthinkable is happening at facilities throughout the country: Vulnerable seniors are being raped and sexually abused by the very people paid to care for them."
The report looks at a variety of issues and the failings of the system in responding to the attacks.
In cases reviewed by CNN, victims and their families were failed at every stage. Nursing homes were slow to investigate and report allegations because of a reluctance to believe the accusations -- or a desire to hide them. Police viewed the claims as unlikely at the outset, dismissing potential victims because of failing memories or jumbled allegations. And because of the high bar set for substantiating abuse, state regulators failed to flag patterns of repeated allegations against a single caregiver.
The facts of the cases are hard to read but important in understanding the scope and significance of these crimes. The perpetrators were as young as teenagers or as old as the victims. Some were caregivers, others residents.
Rather than summarizing any further, just read the story. Nothing I can add here would give you the same impact.
Responses to the report from the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care and others can be accessed here.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Registration is now open for Stetson's annual Fundamentals of Special Needs Planning webinar (full disclosure, I'm the conference chair) scheduled for May 5, 2017.
Topics include :
- Becoming a SNT Administrator
- A Primer on Tax When Making Distributions
- Changes in Laws and SSA Regulations (you know, the POMS) and How Those Impact the Administration of Your SNT
- SNT Administrators: More Choices Than You Think
- Question and Answer Panel
The marketers of reverse mortgages often paint a rosy picture of how seniors will be able to draw on the equity in their homes to cover daily expenses, without risk of repayment before death. But details of these mortgages can be overlooked and as we've reported before, seniors can be surprised when terms and conditions create traps that can lead to foreclosure. However, from Florida, we're now hearing about cases where one of the simplest conditions -- the borrower continuing to live on site -- has become the subject of litigation.
“All of a sudden, we saw a spate of foreclosures where the mortgage companies alleged the seniors no longer lived in the home,” said Gladys Gerson, supervising attorney for Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida’s senior unit. “This has been happening around the state.”
About a dozen similar cases reached Gerson and other attorneys at Coast to Coast, who have helped a growing number of low-income seniors fight and win dismissals despite aggressive lender litigation.
Florida is ground zero for seniors’ issues, but as the strategy has often proved effective, it’s likely to spread, according to defense attorneys. “If you see the volume of national advertising that’s geared to seniors, I can’t believe this is limited to Florida,” Corona’s father and partner, Ricardo, said. “The servicers are not even based in Florida, so I don’t see why they would limit themselves.”
Corona admits he didn’t expect a hard fight when he first reviewed El Hassan’s case, but court records show he was wrong. Over the last 10 months, the ongoing litigation yielded two hearings, 40 docket entries and attempts by both sides to collect attorney fees.
For more, read the full article, Foreclosure Litigation Strategy Takes Aim at Seniors, Attorneys Say.
Thank you to my colleague, Dickinson Law Professor Laurel Terry, for this source.
Monday, February 20, 2017
George Washington Law Professor Naomi Cahn recommended an interesting new article from the Elder Law Journal, "The Precarious Status of Domestic Partnerships for the Elderly in a Post-Obergefell World."
Authors Heidi Brady, who is clerking for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson from the University of Illinois College of Law, team to analyze key ways in which elderly couples in domestic partnerships may be treated differently, and sometimes more adversely, than same sex couples who are married. From the abstract:
Three states face a particularly thorny question post-Obergefell [v. Hodges, the Supreme Court's 2015 decision recognizing rights to marry]: what should be done with domestic partnerships made available to elderly same-sex and straight couples at a time when same-sex couples could not marry. This article examines why California, New Jersey, and Washington opened domestic partnerships to elderly couples. . . . This Article drills down on three specific obligations and benefits tied to marriage -- receipt of alimony, Social Security spousal benefits, and duties to support a partner who needs long-term care under the Medicaid program -- and shows that entering a domestic partnership rather than marrying does not benefit all elderly couples; rather, the value of avoiding marriage varies by wealth and benefit.
Thank you, Naomi, for this recommendation.
February 20, 2017 in Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, February 13, 2017
Late last month the Congressional Research Service published the following: The Elder Justice Act: Background and Issues for Congress. Here is an excerpt from the executive summary
Elder abuse is a complex issue that often requires a multifaceted policy response that combines public health interventions, social services programs, and criminal law enforcement for abusive behavior. To address this complexity, the Elder Justice Act was enacted on March 23, 2010 as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148, as amended). The act attempt s to provide a coordinated federal response by emphasizing various public health and social service approaches to the prevention, detection, and treatment of elder abuse. The Elder Justice Act also represents Congress’s first attempt at comprehensive legislation to address abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the elderly at the federal level.
To date, most activities and programs authorized under the Elder Justice Act have not received federal funding through the annual appropriations process. For the first time, Congress appropriated $4 million for a new Elder Justice Initiative in FY2015 and $8 million in FY2016. However, the authorizations of appropriations for most provisions under the act expired on September 30, 2014. Despite the lack of discretionary appropriations prior to FY2015, some elder justice activities have received funding from mandatory funding appropriated through the ACA Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF). As a result of this limited federal funding, the federal government has not substantially developed and expanded its role in addressing the prevention, detection, and treatment of elder abuse.
For FY2012, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) transferred $6.0 million to the Administration for Community Living (ACL) from the PPHF for new grants to states and tribes to test elder abuse prevention strategies. Funded projects included using forensic accountants to prevent elder financial exploitation, increasing medication adherence to prevent elder self-neglect, and developing screening tools to identify elder abuse. For FY2013, $2.0 million was transferred to ACL from the PPHF for elder justice activities, which funded development of the National Adult Protective Services Data Reporting System Project. No PPHF funds were transferred to ACL for elder justice activities for FY2014 or subsequent fiscal years.
For FY2017, the President’s budget request included $10.0 million in discretionary funding for Elder Justice/Adult Protective Services (APS) that would be used to fund APS, research, and evaluation activities. The 2017 budget request did not specify an intended transfer of funding from the PPHF for elder justice activities. For FY2017, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $10.0 million for the Elder Justice Initiative in its FY2017 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill. The House Appropriations Committee recommended $8.0 million in its FY2017 LHHS appropriations bill. Neither House nor Senate floor consideration of the bill occurred in the 114th Congress. Since the start of the fiscal year (October 1, 2016), funding for LHHS programs and activities has been provided by two continuing resolutions (CR; P.L. 114-223 and P.L. 114-254). The second FY2017 CR provides continuing appropriations for LHHS appropriations through April 28, 2017, or until full-year appropriations are enacted.
The report offers some observations for Congress as well as some concluding thoughts:
The Elder Justice Act represents one set of policies that exist in the broader context of domestic social policy to address the complex issue that is elder abuse. That is, as a federal legislative response, the Elder Justice Act may best serve as a catalyst for further federal coordination and action that can bring about greater public awareness and attention to the needs of a growing, and potentially vulnerable, aging population. According to GAO, the Elder Justice Act "provides a vehicle for setting national priorities and establishing a comprehensive, multidisciplinary elder justice system in this country."44 Such a response touches on a range of domestic policy programs and issues that are not specific to one congressional committee’s jurisdiction or area of expertise. Furthermore, congressional oversight into federal administration, implementation, and related activities must rely on different committees of jurisdiction as well as the experience of select committees such as the Senate Special Committee on Aging....
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Justice in Aging has released two new issue briefs concerning the new nursing home regs. One is on involuntary transfers and discharges and is available here. The other is on unnecessary medications and antipsychotic meds, and is available here. The briefs were done with the Center for Medicare Advocacy and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.
Here's the executives summary for the transfer/discharge brief
The involuntary transfer/discharge regulations have changed, but not dramatically. Facilities still can force a transfer/discharge only under one of six specified circumstances, and a resident continues to have the right to contest a proposed transfer/discharge in an administrative hearing. The revised regulations narrow the facility’s ability to base a transfer/discharge on a supposed inability to meet the resident’s needs, by requiring increased documentation by the resident’s physician. The regulations also limit transfer/discharge for nonpayment, by stating that nonpayment has not occurred as long as Medicaid or another third-party payor is considering a claim for the time period in question. All transfer/discharge notices must be sent to the resident, resident representative(s), and (in a new requirement) the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. The revised regulations now explicitly state that a facility cannot discharge a resident while an appeal is pending.
Here's the executive summary for the medications brief:
Regulations about unnecessary drugs and antipsychotic drugs have been moved from the quality of care section to the pharmacy services section. Some provisions have been moved but not otherwise changed: these include protection from unnecessary medications, requirements for gradual dose reductions, and the use of behavioral interventions in order to discontinue drugs, "unless clinically contraindicated." In addition, the pharmacy services regulation includes a new discussion of a broader category of psychotropic drugs, along with new controls over "as needed" (PRN) psychotropic drugs. The revised regulations also expand requirements for drug regimen reviews.
These and the first brief in the series are available here.
Thursday, February 2, 2017
We've heard that Speaker Ryan has a plan to change Medicare, but that the President had made campaign promises about preserving it. So, have an opinion? Should it remain unchanged? Should it be changed? Here's your chance to make your voice heard. AARP is organizing a "thunderclap" campaign, asking those with an opinion share it with the President by Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook and they will all be posted on the same day, February 21, 2017. The website has more information about the specifics on how this works. Don't want to wait until then to make your opinion known? AARP also has a site for folks to contact Congress that makes it about as simple as can be with a prepared message for those who want Congress to support Medicare . (If you think Medicare should be changed, you may not be able to change the AARP standard message and you will need to email your elected representatives)
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Several years ago CMS entered into a settlement in litigation that has become known as the Jimmo case. CMS agreed that the improvement standard wasn't in fact a standard for determining further Medicare therapy coverage and all was good, or so it seemed. Yet, now we learn it's not, according to a recent story in Kaiser Health News. Medicare’s Coverage Of Therapy Services Again Is In Center Of Court Dispute explains
Four years after Medicare officials agreed in a landmark court settlement that seniors cannot be denied coverage for physical therapy and other skilled care simply because their condition is not improving, patients are still being turned away.
So federal officials and Medicare advocates have renewed their court battle, acknowledging that they cannot agree on a way to fix the problem. Earlier this month, each submitted ideas to the judge, who will decide — possibly within the next few months — what measures should be taken.
The settlement was supposed to be the end of the matter, and instead of the improvement standard, Medicare was to make the decision as follows, "not ... on the 'potential for improvement from the therapy but rather on the beneficiary’s need for skilled care.'” So in August of last year, the judge ordered the parties to get together to "improve" Medicare's educational initiative for those who deal with the claims and staff hotlines, as well as the ALJs. The parties reached an impasse, so it's back to court.
Sunday, January 29, 2017
There is a lot of buzz about changes to programs that impact elders and none of us knows what the end results will be. The Leadership Council on Aging Organizations has designated Tuesday (January 31) and Wednesday (February 1) as call your Senators and Representatives days. Here is the information from the American Society on Aging:
The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), of which ASA is a member, is organizing call-in days next Tuesday and Wednesday, January 31 and February 1. This is an opportunity for you to contact your Senators and Representatives to let them know of your concerns about preserving these major programs. To participate, dial 866-426-2631. You’ll hear a brief overview of the issues, and then be asked to enter your zip code to be connected with your legislators.
ASA offers some tips on talking points, available here.
Thursday, January 26, 2017
From the Los Angeles Times, there is this interesting account from the antitrust lawsuit examining the proposed merger of Aetna and Humana health organizations:
Aetna claimed this summer that it was pulling out of all but four of the 15 states where it was providing Obamacare individual insurance because of a business decision — it was simply losing too much money on the Obamacare exchanges.
Now a federal judge has ruled that that was a rank falsehood. In fact, says Judge John D. Bates, Aetna made its decision at least partially in response to a federal antitrust lawsuit blocking its proposed $37-billion merger with Humana. Aetna threatened federal officials with the pullout before the lawsuit was filed, and followed through on its threat once it was filed. Bates made the observations in the course of a ruling he issued Monday blocking the merger.
Aetna executives had moved heaven and earth to conceal their decision-making process from the court, in part by discussing the matter on the phone rather than in emails, and by shielding what did get put in writing with the cloak of attorney-client privilege, a practice Bates found came close to “malfeasance.”
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Financial Security For Middle Class Families.
Forty Percent Of People Who Reach Age 65 Will Need Nursing Home Care.
Peace Of Mind For Middle Class Families.
Millions Of Americans Are Providing Care And Support Today To An Older Adult.
Ensuring Skilled Dementia Care
Essential Protections For Frail Elderly And Their Families
Preserving Life In The Community.
A new one hour documentary, Alzheimer's: Every Minute Counts, is scheduled to begin airing nationally on PBS stations on Wednesday, January 25.
In part, the documentary will focus on research funding issues. Dr. Ruby Tanzi, a Harvard Medical School researcher who appears on the film, explained for NextAvenue's website:
We should be absolutely panicked at the government level. When the Medicare and Medicaid [treatment and care] bill for Alzheimer’s goes from one in five dollars to one in three dollars — that could happen over the next decade with baby boomers getting older — we could single-handedly collapse Medicare and Medicaid with Alzheimer’s disease.
Now, the government [research funding for Alzheimer's] has gone up to about a billion dollars. Which is great, it’s more money. It’s still not the billions of dollars that go to other age-related diseases. I’m glad that cancer and heart disease and AIDS get many billions of dollars, but Alzheimer’s has to get as much or more now given the epidemic and the urgency here with how many cases we’re going to have.
It’s going to crush us. Never mind the social burden on the families. I might add that two-thirds of patients are women. And most caregivers are women. What’s going to happen when so much of our female population is (struck) with this disease? So it’s a huge problem and if we don’t throw a ton of money at it now, it’ll be a disaster.
For more information on the documentary, including links to watch it on-line (free!), see PBS "Alzheimer's: Every Minute Counts." There is an important opportunity here for schools, including law schools, to host an airing of the documentary to promote discussion about strategies.
Sunday, January 22, 2017
University of Illinois Law Professor Richard Kaplan responded to my post last week, that questioned the appropriate age to compel IRA distributions, by providing a more in-depth look at the topic, via his own article, Reforming Taxation of Retirement Income.
His recommendations include simplifying how Social Security retirement benefits are taxed, bifurcating defined contribution plan withdrawals into capital gains and ordinary income components, repealing certain exceptions to the early distribution penalty, reducing the delayed distribution penalty and adjusting the age at which it is triggered, and changing the residential gain exclusion to avoid unanticipated problems with reverse mortgages.
The 2012 Virginia Tax Review article demonstrates that increased life expectancy supports an increase to age 74 (from 71.5) as the trigger for mandatory distributions.
Thanks, Dick! As always, you have important analysis to share.
Friday, January 20, 2017
We blogged previously that D.C.'s mayor signed the physician-aided dying bill that was then sent to Congress. According to a January 9, 2017 article in the Washington Post, Congressman plans to block D.C. law to let terminally ill patients end their lives, "Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said ... he’ll use rarely invoked congressional authority to block a new law passed by the D.C. Council to allow doctors to help end the lives of terminally ill patients in the city" by the end of January. The article notes that it's rare for Congress to block a D.C. law. On January 12, 2017 Senator Lankford and Representative Wenstrup (Oklahoma and Ohio respectively) introduced resolutions to block the law.
January 20, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)