Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dementia Prospects Down?

Good news for all of us!  The July 2017 issue of Today's Research on Aging from the Population Reference Bureau reports a proportional decline in dementia. Dementia Trends: Implications for an Aging America explains that

While the absolute number of older Americans with dementia is increasing, the proportion of the population with dementia may have fallen over the past 25 years, according to a recent U.S. study (Langa et al. 2017). Researchers say this downward trend may be the result of better brain health—possibly related to higher levels of education and more aggressive treatment of cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

After discussing the research, the research report also notes this

The decline in dementia prevalence coupled with longer life expectancy may be contributing to another change: A growing share of older Americans are spending less of their lifetimes with cognitive impairments, another recent study based on HRS data and vital statistics shows (Crimmins, Saito, and Kim 2016). The gains in life expectancy between 2000 and 2010 represent more time older Americans spend cognitively intact, the researchers report. The share of Americans 65 and older without cognitive problems increased by 4.5 percentage points for men and 3.4 percentage points for women during the decade. At the same time, the average time older people spent with dementia or cognitive impairment shortened slightly.

The report discusses the various theories and work done to help  with "brain training", the correlations (if any) between certain diseases and dementia, and policy and budgetary implications. The report concludes:

Improvements in understanding, diagnosing, preventing, and treating Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are top NIA priorities. The 2011 National Alzheimer’s Project Act and related legislation lay the foundation and provide new funding for “an aggressive and coordinated national plan to accelerate research.” This initiative includes research designed to better answer the following questions:

•What roles do education and intellectual stimulation play in delaying or preventing dementia?

•What are the connections among dementia, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes?

•What are the best ways to reduce the dementia risks that minority group members face?

Refining our understanding of the answers to these questions can enable policymakers and

planners to design and test prevention strategies that can contribute to continued future decline

in dementia prevalence.

 

July 26, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Checking Yourself Out of the Hospital

Checking yourself out of the hospital, rather than being discharged, is known as DAMA (discharge against medical advice). The New York Times ran an article about the challenges in deciding to leave the hospital.  The Patient Wants to Leave. The Hospital Says ‘No Way.’ references a recent study that illustrates the issues that may occur for elders who want to leave the hospital. "Though A.M.A. discharges occur far more frequently in younger patients, a recent study in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society analyzed a large national sample from 2013 and found that 50,650 hospitalizations of patients over age 65 ended with A.M.A. discharges." The article also discusses why folks choose to leave, for example, they feel better, they are worried about money, or they're afraid. The article also discusses the arguments against the DAMA and some confusion about the impact of DAMA on subsequent care.  The abstract of the article, Discharge Against Medical Advice of Elderly Inpatients in the United States, elaborates  "[d]ischarge against medical advice (DAMA) is associated with greater risk of hospital readmission and higher morbidity, mortality, and costs, but with a rapidly increasing elderly inpatient population, there is a lack of national data on DAMA in this subgroup...  Although DAMA rates in individuals aged 65 and older were one fourth of those found in individuals aged 18 to 64, an increasing trend was found in both groups..."  To order the article, click here.

 

July 24, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Kupuna Caregivers Act of Hawai'i

In early July, the Governor of Hawai'i signed into law the Kupuna Caregivers Act,  According to a story about the law, Hawaii Passes Law to Ease Responsibility of Elder Care, the law "provides qualified caregivers with a voucher of up to $70 per day that can be used toward services that they would otherwise perform themselves, including adult day care and assisted transportation." The first law of its type in the U.S. rather than benefitting the recipient of care, the law benefits the caregivers: by paying  "working family caregivers, who can be caring for family members who are above the Medicaid eligibility threshold. While the amount provided does not cover the entire cost of care families need, it does allow them to provide more hours of in-home care and other services...."  The text of the law is available here.

July 20, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Paying for Help at Home

Governing ran a recent story about how states will pay for in-home care for their residents who are elders. As Demand for At-Home Care Grows, States Debate How to Pay for It  considers that aging Boomers may not want to reside in nursing homes and if they stay at home, they will need care at  home.  With a likely greater demand for inhome care, how will it be delivered and who will pay?

[F]iguring out how to pay for more home-based care is mostly left up to the states. Medicaid is the primary payer for home- and community-based care, although states can decide whether or not they’ll offer the coverage. All 50 states and the District of Columbia do have home- and community-based programs of some type, but most states have waiting lists for their programs. Meanwhile, 59 percent of Medicaid funding goes to nursing homes, where about half of those in long-term care receive their services. “Nursing home institutions are a powerful player in the health-care setting, so there’s long been political pressure to not pay for more home health care,” says [Kevin] Prindiville [, executive director of Justice in Aging].

The article highlights California and Washington state, at opposite ends of the spectrum in handling this issue. Waivers may help, or shifting money through legislation that gives flexibility.

July 19, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Nursing Home Quality of Care An Ongoing Issue for Some Facilities

I read this article last week in the New York Times (also published by the Kaiser Health News), the topic of which is something we should consider seriously.  Poor Patient Care at Many Nursing Homes Despite Stricter Oversight discusses Medicare's Special Focus status.

While special focus status is one of the federal government’s strictest forms of oversight, nursing homes that were forced to undergo such scrutiny often slide back into providing dangerous care, according to an analysis of federal health inspection data. Of 528 nursing homes that graduated from special focus status before 2014 and are still operating, slightly more than half — 52 percent — have since harmed patients or put patients in serious jeopardy within the past three years.

The article highlights some individuals' experiences, with the basis of the article concerning the Special Focus program. 

Special focus facility status is reserved for the poorest-performing facilities out of more than 15,000 skilled nursing homes. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or C.M.S., assign each state a set number of slots, roughly based on the number of nursing homes. Then state health regulators pick which nursing homes to include.

More than 900 facilities have been placed on the watch list since 2005. But the number of nursing homes under special focus at any given time has dropped by nearly half since 2012, because of federal budget cuts. This year, the $2.6 million budget allows only 88 nursing homes to receive the designation, though regulators identified 435 as warranting scrutiny.

The article also discusses lapses by those facilities once on the watch list, how a facility earns its way off the watch list and how long it typically takes to do so and the staffing ratios in such facilities.

Background information about the special focus initiative can be found on the CMS website. You can find the list of special focus facilities on CMS website. For example, here is the one published in June of 2017.

July 18, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 17, 2017

It's Here, Too. The 2017 Medicare Trustees' Report

The Medicare Trustees have also released their annual report on the health of Medicare  J Medicare offers some helpful information about how to read the report

The Trustees Report is a detailed, lengthy document, containing a substantial amount of information on the past and estimated future financial operations of the Hospital Insurance and Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds (see the links in the Downloads section below). We recommend that readers begin with the "Overview" section of the report. This section is fairly short, is written in "plain English," and summarizes all the key information concerning the expected financial outlook for Medicare. Substantial additional material is available in the later sections for those wishing to delve more deeply into the actuarial projections.

The report is downloadable as a pdf here. This report runs 263 pages (just a tiny bit shorter than the one from the SSA Trustees).  Again, what do we want to know? We want to know whether Medicare is on sound financial footing. So let's get right to the bottom line (or pages 40-42). Here are the relevant portions of the conclusion in Section II

Total Medicare expenditures were $679 billion in 2016, and the Board projects that they will increase in most future years at a somewhat faster pace than either aggregate workers’ earnings or the economy overall. The faster increase is primarily due to the number of beneficiaries increasing more rapidly than the number of workers, coupled with a continued increase in the volume and intensity of services delivered. Based on the intermediate set of assumptions under current law, expenditures as a percentage of GDP would increase from the current 3.6 percent to a projected 5.9 percent by 2091.

The HI trust fund fails to meet the Board of Trustees’ short-range test of financial adequacy. In addition, as in past reports, the HI trust fund fails to meet the Trustees’ long-range test of close actuarial balance.

HI experienced deficits from 2008 through 2015, but annual surpluses are expected from 2016 through 2022 before deficits return for the remainder of the 75-year projection period. The projected trust fund depletion date is 2029, one year later than estimated in last year’s report. Actual HI expenditures in 2016 were slightly lower than the previous estimate. The projections are lower throughout the short-range period due to lower utilization and provider update assumptions. HI taxable payroll in 2016 was slightly higher than previously projected, and projections for HI tax income are lower after 2017 due to slower real-wage growth assumptions.

The HI actuarial deficit in this year’s report is 0.64 percent of taxable payroll, down from 0.73 percent in last year’s report. This result is due primarily to lower-than-estimated spending in 2016 and lower projected inpatient hospital utilization.

The financial outlook for SMI is fundamentally different than for HI due to the statutory differences in the methods of financing for these two components of Medicare. The Trustees project that both the Part B and Part D accounts of the SMI trust fund will remain in financial balance for all future years because beneficiary premiums and general revenue transfers are assumed to be set at a level to meet expected costs each year. However, SMI costs are projected to increase significantly as a share of GDP over the next 75 years, from 2.1 percent to 3.7 percent under current law. The projected Part B costs in this report are slightly higher over the short-range and long-range periods than the comparable projections in the previous report due to higher-than-expected actual spending for outpatient hospital services and physician-administered drugs in 2016 and a methodological change resulting in higher drug spending for patients with end-stage renal disease. The Part D short-range and long-range projections are lower than in past years’ reports, largely due to the increase in drug manufacturer rebates and lower utilization of hepatitis C drugs.

The financial projections shown for the Medicare program in this report reflect substantial, but very uncertain, cost savings deriving from provisions of the ACA and MACRA that lower increases in Medicare payment rates to most categories of health care providers. Without fundamental change in the current delivery system, these adjustments would probably not be viable indefinitely.

* * *

Policy makers should determine effective solutions to the long-range HI financial imbalance. Even assuming that the provider payment rates will be adequate, the HI program does not meet either the Trustees’ short-range test of financial adequacy or long-range test of close actuarial balance. HI revenues would cover only 88 percent of estimated expenditures in 2029 and 81 percent in 2050. By the end of the 75-year projection period, HI revenues could pay 88 percent of HI costs. Policy makers should also consider the likelihood that the price adjustments in current law may prove difficult to adhere to fully and may require even more changes to address the financial imbalance.

The projections in this year’s report continue to demonstrate the need for timely and effective action to address Medicare’s remaining financial challenges—including the projected depletion of the HI trust fund, this fund’s long-range financial imbalance, and the rapid growth in Medicare expenditures. Furthermore, if the growth in Medicare costs is comparable to growth under the illustrative alternative projections, then these further policy reforms will have to address much larger financial challenges than those assumed under current law. The Board of Trustees believes that solutions can and must be found to ensure the financial integrity of HI in the short and long term and to reduce the rate of growth in Medicare costs through viable means. Consideration of such reforms should not be delayed. The sooner the solutions are enacted, the more flexible and gradual they can be. Moreover, the early introduction of reforms increases the time available for affected individuals and organizations—including health care providers, beneficiaries, and taxpayers—to adjust their expectations and behavior. The Board recommends that Congress and the executive branch work closely together with a sense of urgency to address these challenges.

 

July 17, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Issue Brief: Medicare Savings Program

Justice in Aging has released a new issue brief for July about Medicare Savings Programs (MSP).  Proposed Cuts to Medicaid Put Medicare Savings Programs At Risk explains the importance of the MSP for many Medicare beneficiaries, including paying their premiums. If the MSP program were cut or eliminated, many beneficiaries may no longer be able to afford Medicare. 

Many low-income older adults are only able to participate in Medicare because Medicare Savings Programs help with their Medicare premiums, deductibles and co-pays. These critically important programs reach over 7 million people with Medicare, including 1.7 million older adults who are too poor to be able to afford Medicare but do not qualify for other Medicaid programs.1 With $772 billion in Medicaid cuts, the Better Care Reconciliation Act now being considered in the Senate could knock many older adults and people with disabilities off these programs, making Medicare unaffordable. As a result, those with the greatest needs will lose access to Medicare benefits because they will be unable to shoulder Medicare costs.

The brief explains QMBs, SLMBs, and QIs. It also explains the relationship between MSP and "Extra Help".  Regardless of the Senate vote (maybe this week) on repeal and replace, the information in the brief about MSP and the other programs is really helpful. Check it out!

July 14, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

If 60 is the new "40" is 70 the new 60?

The Stony Brook U newsroom released a story recently, New Measures of Aging May Show 70 is the New 60.

Here are some excerpts from the story about the study:


new measures of aging with probabilistic projections from the United Nations to scientifically illustrate that one’s actual age is not necessarily the best measure of human aging itself, but rather aging should be based on the number of years people are likely to live in a given country in the 21st Century.

The study also predicts an end to population aging in the U.S. and other countries before the end of the century. Population aging – when the median age rises in a country because of increasing life expectancy and lower fertility rates – is a concern for countries because of the perception that population aging leads to declining numbers of working age people and additional social burdens.

You'll recall the three cohorts of "old" 65-74, the "young old", 75-84, the old, and 85+ the old-old.  According to this study, "[t]raditional population projections categorize “old age” as a simple cutoff at age 65. But as life expectancies have increased, so too have the years that people remain healthy, active, and productive. In the last decade, IIASA researchers have published a large body of research showing that the very boundary of “old age” should shift with changes in life expectancy, and have introduced new measures of aging that are based on population characteristics, giving a more comprehensive view of population aging."

The study focuses on the US, China, Iran and Germany.  The study is available here.

July 13, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 10, 2017

New Report: Restoration of Rights: Adult Guardianship

The ABA Commission on Law & Aging and the Virginia Tech Center for Gerontology have released a report, Restoration of Rights in Adult Guardianship: Research & Recommendations. The report is divided into four parts: (1) introduction & background,  (2) research on restoration of rights, (3) discussion & recommendations on key issues to restoration, and (4) conclusion.   The report runs 69 pages and is available for download as a pdf. Section 3 covers a number of topics, including lack of knowledge of the availability of restoration, review by courts re: continuing need for guardianship, court access, attorney representation (and the attorney's role),  the guardian's role, supports available to the person, evidence and evidentiary standards, and data and research.  Here is the conclusion

The time is ripe for restoration of rights to be become a viable option for people subject to guardianship. In the context of the emergent paradigm of supported decision-making, restoration can be a path to self-determination and choice. For courts, attention to restoration can weed out unnecessary cases from dockets, allowing a stronger focus on problems needing judicial intervention, and saving administrative costs of carrying unnecessary cases.

To make restoration work:

State legislation must ensure sufficient notice that the option exists, provide for regular court review of the continuing need for guardianship, afford the right to counsel, and set workable evidentiary standards.

Courts must assess cases for possible restoration, find ways to make individuals and families more aware of the option, make the process more accessible, take into account available supports in making determinations, and track data on restoration.

Guardians must perceive their role as enhancing self-determination and working toward termination of guardianship with sufficient support – more as "supporters" guided by the person’s expressed wishes if possible. There must be sufficient legal decision-making tools, family supports, technological supports, and community supports readily available to bolster functional abilities.

Lawyers must recognize and act on the potential of restoration in guardianship cases.

This study has set the stage for such actions, bringing to life the possibility that guardianship is not automatically an end but can be "a way station and not a final destination."

 

 

July 10, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Medicaid and Veterans

Medicaid has been in the news frequently of late, as Congress debates the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  Kaiser Family Foundation released a new infographic on the relationship of Medicaid and veterans. Medicaid’s Role in Covering Veterans explains how Medicaid works as a safety net for veterans, helps with coverage for vets with complex medical issues, and provides federal matching funds (which may be affected by the repeal of the ACA).  The infographic provides demographic data, lists the conditions of veterans (by percentages) on Medicaid and explains what would happen if Medicaid funding were reduced. 

July 9, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sicker Medicare Beneficiaries and Original Medicare

NPR recently ran a story about beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans. As Seniors Get Sicker, They're More Likely To Drop Medicare Advantage Plans  discusses a recent "GAO report, released this spring, [that] reviewed 126 Medicare Advantage plans and found that 35 of them had disproportionately high numbers of sicker people dropping out. Patients cited difficulty with access to "preferred doctors and hospitals" or other medical care as the leading reasons for leaving." The article notes the positives to MA plans, but also some concerns: "some critics argue the plans can prove risky for seniors in poor or declining health, or those ... who need to see specialists, because they often face hurdles getting access." The GAO report referenced in the story is available here.

July 6, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (1)

How Much Care do Family Caregivers Provide?

We have blogged on several occasions about the important role adult children play in family caregiving. Ever wonder just how much care the kids are providing? The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College looked at that specific question.

How Much Long-Term Care Do Adult Children Provide?, an issue brief, offered these key findings:

  • As people age and their health deteriorates, they begin to need more help with daily activities.
  • While many formal long-term care services are available, cost concerns and personal preferences lead many to rely on informal care from adult children.
  • At any given point, 6 percent of adult children serve as caregivers, and 17 percent will take on this role at some point in their lives.
  • Those who do provide care devote an average of 77 hours per month, which can take a toll on both the finances and health of the caregiver.
  • The caregiving burden on adult children is likely to become a bigger concern as baby boomers move into their 80s.

Look again at the numbers. Seventeen percent of adult kids will be caregivers at some point and at almost 80 hours a month, it's almost like working half-time. Here is the conclusion to the brief:

At any point in time, few adult children are taking care of their parents. But, over the course of their lives, about 17 percent of adults end up providing care for their parents. And when children do care for par- ents, the commitment is large – 77 hours per month. As baby boomers enter their 80s, a large increase in the demand for long-term care is likely, with a commensurate rise in the reliance on care from their children. Since boomers had fewer children per household than the previous generation, this develop- ment will place an unprecedented burden on their children, with implications for their physical, mental, and nancial well-being. However, research also suggests that the issue may be more challenging than just the relative sizes of the generations. After all, divorced parents need more support from children, and those children are more likely to provide support if they live nearby. For a generation characterized by low fertility, unstable marriages, and far- ung children, this situation sug- gests that the informal care the boomers will need may not be there – and demand for formal care will soon increase beyond its historical levels. Policymakers and the private sector must confront this prospect, with its attendant burdens on the long-term care sector and insurers of long-term care – the largest of which by far is an already overburdened Medicaid system.

Consider the last sentence of the conclusion in light of  the debated Congressional action on the Affordable Care Act.

The full brief is available here.

July 6, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Medicaid Per Capita Caps Explained

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) posted a story on its blog explaining per capita caps and the impact on elders. Straight Talk for Seniors®: How Medicaid Caps Would Impact Seniors explains how Medicaid per capita caps would work.

Medicaid is funded jointly by the federal government and the states. Today, the federal government gives states matching funds to cover a percentage of their actual Medicaid costs. This keeps Medicaid affordable for states.

Under per capita caps, the federal government would limit, or cap, its contribution to the states based on a preset formula. This means states would be left paying the true cost of care for people in need. Many predict that states would face severe funding gaps and have to cut back on services to make up the difference.

If this is implemented, 5 states in particular would be hit hard as far as home and community based services funding, including my state of Florida. Those 5 states, besides Florida, are Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada.  The impact can be severe, as the article notes:

Medicaid per capita caps would hurt seniors in all states, but some states would fare worse than others. Here’s why.

First, the caps would be set based on each state’s 2016 Medicaid costs. This means states that were efficient and kept their costs low that year will be locked into a lower federal contribution. North Carolina, California, Nevada, Georgia, and Florida are examples of states that fall into this category.

Second, the caps would not adjust for an aging population. This means states whose 65+ population is growing faster than the national average will be locked into a smaller federal contribution that will not keep pace with growing costs. In fact, the caps would begin when baby boomers start turning 80. People aged 85+ are more likely to need long-term services and supports, and the cost of their care is 2.5 times more than people aged 65-74.

June 29, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid | Permalink

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Canada: Medical Aid-in-Dying

A recent story in the Toronto Star covers a ruling from a trial court judge about Canada's Medical Aid-in-Dying law. Advocates hail judge’s decision in woman’s assisted death appeal  explains the judge's decision: "[a] 77-year-old woman seeking medical assistance in dying has a “reasonably foreseeable” natural death, a judge declared Monday in an attempt to clear up uncertainty that left her doctor unwilling to perform the end-of-life procedure for fear of a murder charge."  The concern in the case was the meaning of "reasonably foreseeable" and the judge held "[t]o be reasonably foreseeable, the person’s natural death doesn’t have be imminent or within a specific time frame or be the result of a terminal condition...."

The judge went on to explain

“The legislation is intended to apply to a person who is “on a trajectory toward death because he or she a) has a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability; b) is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and c) is enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable and that cannot be relieved under conditions that they consider acceptable,” ....

June 27, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, International | Permalink

Monday, June 26, 2017

If Medicaid is Cut, is the Result a Crisis for Some SNF Residents?

This week is a big one for the Senate as they consider the Republican version of a health care bill to "repeal" the Affordable Care Act.  Now I confess that I've only skimmed portions of it, and I suspect that there will be some "deal making" going on to amend the proposal in an attempt to gather the necessary votes for it to pass.  I don't intend this to be a political post, although the title probably makes you think I do.  But depending on what happens, couldn't a crisis be looming as a result, at least for those individuals in nursing facilities whose stays are covered by Medicaid?  Whether per capita caps or block grants, the potential remains that there may be less money to cover long term stays in nursing homes, right?

What got me thinking about this post was an article in the New York Times on June 24, 2017. Medicaid Cuts May Force Retirees Out of Nursing Homes asks the question, what happens if Medicaid cuts are enough to affect coverage for long term nursing home care? "Under federal law, state Medicaid programs are required to cover nursing home care. But state officials decide how much to pay facilities, and states under budgetary pressure could decrease the amount they are willing to pay or restrict eligibility for coverage."  One expert interviewed for the story suggested that even if the ACA isn't repealed, Medicaid is still an attractive target for cuts and don't forget that long term nursing home care makes up a significant amount of Medicaid spending, "long-term services such as nursing homes account for 42 percent of all Medicaid spending — even though only 6 percent of Medicaid enrollees use them." The article considers the possibilities of cuts and the impact both on the facilities and the residents.

Justice in Aging released a blog post, issue brief and fact sheet focusing on the impact the Senate version of the bill will have on elders. The Fact Sheet, discussing Caps lists 5 downsides to the states and 3 ways elders will be harmed.  Since the Times article was focused on nursing facility coverage, here's what the Justice in Aging Fact Sheet says about that: "Losing Coverage for Nursing Home Care. 62% of nursing home residents rely on Medicaid. For the vast majority of these 850, 000 nursing home residents, Medicaid coverage is provided through an eligibility category that is "optional" under federal Medicaid law. As states face insufficient funding, they will look for optional categories to cut, putting nursing home residents at particular risk."  Both the Issue Brief and the Fact Sheet fail to take into account the aging of America by tethering the cap to "baseline years".  As the Brief notes

[T]he fourth problem is that the Senate bill’s per capita cap fails to recognize how increasing age corresponds to a greater need for health care. In 2011, for example, persons aged 85 and over incurred average Medicaid costs that were 2.5 times higher than the average costs incurred by beneficiaries aged 65 to 74.35

Assume that a state currently has a large percentage of Medicaid beneficiaries in their early 70s. The base rate for that state will be weighted heavily towards the average health care needs of persons in their 70s, and that weighing will affect the cap amounts imposed in 2027, when the large group of beneficiaries will be in their early 80s — with different and more extensive needs for health care. Notably, such a shift in population from the young-old to the old-old is more likely than not, given the overall aging of America’s population. From 2025 and 2035, approximately two-thirds of the states will experience a rise in the share of seniors who are 85 and older. In most cases, the increase will be at least 25%. (citations omitted).

If these folks in nursing homes need a level of care that can't be provided by their families (if they even have families) and Medicaid is cut, what's the answer?  Right now, all we can do is wait and see what happens with the Senate this week. Right now, the vote is projected to take place on Thursday.

 

June 26, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Veteran's Family Caregiver Support

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, not all family caregivers of vets are treated equally. Law makes VA treat some family caregivers better than others explains that  for "veterans injured on duty, Uncle Sam pays more attention to some of their caregivers than others. The law allows the government to provide caregiver services for vets injured on Sept. 11, 2001, or after, but not those injured before that ...." On June 19, 2017, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization released a report about its efforts, the "Unsung Heroes Initiative" to change the law. The DAV describes this, according to the article, as  “a national campaign to raise awareness about the service and sacrifice of caregivers to America’s severely disabled veterans as well as the inequities of supports available, particularly for those injured before 9/11.”  Bills are before Congress to change the law "that would make all veterans, no matter when they served, eligible for the caregiver support."  The article also references a recent Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing on budgets, with testimony, etc. available here.

June 21, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Saying No to Home Health Services & Wanting to Be Left Alone

Consider those who need home health care but say no. Kaiser Health News recently ran a story on this very topic. Some Seniors Just Want To Be Left Alone, Which Can Lead To Problems explain that the percentage of those who want to be left alone is higher than you may think.  "As many as 28 percent of patients offered home health care when they’re being discharged from a hospital — mostly older adults — say “no” to those services, according to a new report."  The report is from a roundtable that was sponsored by the Alliance for Home Health Quality & Innovation and United Hospital Fund.  The report, I Can Take Care of Myself: Patients' Refusals of Home Health Care Services runs 23 pages.

Here are highlights of the report (found on page 1): 

 

  • Medical care is moving from hospitals and other institutions into the community, which for most people means care at home, where they want to be. With shorter hospital stays and more complex post-discharge needs, the importance of home health care services, including skilled care and personal care, in discharge planning and transitional care is increasing.
  • Some studies show that patients who receive home health care after hospital discharge are less likely to be readmitted. Other studies show that patients who receive home health care report better quality of life.
  • Although data are limited, approximately 6-28 percent of patients eligible for home health care refuse these services, for a variety of reasons.
  • Even less is known about the process by which hospital staff identify patients for referral to home health care, how they explain these services, and how well they address the full range of patients’ and family caregivers’ transitional care needs.
  • Patients and their family caregivers have similar goals but may have different needs and attitudes about home health care.
  • Policy and system barriers to accessing services include inflexible criteria for eligibility, inadequate payment for home health care agencies’ services for patients with complex conditions, and shortages of trained workforce.
  • Recommendations from Roundtable participants include interventions that improve communication about care challenges and home health care services, qualitative and quantitative research on all aspects of home health care refusals, policy changes to increase access and coordination, and continuity across providers and care settings.

June 20, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Veterans "Hidden" Benefits

Kiplinger's ran an article about less noticed veterans benefits. Vets, Don't Miss Out on 'Hidden Benefits' discusses life insurance, hearing aids, spouse and dependent benefits (DIC), health insurance, directed care, Agent Orange benefits, Aid & Attendance, home modification and coverage for conditions from the water at Camp Lejeune  to name a few.  The article offers information about eligibility, where to get help, how to apply for benefits and more.

June 9, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 5, 2017

CMS Reverses Course on Pre-Dispute Arbitration Clauses

I'm just going to start off with my opinion on this latest action by CMS: bummer. Now I'll tell you what CMS is doing and you can decide if you agree with their course of action, or not.  As you may recall, last fall CMS issued the revised nursing home regs (which we've blogged about before-you can search the archives for them, if you want). One of the regs getting a lot of attention was the reg that prohibited the use of pre-dispute arbitration clauses in nursing home admission contracts. Now CMS has announced they are reversing course.  They will no longer prohibit pre-dispute arbitration clauses under the proposed amendment to the rule. Instead the proposed rule  allows the use of arbitration clauses if certain notice requirements are met. The summary explains that CMS

would revise the requirements that Long-Term Care (LTC) facilities must meet to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Specifically, it would remove provisions prohibiting binding pre-dispute arbitration and strengthen requirements regarding the transparency of arbitration agreements in LTC facilities. This proposal would support the resident’s right to make informed choices about important aspects of his or her health care. In addition, this proposal is consistent with [CMS] approach to eliminating unnecessary burden on providers.

The specific amendments to 42 C.F.R. 483.70(n) appear on pages 20-21 of the notice.  The notice is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on June 8 and the comment period closes 60 days thereafter. 

June 5, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 4, 2017

California Aid-in-Dying One Year Later

The New York Times ran an article giving an update on California's aid-in-dying law.  The numbers are not from state officials but come from Compassion in Choices.  They report "at least 504 terminally ill Californians have requested a prescription for life-ending drugs since a state law allowing physician-assisted deaths went into effect in June 2016... [representing] ... those who have contacted Compassion & Choices...."  The article notes that once the state publishes the required data there will be a more accurate picture of the law's application. The article also references the number of facilities that have written policies on recognizing the prescriptions. The article also reminds us that a lawsuit had been filed some time back to challenge the law, with a hearing scheduled for June 16, 2017.

June 4, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)