Friday, October 9, 2015

Filial Friday: Freakonomics Asks "Should Kids Pay Back Parents for Raising Them?"

In a convergence of my teaching, research and public outreach work, this week I've found myself in several overlapping conversations about whether adult children have obligations -- moral or legal -- to care for or financially support their parents.  

This week, following my Elder Law Prof Blog post recommending Hendrik Hartog's fascinating book, Someday All This Will Be Yours, which I also recommended to my Trust & Estate students, I had a nice series of virtual conversations with Dirk about his book. What a thoughtful historian he is.  We were talking about his research-based observation in the book about adult children and needy parents:

Adult children were not legally bound to remain and to work for their parents.  Nor were they obligated to care for the old.  Adult children were, paradigmatically and legally, free individuals, "emancipated," to use the technical term. . . . Furthermore, there was little -- perhaps nothing-- to keep an uncaring or careless adult child from allowing a parent to go over the hill to the poorhouse.

I asked, "what about filial support laws?"  Turns out that was a timely question because Professor Hartog  had just been interviewed for a Freakonomics Radio episode, "Should Kids Pay Back Their Parent for Raising Them?" The program became publically available, via podcast or written transcript, on October 8, 2015.  In the interview Professor Hartog was asked to comment on filial support laws.  He said in part:

Filial responsibility statutes are very weak efforts to ensure that the young will support the old if they are needy.... They rarely are enforced.  Very, very, very, very rarely.  So, you know, in a sense, every time they are enforced they become a New York Times article or they become an article in the local newspapers. 

Professor Hartog was speaking in large measure from the perspective of his important historical research, including review of a body of case reports from New Jersey spanning some 100 years from the mid 1880s to the mid 1900s.  And based on my own historical research, I would also say that in the U.S., filial support laws have been rarely enforced, although I would characterize the enforcement as often "episodic" in nature, especially after the growth of Social Security and Medicaid benefits.  But...

I think the modern story is quite different in at least one state -- Pennsylvania.  Part of this difference is tied to the fact that Pennsylvania's filial support law permits enforcement by commercial third-parties, including nursing homes, as I discussed in my 2013 article on Filial Support Laws in the Modern Era.  Other U.S. jurisdictions with "modern" enforcement cases are South Dakota and Puerto Rico.

Indeed, I'm speaking on October 9, 2015 at the invitation of a Bench and Bar Conference in Gettysburg, PA about "The Festering Hot Topic" of Filial Support Laws in Pennsylvania. In the presentation, I report on controversies arising from recent, aggressive collection efforts by law firms representing nursing homes, as well the latest examples of successful enforcement suits by nursing homes and family members. I also analyze a disturbing additional claim, where Germany is seeking to enforce its filial support law to compel a U.S. resident to pay toward the costs of care for an ailing father in Germany. 

Ultimately, I think that Professor Hartog and I agree more than we disagree about the lack of behavioral impact flowing from filial support laws. As demonstrated by Professor Hartog in his book, much care and support is provided by children, but flowing from complicated moral or personal inclinations, rather than statute-based lawsuits.

This seems a more realistic paradigm, although  not without opportunities for misunderstanding and disappointment. But, as I often observe, the very last person I would want involved in my care would be someone who is doing it "only" because a statute -- much less a court -- is telling them they must care for me.

October 9, 2015 in Books, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Medicaid, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Webinar on October 6: The "A to Zahner" on Medicaid Annuities

Sorry for the short notice, but on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 from noon to 1 p.m. (Eastern time), the Pennsylvania Bar Institute is hosting a very timely (and cleverly titled) webinar, focusing on the impact of the Third Circuit's recent decision in Zahner on Medicaid planning generally and specifically on the sue of annuities. 

Here is a link to PBI's details on "The A to Zahner on Medicaid Annuities," including how to register.

October 5, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Medicaid, Property Management, Webinars | Permalink

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Keeping Track of Preventive Services

Trying to keep straight all of the preventive services available to individuals is daunting, but the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) has made it easy with their new tool, Preventive Services Tracker.   There are separate trackers for each condition including cancer chronic conditions, immunizations, sexual health, health promotions and preganancy-based.  Organized into easy-to-use charts,, each chart provides information on the required service, the target population, the recommendation, coverage clarifications and effective dates.  The charts also provide links for each required service to explain more details.

You might also want to check out their article on Preventive Services Covered by Private Health Plans Under the Affordable Care Act and the accompanying fact sheet.


September 27, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Family Caregivers Show Support for Pennsylvania State Assistance at State Capitol

If you have worked in Elder Law long enough, you have probably received a panicked call from a family caregiver who is unprepared for a loved one to be discharged on short notice from hospital care.

2015-capitol-caregiving-event-tamesha-keelOn September 22, the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg was crowded with individuals wearing coordinated colors, showing their support for Pennsylvania Caregivers, including family members who are often struggling with financial and practical challenges in caring for frail elders. Here's a link to a CBS-21-TV news report, with eloquent remarks from Tamesha Keel (also pictured left), who has first-hand experience as a stay-at-home caregiver for her own aging mother.  Tamesha recently joined our law school as Director of Career Services.

AARP helped to rally support for House Bill 1329, the Pennsylvania CARE Act.  The acronym, coined as part of a national campaign by AARP to assist family caregivers, stands for Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable Act.  HB 1329  passed the Pennsylvania House in July 2015 and is now pending in the Pennsylvania Senate.

We have written on this Blog before about pending CARE legislation in other states.  A central AARP-supported goal is to achieve better coordination of aftercare, starting with identification of patient-chosen caregivers who should receive notice in advance of any discharge of the patient from the hospital.  Pennsylvania's version of the CARE Act would require hospitals to give both notice and training, either in person or by video, to such caregivers about how to provide appropriate post-discharge care in the home. 

I'd actually like to see a bit more in Pennsylvania. It is unfortunate that the Pennsylvania CARE Act, at least in its current iteration (Printer's Number 1883), does not go further by requiring written notice, delivered at least a minimum number of hours in advance of the actual discharge. AARP's own model act suggests a minimum of 4 hours, consistent with Medicare rules.

Under Federal Law, Medicare-participating hospitals must deliver advance written notice of a discharge plan, and such notice must explain the patient's rights to appeal an inadequate plan or premature discharge. A timely appeal puts a temporary hold on the discharge. See the Center for Medicare Advocacy's (CMA) summary of key provisions of Medicare law on hospital discharges, applicable even if a patient at the Medicare-certified hospital isn't a Medicare-patient. CMA's outline also suggests some weaknesses of the Medicare notice requirement.

AARP's original CARE Act proposals are important and evidence-based, seeking to improve the patient's prospects for post-hospitalization care through better advance planning. At the same time, there's some irony for me in reading the Pennsylvania legislature's required "fiscal impact" report on HR 1329, as it reports a "0" dollar impact.  That may be true from the Pennsylvania government's cost perspective, but for the hospitals, to do it right, whether in person or by video, training is unlikely to be revenue neutral.  I think we need to talk openly about the costs of providing effective education or training to home caregivers.

If passed by the Senate, Pennsylvania's CARE Act would be not become effective for another 12 months.  The bill further provides for evaluation of the effectiveness of the rules on patient outcomes.   

As is so often true, states are constantly juggling the need for reforms to solve identified problems, with the costs of such reforms.  Perhaps the current version of the Pennsylvania bill reflects some compromises among stakeholders. According to this press statement, the Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania supports the current version of AARP's Pennsylvania CARE Act.

September 24, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Medicare Criminal Investigation? FBI Raids Home of CEO of Nursing Home Company

As we have frequently reported on this Blog (see e.g., here and here and here), the Obama Administration has been aggressive in pursuit of Medicare and Medicaid claims tied to unlawful reimbursement or kickback claims for companies involved in long-term care.  But even given that history, often tied to whistleblowing by current or former employees, it is unusual to see criminal investigations. Thus recent media reports about the FBI raiding the CEO of American Senior Communities was eye-catching, including this report from the Indianapolis Star:  

A cadre of federal agents raided the Carmel home of an executive of a chain of nursing homes Tuesday morning. But the most important question remains unanswered: Why?

The home is owned by James G. Burkhart, the CEO of American Senior Communities, according to Hamilton County property records. FBI investigators also were at the Southside headquarters of American Senior Communities, at 6900 Gray Road, according to reports.

American Senior Communities manages nearly 100 senior care facilities and is one of the largest nursing home management companies in Indiana. Among those are 60 sites, including skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities throughout the state, that the company manages under a contract with Marion County’s public health agency.

According to media reports, American Senior Communities (ASC) issued the following press statement following the raid:

"American Senior Communities’ most important priority is to continue to provide excellent care to our patients and residents. ASC has been contacted by the federal government in connection with an investigation into certain individuals or practices. ASC is fully cooperating with the government and is conducting its own review to ascertain the relevant facts. ASC is in compliance with all federal, state and local laws and regulations and will continue to conduct its business in accordance with the highest standards of integrity." 

Stay tuned...(but don't hold your breath).

September 18, 2015 in Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Commenting on Proposed Medicaid Regs? Comment Period Expanded to October 14

As we have reported earlier on this Blog, CMS is seeking comments on proposed Medicaid rules affecting nursing facilities, including proposals that could affect the use of pre-dispute "arbitration" agreements. Justice in Aging provided the helpful update that the comment period has been extended to October 14, 2015.  In addition, Justice in Aging has provided a link to model or sample comments to use clarify consumer concerns.  

Here is a link to the CMS extension notice.  Here is a link to important information about commenting on key aspects of the proposals, prepared by The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.    

September 14, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Deadline 9/14/2015: Comments Due to CMS re "Binding Arbitration" in Nursing Home Admission Agreements

Erica Wood, a director for the ABA Commission on Law and Aging,  writing for the August 2015 issue of the ABA's Bifocal Journal, reminds us that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is seeking comments on proposed changes to rules affecting Long-Term Care Facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs, including the issue of whether CMS should prohibit "binding" pre-dispute arbitration provisions in nursing home contracts.  The deadline for public comments is 5 p.m., on Monday, September 14, 2015.  Electronic comments, using the file code CMS-2360-P, can be submitted through this portal:

How do you feel about pre-dispute "agreements" binding consumers, including consumers of long-term care, to arbitration? Your comments to CMS can make a difference! 

I remember my first encounter with "binding" pre-dispute arbitration provisions in care facilities. In the early years of my law school's Elder Protection Clinic, a resident of a nursing home had purportedly "given away" possessions to an aide at nursing home, who promptly sold them on EBay.  The resident was lonely and the "friendship" included the aide taking her out the front door of the facility, via a wheel chair, on little outings, including trips where the resident could visit her beloved house, still full of a life-time of antiques and jewelry.  (The resident might have recovered enough to go home -- although eventually a second stroke intervened.)

Continue reading

September 8, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0)

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

Seniors Who Cannot Make Ends Meet -- UCLA Documents "The Hidden Poor"

UCLA's Center for Health Policy Research has issued its August 2015 report on "The Hidden Poor," using county-by-county data to demonstrate that "federal" definitions of poverty are not a sufficient measure of true poverty for seniors.  What are the "hidden poor?"  The UCLA report explains:  "The Hidden Poor are defined as those who have incomes above 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), but who do not have enough income to make ends meet as calculated by the Elder Index."

A recent article in the Sacramento Bee highlights key components of the analysis: 

More than 300,000 elderly Californians are officially poor, as measured by the federal government, but their numbers triple to more than 1 million when the “hidden poor” are counted, according to a new study from UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research.


National poverty guidelines say that for a single elderly adult living alone, the poverty line is $10,890 a year, but UCLA’s “elder index” puts it at $23,364 in California.


Those “hidden poor” Californians over 65 tend to be Latino or black. Their greatest concentrations are found in rural counties with overall low income levels, topped by Imperial County, where more than 40 percent of the elderly are the hidden poor....


The study said population groups with especially large proportions of the hidden poor include grandparents raising grandchildren, elderly with adult children living at home, and single elders.

Accurate measurements of poverty are core to planning of resources for any age group, including seniors.  How does your state account for needy seniors? 

Read more here:

September 2, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Housing, Medicaid, Statistics | 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 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)

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)

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)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Highlights from Upcoming Pennsylvania Elder Law Institute on July 23 & 24

Probably the best bang for your CLE buck in Pennsylvania comes from the two-day Elder Law Institute hosted each summer by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. This year the 18th annual event is on July 23 & 24 in Harrisburg. 

Highlights include:

  • "The Year in Review" with attorneys Marielle Hazen and Robert Clofine sharing duties to report on key legislative, regulatory and judicial developments from the last 12 months;
  • How to "maximize" eligibility for home and community based services (Steve Feldman and Pam Walz);
  • Cross disciplinary discussions of end-of-life care with medical professionals and hospice providers;
  • LTC "provider" perspectives (Kimber Latsha and Jacqueline Shafer);
  • Latest on proposals to change Veterans' Pension Benefits (Dennis Pappas);
  • Implementation of the Pa Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force Recommendations (Judges Lois Murphy, Paula Ott, Sheila Woods-Skipper & Christin Hamel);
  • A closing session opportunity, "Let's Ask the Department of Human Services Counsel" (with Addie Abelson, Mike Newell & Lesley Oakes)

There is still time to registration (you can attend one or both days; lunches are included and there is a reception the first evening).  

I think this is the first year I have missed this key opportunity for networking and updates; but I'm sending my research assistant!    

July 16, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Medicaid, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Louisiana Governor Signs Amended "Lifetime Necessities" Law Obligating "Ascendants & Descendants"

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, one of (now many) candidates for the Republican nomination for President,  has been making a fair amount of press of late, for his positions on so-called medical marijuana, Common Core education standards, and how his state will handle same-sex marriage. Lower on the radar screen, however, was his signing of Act 260, an interesting package of legal changes affecting obligations between various family members.

One of these changes was to adopt a new provision affecting the obligations of "ascendants and descendants" to provide "basic necessities of life" for family members "in need."  In other words, filial support. 

Louisiana already had a provision, Section 229, providing that "children are bound to maintain their father and mother and other ascendants who are in need."  The new provision continues this statutory obligation, but makes enforcement "personal" only.  The substitute provision was signed into law on June 29 and becomes effective on January 1, 2016.  New Article 237 of Act 260 provides:

Descendants are bound to provide the basic necessities of life to their ascendants who are in need, upon proof of inability to obtain these necessities by other means or from other sources, and ascendants are likewise bound to provide for their needy descendants, this obligation being reciprocal.


This obligation is strictly personal and is limited to the basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter, and health care.


This obligation is owed by descendants and ascendants in the order of their degree of relationship to the obligee and is joint and divisible among obligors. Nevertheless, if the obligee is married, the obligation of support owed by his descendants and ascendants is secondary to the obligation owed by his spouse.

Official comments explaining the revisions emphasize that the necessities obligation kicks in only when the needy family member is unable to obtain necessities "by other means" or from "other sources," thus signaling any filial support obligation is secondary to the individual's eligibility for public assistance or other welfare benefits. Further "for the first time" Louisiana law "provides a ranking of those descendants and ascendants who owe this reciprocal, lifetime obligation."

The commentary explains that the revision makes the obligation "strictly personal," and there it precludes enforcement by "a third person."  Thus, it would appear that unlike in Pennsylvania (or Germany?) nursing homes and the state may not use these statutes in order to sue family members to collect necessities for indigent elders.

According to the comments, the obligation is also not "heritable."  This appears to reflect a Louisiana Court of Appeals decision from 2010, In re Succession of Elie,denying a mother's claims for funds from a deceased son's estate brought under former Section 229.     

July 10, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 3, 2015

Pennsylvania AG Files Consumer Protection Suit Against Golden Living Nursing Homes

On July 1, 2015, Pennsylvania's Attorney General filed a complaint in the Commonwealth Court against Golden Gate National Senior Care LLC (GGNSC) which manages and operates Golden Living Centers nationally.  The AG's suit focuses on 14 facilities in Pennsylvania. From the AG's press statement:

The legal action asserts Golden Living violated the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law by deceiving consumers through its marketing practices.


The company advertised it would keep its residents clean and comfortable while providing food and water at any time. But its facilities were understaffed, leaving residents thirsty, hungry, dirty, unkempt and sometimes unable to summon anyone to help meet their most basic needs, such as going to the bathroom, the legal action asserts.   

According to the AG's office, evidence comes from residents' family members and former employees of Golden Living, including certified nursing assistants.  The allegations focus on an alleged "widespread pattern of understaffing and omitted care."

Further, the AG makes the following specific allegations:  

  • Continent residents left in diapers because they were unable to obtain assistance going to the bathroom.    
  • Incontinent residents left in soiled diapers, in their own feces or urine, for extended periods of time.    
  • Residents at risk for bedsores from not being turned every two hours as required.   
  • Residents not receiving range of motion exercises.    
  • Residents not receiving showers or other hygiene services as required.     
  • Residents being woken at 5 a.m. or earlier to be washed and dressed for the day.    
  • Residents not being timely dressed in order to attend their meals.    
  • Residents not being escorted to the dining hall and sometimes missing meals entirely.   
  • Long waits for responses to call bells or no responses at all.   
  • Staff, under the direction of management or fear of management, falsifying records to indicate residents received services when in fact they did not.  
  • Improved staffing when state inspections occurred, leading to deceit about the true conditions at the facility.     
  • The investigation also included a review of staffing levels self-reported by Golden Living facilities and deficiencies cited in surveys conducted by the state Department of Health. 

According to one news source, Golden Living responded to the suit with a statement expressing the company's confidence that the "claims made by the Attorney General are baseless and wholly without merit," and further alleging the suit is the "unfortunate result of Kathleen Kane's inappropriate and questionable relationship with a Washington D.C.-based plaintiff's firm that preys on legitimate businesses and is paid by contingency fees."  (For those of you not privy to the local news on Pennsylvania politics generally and AG Kathleen Kane specifically, I think it is fair to say that the press frequently refers to her as the "embattled AG."  She first took office in January 2013).

The Pennsylvania AG's suit comes on the heels of a broader report released in June by Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, asserting that from 2012 through 2014 the Pennsylvania Department of Health under former Governor Corbett's administration, failed significantly to conduct proper investigation of complaints about a large number of nursing homes (not limited to Golden Living) and failed to enforce existing regulations designed to protect residents. 

For Golden Living, allegations are not limited to Pennsylvania. For example, in June 2015, claims about chronic understaffing of 12 Golden Living Center nursing homes in Arkansas were certified to be litigated as a class action. 

Hat tip to Douglas Roeder, Esq., for bringing the latest Pennsylvania AG's suit to my attention. Last month I reported on the A.G.'s suit for unfair trade practices filed against a law firm that was alleged to be improperly using Pennsylvania's filial support law as a basis for collection demands against family members of the debtor. 

July 3, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 29, 2015

California Court Says Law Permitting Nursing Homes to "Make Routine Decisions for Incapacitated Residents" Is Unconstitutional

On June 24, 2015, the Superior Court for the State of California, County of Alameda, Judge Evelio Grillo presiding, issued a mandamus in a court suit filed in 2013 by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR).  Lots of interesting and important issues here, including:

  • the finding that CANHR, a nonprofit agency "dedicated to improving the quality of care for California's nursing home residents," has standing to bring a citizen action to challenge the reliance by nursing homes on California law to permit them to make decisions "for" incapacitated residents who do not have court appointed agents, family or other surrogate decision makers;
  • the conclusion that the California law in question, Calif. Health & Safety Code Section 1418.8,  is unconstitutional, both facially and as applied;
  • the recognition that the mandate is necessary, even though it will require major changes in how care facilities operate in the daily care of patients.

The 44 page opinion concludes:

"The court is aware that this statute was the Legislature's attempt to deal with a very difficult and significant problem of how to provide timely and effective medical treatment to patients in skilled nursing facilities without delays that were often happening when a petition had to be filed in probate court.  The court acknowledges that this order will likely create problems in how many skilled nursing facilities currently operate....  The court has considered this burden and weighed it against the due process concerns, and finds that the due process rights of these patients is more compelling.  The stakes are simply too high to hold otherwise. Any error in these situations has the possibility of depriving a patient of his or her right to make medical decisions about his or her own life that may result in significant consequences, including death.  A patient may not only lose the ability to make his or her health decisions, but also to manage his or her own finances, determine his or her visitors, and the ability to leave the facility."  

Congratulations to the hard-working advocates at CANHR, and particularly to Golden Gate Law Professor Mort P. Cohen,  who brought the action on behalf of CNHR and several nursing home residents.  Here is a link to the full opinion in CANHR v. Chapman, Case No. RG13700100. Here is a press release from CANHR.

June 29, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink

Sunday, June 28, 2015

In Divorce of 90+ Year Olds, Nebraska High Court Confirms Award of Alimony to Pay Nursing Home Fees

In Binder v, Binder, decided June 26, 2015, the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed an award against the husband for alimony in the amount of $3,200 per month. This was the amount necessary to cover the wife's balance due each month for her nursing home care.  The divorcing couple, each in their mid 90s, had been married for 32 years, a second marriage for both.  Married in their 60s, they had no children together. The husband had at least one child from a prior marriage; his son leased the husband's farmland for more than 25 years to continue operations.

The husband argued that the alimony award, exceeding his own $2,800/mo income from Social Security and rental of his farming property, was an abuse of discretion as it lowered his income below "poverty thresholds" set by state guidelines for child support awards.  The Court ruled, however, that in the absence of minor children, the guidelines were inapplicable. Nonetheless, the Court also addressed the "reasonableness" of the award and concluded:

In reviewing an alimony award, an appellate court does not decide whether it would have awarded the same amount of alimony as the trial court. Instead it decides whether the trial court's award is untenable such as to deprive a party of a substantial right or just result.  The main purpose of alimony is to assist a former spouse for a period necessary for that individual to secure his or her own means of support. Reasonableness is the ultimate criterion.


Applying these factors, we cannot say that the amount of alimony is an abuse of discretion. Glenn sought to dissolve his nearly 32–year marriage to Laura after she began incurring expenses for essential nursing home care that are well beyond her means. Laura did not work outside the home during the marriage, she is not employed now, and there is no evidence that she has untapped earning capacity. Similarly, Glenn is retired and has no wage income. But while Laura has exhausted nearly all her assets, Glenn has the power to dispose of more than 200 acres of farmland. The land is not irrelevant to alimony even though it is Glenn's premarital property. A court may consider all of the property owned by the parties—marital and separate–in decreeing alimony. 


As to disputes over matters such as Laura's contributions to the marriage, we note that the district court was in the best position to judge the witness' credibility. Although our review is de novo, if credible evidence is in conflict on a material issue of fact, an appellate court considers and may give weight to the circumstance that the trial judge heard and observed the witnesses and accepted one version of the facts than another. This rule is particularly apt here because both Laura and Glenn had some trouble testifying and the record does not show to what extent their difficulties were cognitive, auditory, or other.

In reading the decision, I'm struck by questions of what -- or even who -- was driving the divorce, and to what extent the parties' decisions were affected by Medicaid eligibility issues.  For more history, as well as comments by the husband's attorney, see "Retired Farmer Must Pay More in Alimony Than Monthly Income," in the Omaha World-Herald.

June 28, 2015 in Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Property Management, Retirement, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What Do We (and Should We) Mean by "Assisted Living?"

Earlier this week I recommended Atul Gawande's book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,  and I offered an excerpt from his discussion of how doctors are impacted by practical limits on their goals as solvers of problems.  But the book is about more than just medicine. Another compelling chapter traces attempts to avoid "nursing homes" and the once cutting edge trend of "assisted living" as an alternative:

The idea spread astoundingly quickly.  Around 1990, based on [Keren Brown] Wilson's successes, Oregon launched an initiative to encourage the building of more homes like hers.  Wilson worked with her husband to replicate their model and to help others do the same.  They found a ready market. People proved willing to pay considerable sums to avoid ending up in a nursing home, and several states agreed to cover the costs for poor elders.


Not long after that, Wilson went to Wall Street for capital, to build more places.  Her company, Assisted Living Concepts, went public.  Others sparing up with names like Sunrise, Atria, Sterling, and Karrington, and assisted living became the fastest growing form of senior housing in the country.  By 2000, Wilson had expanded her company from fewer than a hundred employees to more than three thousand.  It operated 184 residents in eighteen states.  By 2010, the number of people in assisted living was approaching the number in nursing homes. 


But a distressing thing happened along the way.  The concept of assisted living became so popular that developers began slapping the name on just about anything.  The idea mutated from a radical alternative to nursing homes into a menagerie of watered-down versions with fewer services.  Wilson testified before Congress and spoke across the country about her increasing alarm at the way the ideas was evolving....

For more, see Chapter 4 of Being Mortal, titled "Assistance." The other intriguingly-named chapters are "The Independent Self," Things Fall Apart," "Dependence," "A Better Life," "A Better Life," "Letting Go," "Hard Conversations," and "Courage."

June 18, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Property Management, Retirement, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)