Thursday, December 1, 2016
The Administration on Aging (AoA) issued FAQ on the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. The purpose of the FAQs is " to assist State Agencies on Aging, States’ Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs, and other entities that work with Ombudsman programs with implementation of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs Rule." Each FAQ provides extensive explanation as well as cites to the appropriate sections of the CFR.
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
The NY Times ran an article recently focusing on bias against LGBTQI residents of nursing homes. No Rest at Rest Home: Fighting Bias Against Gays and Lesbians starts with telling the story of one resident who ended up filing suit, in which the resident "accuses the housing center and its managers of failing to protect her from hostile residents who have insulted and verbally abused her. The suit says that she has been pushed, shoved and spit on, and that she was injured, including bruises on her arm, a bump on her head and a black eye." As well in the suit the resident alleges that the facility's "management not only of failing to meet its responsibility to stop the harassment but of retaliating against her for complaining about the abuse and seeking to push her out of the facility."
The article calls this suit as having the potential to "set a legal precedent establishing the responsibility of housing providers to actively address discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation under the federal Fair Housing Act. The law states that discrimination based on “sex” is prohibited."
The article quotes our friend Eric Carlson from Justice in Aging, as well as a survey they had previously conducted.
A survey of L.G.B.T. adults living in long-term care settings by Justice in Aging, a legal advocacy group, found that a majority believed they would face discrimination from housing staff if they were open about their sexual orientation. The report captured hundreds of stories of problems encountered by L.G.B.T. seniors with housing staff, ranging from harassment to refusals to provide basic services or care.
“You’re in a communal living setting that puts a lot of pressure on people,” says Eric Carlson, directing attorney for Justice in Aging. “Imagine how oppressive it is to have to be guarded about who you are or your family and friends.”
The article discusses another study and the scope of discrimination against LGBTQI elders as well as HUD's work to redress such discrimination.
Monday, November 28, 2016
The National Consumer Voice For Quality Long-Term Care has released a fact sheet explaining the changes to the Federal Nursing Home Regulations. The 15 page fact sheet " provides a brief overview of key changes in the sections on Resident Rights; Freedom from Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation; and Admission, Transfer and Discharge that will go into effect in Phase 1. The purpose of the summary is to highlight what is different between the prior rule and the final rule." The fact sheet is organized by sections of the CFR and explains what is amended and what is new./ Print this out and save it. It's invaluable!
here.Last month the Commonwealth Fund published an issue brief about the correlation between Medicare beneficiaries with Physical and/or cognitive impariments and the connection to Medicaid and nursing home placements. With all the talk about changes to Medicare and Medicaid, this is a timely topic (but it always is timely), Risks for Nursing Home Placement and Medicaid Entry Among Older Medicare Beneficiaries with Physical or Cognitive Impairment. Here is the abstract:
Issue: More than half of individuals who age into Medicare will experience physical and/or cognitive impairment (PCI) at some point that hinders independent living and requires long-term services and supports. As a result of Medicare’s limits on covered services, Medicare beneficiaries with PCI experience financial burdens and reduced ability to live independently. Goal: Describe the characteristics and health spending of Medicare beneficiaries with PCI and estimate the likelihood of Medicaid entry and long-term nursing home placement. Methods: The Health and Retirement Study 1998–2012 is used to estimate long-term nursing home placement, as well as Medicaid entry. The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey 2012 provides information on health care spending and utilization. Key findings and conclusions: Almost two-thirds of community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries with PCI have three or more chronic conditions. More than one-third of those with PCI have incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level but are not covered by Medicaid; almost half spend 10 percent or more of their incomes out-of-pocket on health care. Nineteen percent of individuals with PCI and high out-of-pocket costs entered Medicaid over 14 years, compared to 10 percent without PCI and low out-of-pocket costs.
The brief offers background, data and analysis. For expediency, I've included the conclusion here. I recommend you read the entire brief.
This analysis finds that:
- A third of older adults have PCI in a given year; more than half of adults who age into Medicare will experience PCI over the remainder of their lifetimes. While the majority of older adults with PCI live in the community, they are at high risk for costly, long-term nursing home placement.
- Individuals with PCI often have multiple chronic conditions, resulting in high Medicare expenses and out-of-pocket spending. Those with high out-of-pocket spending as a proportion of income as well as PCI were at greater risk for spending down their resources and entering into Medicaid over a 14-year period, compared to those with PCI but without high out-of-pocket spending.
- The risk for Medicaid entry was greater for those at lower income levels at the beginning of the 14-year period. However, 14 percent of the highest-income group at baseline with high out-of-pocket spending and PCI entered Medicaid by the end of the follow-up period.
Improving financing for home and community-based care would help many beneficiaries with PCI continue to live independently and support families in helping them obtain the care they prefer. Our current health care system, which covers costly institutional services but not social support in the home, distorts the way Americans receive care as they age and die. After people with serious impairment become impoverished and qualify for Medicaid, they are covered for long-term nursing facility care. However, personal care services at home that might have prevented them from needing to turn to Medicaid or enter a nursing home are not covered by Medicare.
Intervening early to prevent nursing home placement and Medicaid enrollment may produce offsetting savings in Medicare and Medicaid. An accompanying brief describes two innovative approaches to providing long-term services and support benefits: a voluntary, supplemental benefit for home and community-based services for Medicare beneficiaries; and an expansion of the Medicaid Community First Choice program for people with incomes up to 200 percent of poverty. Both options show promise of maintaining independent living longer and avoiding costly long-term institutionalization and exhaustion of resources that result in Medicaid enrollment.
The brief is also available as a pdf here.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
We all need a little good news right now. So this one caught my eye. Dementia rates have declined amongst elders (yay). Kaiser Health News reported Dementia Rates Decline Sharply Among Senior Citizens citing to a study recently published in the AMA Journal of Internal Medicine. A Comparison of the Prevalence of Dementia in the United States in 2000 and 2012 reports on a drop from 11.6% to 8.8% on the years of the study.
Here's the abstract:
Importance The aging of the US population is expected to lead to a large increase in the number of adults with dementia, but some recent studies in the United States and other high-income countries suggest that the age-specific risk of dementia may have declined over the past 25 years. Clarifying current and future population trends in dementia prevalence and risk has important implications for patients, families, and government programs.
Objective To compare the prevalence of dementia in the United States in 2000 and 2012.
Design, Setting, and Participants We used data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative, population-based longitudinal survey of individuals in the United States 65 years or older from the 2000 (n = 10 546) and 2012 (n = 10 511) waves of the HRS.
Main Outcomes and Measures Dementia was identified in each year using HRS cognitive measures and validated methods for classifying self-respondents, as well as those represented by a proxy. Logistic regression was used to identify socioeconomic and health variables associated with change in dementia prevalence between 2000 and 2012.
Results The study cohorts had an average age of 75.0 years (95% CI, 74.8-75.2 years) in 2000 and 74.8 years (95% CI, 74.5-75.1 years) in 2012 (P = .24); 58.4% (95% CI, 57.3%-59.4%) of the 2000 cohort was female compared with 56.3% (95% CI, 55.5%-57.0%) of the 2012 cohort (P < .001). Dementia prevalence among those 65 years or older decreased from 11.6% (95% CI, 10.7%-12.7%) in 2000 to 8.8% (95% CI, 8.2%-9.4%) (8.6% with age- and sex-standardization) in 2012 (P < .001). More years of education was associated with a lower risk for dementia, and average years of education increased significantly (from 11.8 years [95% CI, 11.6-11.9 years] to 12.7 years [95% CI, 12.6-12.9 years]; P < .001) between 2000 and 2012. The decline in dementia prevalence occurred even though there was a significant age- and sex-adjusted increase between years in the cardiovascular risk profile (eg, prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity) among older US adults.
Conclusions and Relevance The prevalence of dementia in the United States declined significantly between 2000 and 2012. An increase in educational attainment was associated with some of the decline in dementia prevalence, but the full set of social, behavioral, and medical factors contributing to the decline is still uncertain. Continued monitoring of trends in dementia incidence and prevalence will be important for better gauging the full future societal impact of dementia as the number of older adults increases in the decades ahead.
The authors offer these findings from their study "Population brain health seemed to improve between 2000 and 2012; increasing educational attainment and better control of cardiovascular risk factors may have contributed to the improvement, but the full set of social, behavioral, and medical factors contributing to the improvement is still uncertain."
The Kaiser article offers some perspective about what this drop means: "The number of Americans over age 65 is expected to nearly double by 2050, reaching 84 million, according to the U.S. Census. So even if the percentage of elderly people who develop dementia is smaller than previously estimated, the total number of Americans suffering from the condition will continue to increase, said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach, medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association."
So with the end of the semester, and we are grading exams, just think how good this will be for us in the long run!
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
We blogged earlier about the discussion regarding switching Medicaid to block grants. The impact of doing so would be far reaching and the Commonwealth Fund released an issue brief, What Would Block Grants or Limits on Per Capita Spending Mean for Medicaid?
Here is the abstract from the issue brief:
Issue: President-elect Trump and some in Congress have called for establishing absolute limits on the federal government’s spending on Medicaid, not only for the population covered through the Affordable Care Act’s eligibility expansion but for the program overall. Such a change would effectively reverse a 50-year trend of expanding Medicaid in order to protect the most vulnerable Americans. Goal: To explore the two most common proposals for reengineering federal funding of Medicaid: block grants that set limits on total annual spending regardless of enrollment, and caps that limit average spending per enrollee. Methods: Review of existing policy proposals and other documents. Key findings and conclusions: Current proposals for dramatically reducing federal spending on Medicaid would achieve this goal by creating fixed-funding formulas divorced from the actual costs of providing care. As such, they would create funding gaps for states to either absorb or, more likely, offset through new limits placed on their programs. As a result, block-granting Medicaid or instituting “per capita caps” would most likely reduce the number of Americans eligible for Medicaid and narrow coverage for remaining enrollees. The latter approach would, however, allow for population growth, though its desirability to the new president and Congress is unclear. The full extent of funding and benefit reductions is as yet unknown.
The article provides history, data and discusses strategies. The Brief concludes that the issue, and the resulting outcomes, are not as simple as may be presented.
As the country’s largest insurer, Medicaid is subject to the same cost drivers that affect all providers of health insurance: population growth and demographic trends that increase enrollment, health trends that influence how often people need care and what kind of care they require, and advances in technology that drive up costs, among other factors. But unlike commercial insurers, government-funded Medicaid, in its role as first responder and safety net, is more vulnerable to these trends and to cost increases. For more than 50 years, Medicaid has been rooted in a flexible federal–state partnership, constantly restructured over time to meet current challenges.
Any attempt to restructure federal financing for Medicaid and replace flexibility with strict spending limits—whether in the form of block grants, per capita limits on spending, restrictions on what counts as state expenditures, or a combination of all three—would divorce funding considerations from the real-life needs that have informed federal and state Medicaid policy for half a century. Crucially, a per capita cap would permit population growth to occur. But the limit of lawmakers’ appetite for continued growth in enrollment is unclear. Given how states responded to the relatively mild and temporary funding reductions the federal government enacted in 1981, sweeping changes like those currently under consideration are likely to produce far more substantial fallout.
The 10 page issue brief can be downloaded as a pdf here.
CMS has released a new handbook, Coordination of Benefits and Third Party Liability (COB/TPL) In Medicaid (2016). The explanation of the Handbook offers a section "About This Handbook": "Purpose: The purpose of the Handbook is to provide an overview of COB/TPL policy on a variety of individual subjects... 2. Intended Audience: The Handbook is intended for CMS Central Office (CO) and Regional Office (RO) staff working on COB/TPL issues, state Medicaid agency staff, and all other parties interested in Medicaid COB/TPL policies... 3. Content: The Handbook contains policy guidance on a variety of COB/TPL topics that is current at the time of publication. .."
The manual is available here for download as a pdf.
Monday, November 21, 2016
Medicaid block grants...again? Not only is Medicare in the spotlight for revamp, so too is Medicaid. Kaiser Health News reported this in Millions Could Lose Medicaid Coverage Under Trump Plan. The article explains
One major change endorsed by both Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would transform Medicaid from an entitlement program into a block grant program.
Here’s the difference. In an entitlement program, coverage is guaranteed for everyone who’s eligible. The federal government’s commitment to help states cover costs is open-ended. The states’ obligation is to cover certain groups of people and to provide specific benefits. Children and pregnant women who meet specific income criteria must be covered, for example.
The article notes that this isn't the first time that block grants for Medicaid has been proposed. "Turning Medicaid into a block grant program has been discussed for more than 25 years, but the idea has always met resistance from some states, health providers, health care advocates and Democrats. Even with a Republican majority in Congress and Trump in the White House, the plan would still face an uphill legislative battle."
And don't forget the statements regarding undoing the Affordable Care Act:
The biggest risk for Medicaid beneficiaries comes from pledges by Trump and other Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provided federal funding to states to expand Medicaid eligibility starting in 2014. Thirty-one states and Washington, D.C. did so, adding 15.7 million people to the program, according to the government. About 73 million are now enrolled in Medicaid — about half are children.
The article focuses on some of the other options that may be considered in determining whether to make changes to Medicaid.
All these proposed changes are a lot to take in. So hang on and stay tuned.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
A colleague yesterday sent me a link to a story about Speaker Ryan's plan to introduce cuts to Medicare (or eliminate it in its current form as we know it). (Of course, this was after the class where we had just finished covering Medicare). All I could think was, not again.... By not again, I meant here is another proposal heading to Congress to change (or eliminate) one of the entitlement programs. We've weathered the proposals to change Social Security (Remember the Commission appointed by President George W. Bush?). Now it's Medicare.
There is information on Speaker Ryan's website about his plan to change Medicare. A series of articles have popped up in the last few days as a result of his recent interview appearing on Fox. In Talking Points Memo, Ryan Plans to Phase Out Medicare in 2017, the transcript of the interview appears. Here's a quote:
What people don't realize is because of Obamacare, medicare is going broke, medicare is going to have price controls because of Obamacare, medicaid is in fiscal straits. You have to deal with those issues if you are going to repeal and replace obamacare. Medicare has serious problems [because of] Obamacare. Those are part of our plan.
The article describes his position as a phase-out of Medicare, although current beneficiaries keep Medicare.
Money magazine also ran an article, questioning the Speaker's assertion that Medicare is going broke. Is Medicare Really Going Broke, Like Paul Ryan Says?
Here’s the thing: Medicare is on an unsustainable spending path, but it’s not going broke. “The idea that we have a crisis is just nonsense,” says Dr. Robert Berenson, a fellow at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research organization, and formerly an official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. And Obamacare is not the culprit for Medicare’s fiscal woes.
The article notes that his plan proposes
changes [that] generally fall under the terms “privatization,” or “premium support.” While it remains unclear exactly what this would look like, it may mean giving beneficiaries some sort of fixed dollar amount to buy their own private insurance as an alternative to, or even replacement for, original Medicare... Under this type of system, beneficiaries who choose the lowest-cost coverage will stretch their government subsidy the farthest—which ironically, is how Obamacare works today.
The Washington Post ran an article about it, focusing on whether this is an "opportunity" for the Democrats, Paul Ryan’s plan to phase out Medicare is just what Democrats need. The Washington Post article offers a sobering assessment
If Ryan gets his way, Medicare as a universal insurance program will cease to exist. It will be replaced by “premium support,” or vouchers which seniors will use to buy private insurance. If you can’t afford any of the available plans with what the voucher is worth, tough luck. The whole point is to transfer the expense from Medicare to the seniors themselves. Half a century after Medicare brought health security to America’s seniors, Republicans would snuff it out, leaving some unknown number without any coverage at all and breaking the fundamental promise the government made.
Serious bummer folks.
Monday, November 14, 2016
CMS announced the 2017 premiums on November 10, 2016. Since the 2017 SSA COLA is so low, the hold harmless provision will kick in for many. For the Part B premium, most will pay $109.00 because of the "hold harmless" while others will pay $134. The income adjusted part B premium for higher income beneficiaries starts at $187.50 and tops out at $428.60 for a single person. The 2017 annual Part B deductible will be $183.
The Part A inpatient hospital deductible for 2017 will be $1,316, and the SNF co-pay for days 21-100 will be $164.50 in 2017. More of the 2017 figures are available here.
CareConnection is a new site aimed at connecting caregivers with information, other caregivers and helpful services. We’re listening firsthand to understand the concerns and challenges facing caregivers today, and we’d like to include you in the design of this site and its offerings. Explore the information, tools and solutions available, and share what works— and what doesn’t—so that we can build the best experience for caregivers like you.
The website lists articles and resources on a variety of topics, will offer a caregiver community that allows a caregiver to connect with other caregivers, provides an "ask-the-expert" free 30 minute consult with UnitedHealth care managers, and "caregiving tips and hacks" ("simple and inexpensive ways to use household items to solve every day problems, such as for those who have limited hand mobility, turning rubber bands into grips for a slippery glass or running a pen through a tennis ball to enhance the grip while writing") that are searchable by topic.
Sunday, November 13, 2016
As I've spent several recent weeks of my sabbatical in Arizona to be closer to my 90+ year old parents, I watched the run up to the election from this Southwestern vantage point, instead of my usual Pennsylvania location. Not only was I surprised by the result of the Pennsylvania vote, it was a surprise to see Arizona voters -- usually a Republican stronghold with a strong "senior" vote-- struggle with the election choices available to them.
On November 8, Arizona rejected legalization of recreational marijuana (predictable) and approved a significant increase of minimum wage (a closer call, as the business community in Arizona largely opposed that increase). Further, Trump had angered some by throwing shade on 80-year-old Senator John McCain's "hero" reputation. In contrast, Trump's seeming alliance with controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio, despite the later's pending criminal contempt prosecution, gave other Arizonans pause. Ultimately, 84-year-old Arpaio was voted "out" in Arizona (but, it remains to be seen whether he will be "out" of government at the federal level too). In other words, Arizonans were not voting in support of a "pure" Republican platform.
My mom, a Democrat but a somewhat reluctant Hillary supporter, was glued to CNN for much of the summer and fall, and she accurately predicted the Trump victory despite the pollsters' and commentators' refusal to acknowledge the frustrations driving the Trump tidal. She insisted on voting on election day, rather than taking advantage of Arizona's early vote options.
We know little about how Donald Trump will prioritize and govern once he takes the reins of his very first elected position. That uncertainty makes many nervous even as it makes others hopeful.
What will a Trump Administration mean for aging Americans? Some topics to consider:
- Public Retirement Benefits: Candidate Trump -- rarely one to get into the details of policy issues -- seemed o make a distinction between age-based benefits, including Social Security retirement and Medicare health insurance coverage, and disability-based benefits. Congress may seize on the latter. Trump argued "more jobs, less waste" was a cure for the solvency questions. On the one hand, he says he would support privatizing "some portion" of Social Security savings or investments to allow individuals to self-invest, while on the other hand rejecting "government" in the role of the retirement"investor." He seems willing to consider means testing for payment of retirement benefits. Here's a link to several utterances of Donald Trump on the topic of Social Security.
- Health Care for Seniors: Unlike ObamaCare in general, it will probably be harder for Donald Trump and Congress to displace the fundamentals of Medicare for seniors. But real cost questions attend health care for seniors. At what point will Trump be hit with the reality that all of his campaign plans about immigration, walls, foreign trade and infrastructure pale in comparison to the true challenges facing an aging American on health care?
- Medicaid for Long-Term Care: Candidate Trump has probably not focused on Medicaid as a source of long-term care financing. With Republicans controlling the House and Senate, however, will the old "anti-Medicaid planning" forces feel newly energized?
- Consumer Protections for Older Americans: Candidate Trump will feel the pressure from Republican-controlled Congress to roll back administrative safeguards implemented by President Obama during the last two years. Perhaps here is where seniors may feel the quickest impact from the change in power, including potential rollbacks on consumer protection measures that attempted to bar pre-dispute binding arbitration "agreements" for nursing home residents, implemented fiduciary duty standards for investment advisors, and imposed closer scrutiny on consumer credit companies. Indeed, the most direct threat of the Trump Administration, combined with the Republican Congress, is likely to be to "Elizabeth Warren's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."
How this all plays out will be "interesting," won't it? The points above are about today's generation of seniors. Perhaps the most important Trump impact will be for "future" seniors, especially if Trump's predicted roll back on environmental protections and his advisors' seeming rejection of climate science hold sway.
Friday, November 11, 2016
Save the Date: February 23, 2017, the 6th Annual Health Law Conference at Florida State University. This year's conference is titled Patients as Consumers: The Impact of Health Care Financing & Delivery Developments on Roles, Rights, Relationships & Risks. The program's learning objectives include
Appreciate the ways in which the role of the individual who is purchasing and receiving health care services is changing from one of passive patient to that of a consumer who is expected to influence, if not determine, his or her own health care
Understand the legal and ethical ramifications of the individual’s changing role from patient to consumer for the physician and other health care providers with whom the patient/consumer maintains a professional relationship
Manage the physician’s legal responsibilities and risks associated with the changing professional relationship engendered by expectations that patients will take on a more consumer-like role regarding their own health car
Identify major developments (e.g., aggressive consolidation of health care insurers and providers into mega-entities, the incentivized development of new coordinated product delivery entities such as Accountable Care Organizations, the proliferation of electronic health records, and replacement—on both mandatory and voluntary bases—of fee-for-service arrangements by various value purchasing strategies such as Pay for Performance (P4P) and bundled payments) in contemporary U.S. health care delivery and financing
Topics include Evidence-based Medicine & Shared Decision-making, Impact of Cost Containment Initiatives on Patient Rights and Provider Liabilities, and Patient Populations at Particular Risk of Not Controlling Their Own Medical Choices.
Registration is free unless seeking CLE credits. For more information or registration, click here.
Monday, November 7, 2016
A federal district court in Mississippi has entered an injunction prohibiting the CMS rule against pre-dispute arbitration from taking effect at the end of this month. According to a story on NPR, "[t]he reason for granting the injunction, the court explained in its order, is that it believes the new rule represents "incremental 'creep' of federal agency authority" — in this case the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services — 'beyond that envisioned by the U.S. Constitution.'"
The 40 page order is available here.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
Our local newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, recently ran a story about elders who work at low-paying jobs. Although they may wish to retire, they find themselves unable to afford retirement. For some low-income workers, retirement is only a dream explains that for low-wage workers can't afford to retire. "Studies have found that about one-third of low-wage workers ... say they'll never be able to afford retirement. The problem is particularly acute among minority women... mA 2016 study by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that a quarter of workers 50 or older say they won't retire. Among low-wage workers, earning less than $50,000 a year, it was 33 percent."
Consider the following statistics:
A 2016 report by the nonpartisan research nonprofit National Institute on Retirement Security shows that many black, Hispanic and Asian women have to work past retirement age to be able to afford basic expenses. Women were 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished.
The research showed that for men ages 70 to 74, about 19 percent of their income comes from wages. For women, it's about 15 percent.
Some low-wage workers will be able to collect Social Security, which will be of some help, but as the story notes, some without legal status won't be able to draw Social Security. One of the individuals featured in the story is 70 years old and works 6 days a week as the caregiver a 100 year-old person.
So what happens if the low-wage worker falls ill and is unable to continue to work? Might family step in to help? Are there options?
Thursday, November 3, 2016
The Guardian ran a story last month about proposed legislation in the Netherlands for elders who aren't terminally ill, but instead believe they have lived long enough. Netherlands may extend assisted dying to those who feel 'life is complete' explains that "[t]he Dutch government intends to draft a law that would legalise assisted suicide for people who feel they have “completed life” but are not necessarily terminally ill." Cabinet ministers have provided the Dutch Parliament with a letter about the plan, explaining "people who 'have a well-considered opinion that their life is complete, must, under strict and careful criteria, be allowed to finish that life in a manner dignified for them'." The intent is to limit the law's application to elders "'because the wish for a self-chosen end of life primarily occurs in the elderly, the new system will be limited to' them." The article indicates that there would be safeguards in the law. The target for completing the draft legislation is the end of 2017.
Thanks to Ron Hammerle for alerting me to the proposed legislation.
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Apple kicked off an event last week to unveil its latest lineup of MacBook Pros and other new offerings with a video showcasing the unique ways that people with disabilities use their products.
The brief clip shows individuals with physical and developmental disabilities using technology to overcome basic challenges — from speaking to learning, engaging with others and taking photographs.
Apple also unveiled its accessibility website, the landing page of which explains: "[t]he most powerful technology in the world is technology that everyone, including people with disabilities, can use. To work, create, communicate, stay in shape, and be entertained. So we don’t design products for some people or even most people. We design them for every single person." The page offers links to accessibility features for each Apple product.
This you have to see. Check it out!
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
With just a few more days until the election, Coloradans are considering whether to vote in favor of physician aid-in-dying. Colorado Wrestles With Ethics Of Aid-In-Dying As Vote Looms published by Kaiser Health News (KHN) explains why some are supporting the measure, and others are opposing it. As well, both sides are gathering large amounts of money to support their positions:
The ballot initiative is drawing passion — and plenty of money.
According to the latest filings with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, backers have raised about $5.6 million, mostly from Compassion & Choices Action Network.
The “No Assisted Suicide Colorado” campaign has raised $2.4 million. That money is primarily coming from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver, which has donated $1.1 million, as well as other archdioceses around the country.
The Colorado Medical Society has taken a neutral position and the story offers some statistics about doctors' views of the measure, with a majority (although it's close) supporting the measure.
Monday, October 31, 2016
SSA announced recently that there would be a COLA for 2017, but it is a teensy COLA, actually, a .03% increase. Big gap between Social Security cost-of-living adjustment and retiree inflation offers a critical look at the 2017 COLA compared to inflation and how the government calculates the COLA using the consumer price index. An article in USA Today about the 2017 COLA noted that this COLA won't allow beneficiaries to get ahead, even slightly. Instead, they will likely lose ground, because of the Medicare Part B premium costs
The nation’s 65 million Social Security beneficiaries will receive a paltry 0.3% cost-of-living adjustment to their monthly checks in 2017, the government announced Tuesday. In dollars and cents, it means the average retired beneficiary’s check will rise about $5 to $1,360 per month in 2017.
The even more bitter pill: Many current Medicare beneficiaries won’t be able to spend any of that extra money. Instead, they’ll likely have to send their COLA straight back to Uncle Sam to cover higher Medicare Part B premiums.
Almost a third of Medicare's 56 million beneficiaries could see their premiums jump 22% next year, according to the Medicare Trustees Report, putting the cost at an estimated $149 per month. Those unlucky 30% of beneficiaries include people enrolling in Part B for the first time in 2017, people who are on Medicare but who aren't currently taking Social Security benefits and current enrollees who pay an income-related higher premium.
Sunday, October 30, 2016
The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that shows by region where people spend more time at home at the end of life. Days Spent at Home — A Patient-Centered Goal and Outcome notes that
Being home at the end of one’s life will never be a universal goal, but our experience and academic research suggest that, all else being equal, patients would rather be at home than in health care facilities. When surveyed about their preferences for dealing with a terminal illness, most people (86%) indicated that they would prefer to be at home in their final days. In addition, they would not want to be on a ventilator in order to gain an extra week of life, and they are not opposed to drugs that could improve symptoms but potentially shorten life. These preferences are highly consistent across regions of the country and people’s socioeconomic status.1 Despite this consistency in end-of-life preferences, there is wide regional variation in the intensity of, expenditures on, and locations of care provided during the last 6 months of life.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the study. Where the Elderly Die Can Vary by Region, Study Shows explains that
How much time people spend in hospitals or nursing homes in the final months of life, instead of at home, varies widely depending on where they live, new research shows.
Across the Rockies and regions of the Gulf Coast, the dying spend more than two additional weeks hospitalized or in other facilities, on average, compared with those at the end of life in the Midwest and Montana, researchers reported Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In other parts of the country, the picture is more mixed but still differs sharply from one community to another.
The study also looks at the differences in Medicare spending as a result of the regional variations. "Research suggests one reason for the geographical spending swings may be that doctors practice medicine differently in some areas of the country than others, with some doctors doing more despite little difference in results." Even in some instances where the patient's care was supposed to be delivered at home, that didn't occur. "The ... study also found that health-care and hospice services intended to keep people at home perhaps did not do so. Regions where use of home care and hospice were greater also had higher use of hospitals and nursing homes ...."