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.

Continue reading

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

Register Now: Webinar on Balancing Protection and Self-Determination

The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC),  the ABA  and the Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities announce an upcoming webinar on September 22, 2015 from 2-3:30 edt.  According to the website,

Research shows that empowering individuals to actively participate in personal decision making improves life outcomes and can reduce the risk of abuse and exploitation.  There is a risk of abuse and exploitation in all models of decision making for persons with differing abilities. An overly protective response to situations where a person with varying levels of capacity may be at risk can stifle self-determination and empowerment. Protection needs to be carefully balanced with protecting human and constitutional rights. Adults have a basic right to make choices, good or bad, and determine the course of their lives. An overly aggressive, or inappropriate protective response to limited capacity can itself be a form of abuse. This session will talk about recognizing the signs and signals of abuse, neglect (self-neglect) and exploitation, tools to maximize communication with persons with differing abilities, and promoting self-determination and choice through supported approaches that mitigate against risk and empower individuals. The session will explore the application of the Supported Decision Making model to assist persons in making choices, increase access to positive life outcomes, and reduce the risk of harm.

The webinar is free. To register click here.

September 2, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care, Programs/CLEs, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

University Battle Over Alzheimer's Research Dollars Not Resolved by Court Decision

While visiting in California this summer, I began following the dispute between University of California San Diego (UCSD), a public university, and University of Southern California (USC), a private university, over control of Alzheimer's research, originally known as the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study.  At first the outcome seemed predicted by judicial rulings favoring UCSD in a suit filed in San Diego courts. The most recent news coverage, however, suggests that what began with USC hiring away UCSD's top researcher, has continued with USC successfully luring away major funding. As reported in a San Diego Union-Tribune article:

While the La Jolla-based campus has so far won in court — with a Superior Court judge giving it continued control of the Alzheimer’s initiative — it is losing most of the contracts, money and trust of that program’s participants across the country.

 

USC said it has obtained eight of the project’s 10 main contracts after convincing sponsors that it is better suited to manage their clinical trials of experimental drugs and therapies for the neurological disorder. Those sponsors are defecting from the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study, or ADCS, and shifting to an institute that USC recently opened in San Diego....

 

UC San Diego confirmed the major setback, but said USC may be overstating matters by claiming that the contract transfers are worth up to $93.5 million. UC San Diego is still totaling its financial losses. Officials at the La Jolla school concede that they failed to tightly manage the Alzheimer’s program and allowed it to drift away from campus life. UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla did not respond to requests for comment on the largest loss of research funding in the university’s history.

 

But campus officials said they are confident about rebuilding the Alzheimer’s program.

Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly was reported to be moving "millions" of dollars of research to USC control earlier this summer.

The USC Provost, while sounding very "corporate" in talking about USC's plans, is quoted as offering some consolation, with the possibility of working with UCSD in getting "back to being partners for better research."  

September 1, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Grant Deadlines/Awards, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

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. 

August 28, 2015 in Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid | Permalink | Comments (0)

Who "Owns" Funds in Joint Accounts -- and Why Might It Matter for Medicaid Purposes?

Sometimes "small" cases reveal larger problems. A recent appellate case in Pennsylvania is a reminder of how practical solutions, such as establishing a joint bank account to facilitate management of money or to permit sharing of resources during early stages of elder care, may have unforeseen legal implications later. In Toney v. Dept. of Human Services, decided August 25, 2015, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that "half" of funds held in a joint savings account under the names of the father and his son, were available resources for the 93-year-old father.  Thus the father, who moved into a nursing home in May 2014, was not immediately eligible for Medicaid funding. 

The son argued, however, that most of the money in the account was the son's money, proceeds of the sale of his own home when he moved out of state almost ten years earlier:

"The son alleged that his father used the bulk of that money to maintain himself, with the understanding that any money remaining from that CD after his father's death would revert to him. The ALJ, however, rejected the son's testimony as self-serving and not credible...."

Continue reading

August 28, 2015 in Estates and Trusts, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Justice in Aging: Analyzing Training of Workers Who Assist People with Dementia

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:  

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

Medicare Learning Network Call on Dementia Care

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provides the Medicare Learning Network (MLN). MLN provides, among other things, articles, trainings, and national provider calls. The next national provider call is scheduled for September 3, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. edt on the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care and QAPI. Here is the description of this call

During this MLN Connects® National Provider Call, two nursing homes share how they successfully implemented person-centered care approaches and overcame the barriers of cost and staff. Additionally, CMS subject matter experts update you on the progress of the National Partnership and Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement (QAPI). A question and answer session follows the presentations.

The National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes and QAPI are partnering on MLN Connects Calls to broaden discussions related to quality of life, quality of care, and safety issues. The National Partnership was developed to improve dementia care in nursing homes through the use of individualized, comprehensive care approaches to reduce the use of unnecessary antipsychotic medications. QAPI standards expand the level and scope of quality activities to ensure that facilities continuously identify and correct quality deficiencies and sustain performance improvement.

Should you register for this program?  The intended audience is "[c]onsumer and advocacy groups, nursing home providers, surveyor community, prescribers, professional associations, and other interested stakeholders." So, if you fall into one of those groups, the answer is yes, you should register. Registration information is available here.

More information about the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes is available here.

August 26, 2015 in Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 24, 2015

20 Common Nursing Home Problems & How to Resolve Them

Justice In Aging has released an updated version of their guide, 20 Common Nursing Home Problems
and How to Resolve Them. Originally published in 2005, the guide has been updated and released in July, 2015. The guide is free and downloadable after registering your name, email address and indicating whether you are a professional or family member of a resident.  The guide is authored by Eric Carlson, a well-know leader in the field on representing residents of nursing homes. Eric is also the author of Long Term Care Advocacy, published by LexisNexis.

August 24, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Reading the "Alphabet Soup of Medicare & Medicaid Contractors"

Attorneys Don Romano and Jennifer Colagiovanni have a useful article in the August issue of The Health Lawyer, published by the ABA.  In The Alphabet Soup of Medicare and Medicaid Contractors, the authors spell out the many players involved in claims processing, payment and oversight for federal/state health care payments:

Healthcare providers, suppliers, and their staff, as well as attorneys representing healthcare entities are faced regularly with a barrage of private contractors tasked with a variety of responsibilities for administering the Medicare program, including claims processing, reimbursement, enrollment and auditing activities.  Given the number of different contractors (and different acronyms, for that matter), it can be difficult to identify the role of the particular contractor one is dealing with, the focus of goal of the program the contractor is involved in , and the responsibilities it is tasked with managing, as well as the statutory and regulatory scope of its authority.  This article seeks to identify the various Medicare and Medicaid contractors and outline their authority, focus and responsibilities.

If you ever had any question about why Medicare and Medicaid are expensive programs, this article suggests that payment for services is not the "only" significant cost factor. 

August 20, 2015 in Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Telephone Therapy Shows Promise

Kaiser Health News (KHN) ran a story Telephone Therapy Helps Older People In Underserved Rural Areas, Study Finds, that reports that "[t]herapy provided over the phone lowered symptoms of anxiety and depression among older adults in rural areas with a lack of mental health services.... The option is important, one expert said, because seniors often have increased need for treatment as they cope with the effects of disease and the emotional tolls of aging and loss." 

The folks in the study suffered from generalized anxiety disorder. Fifty percent of the participants "received cognitive behavioral therapy, which focused on the recognition of anxiety symptoms, relaxation techniques, problem solving and other coping techniques." The remaining fifty percent received "less intensive phone therapy in which mental health professionals provided support for participants to discuss their feelings but offered no suggestions for coping."  The results show that both groups benefited from the therapy but those in the first group did better.

There are roadblocks to using phone therapy, according to the article.  "Medicare only pays for telehealth services done in rural areas with provider shortages; patients cannot do a phone call in their home, but must drive to a physician’s office or hospital to connect with the mental health professional at another site" according to a Professor quoted in the article. As well, some states require those who are providing "medical care must be licensed in the state where the patient resides."

The study, Telephone-Delivered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Telephone-Delivered Nondirective Supportive Therapy for Rural Older Adults With Generalized Anxiety Disorder was published in JAMA Psychiatry and is available here.

August 19, 2015 in Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Federal Court Applies "Doctrine of Reasonable Expectations" to Long-Term Care Insurance Policy

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.

Continue reading

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

2015 National Aging & Law Conference

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. 

The agenda is available here. To register, click here.  Early bird registration ends August 28, 2015.

               

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)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

North Carolina Appellate Court Ruling Permits "Membership Fee" in Condo-Continuing Care Contracts

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!

August 13, 2015 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Borchard Center Announces 2015-16 "Law and Aging Fellows"

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.
Congratulations to these hard working Fellows.  For law students or recent graduates thinking about applying for a future Borchard Law and Aging Fellowship grant, a reminder that the annual deadline is in mid-April.  Start your planning now!

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

Medicare Quality-Spending Interactive Map

The Commonwealth Fund has released an interactive map showing the correlation between Medicare quality and spending. It's easy as 1-2-3!  Here is how the website explains its use:

To view the relationship between health care quality and spending in your state or local area, use the graph, known as a scatter plot, or map. Choose a health care setting, such as hospitals, and then a quality measure to view performance. Curious about how your region compares to someplace else? Click on your selected location and then drag your mouse to the state or local area you want to compare it to and hover. You can see which location has lower spending and higher quality relative to the U.S. median.

August 11, 2015 in Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Private Law Firms Pursuing State Suits Against Nursing Homes, Hired by AGs

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.

The current New Mexico AG has defended his state's relationship with the Washington D.C. law firm of Cohen Milstein.  According to the Santa Fe New Mexican:

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

Will "Single Seniors" Change the Face of Long-Term Living and Supports?

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

Pennsylvania Names Nursing Home "Quality of Care" Task Force

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

2015 Genworth Survey: Cost of Long Term Care-State by State Differences

PBS ran a brief story in July as part of its Rundown blog  regarding the variations in costs of long-term care by state. Long-term care costs vary greatly by state and type uses the Genworth 2015 Cost of Care Survey for the story. If you haven't reviewed the Genworth Survey results, do so. It's a useful tool for your students to understand the various costs of different types of long-term care.

August 7, 2015 in Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

NPR: Knowing How Doctors Die Can Change Others' Decisions

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.  

August 6, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)