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, 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

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)

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)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Growing Opposition to Consolidation of Departments of Aging into Other State Departments

As I reported here for the first time recently, Pennsylvania's Governor Wolf has proposed consolidation -- or as he prefers to call it -- unification -- of four separate administrative agencies, the Departments of Aging, Health, Human Services (formerly Public Welfare) and Drug & Alcohol Treatment Programs.  Are similar budget-driven changes occurring in your state?

As I catch up with events in Pennsylvania, I'm learning from readers about growing concerns about the possible merger.  

  • As one recently retired PA legislator pointed out, there seems to be little in the way of a written plan for how services will be handled under this merger.  Rather, the merger appears mostly as a description of budget items, with a lot of "minus" signs to indicate cuts.  Perhaps by design, Pennsylvania government is often a bad example of transparency for governments.  What is the real plan, if any?  
  • With the consolidation, at a minimum, older Pennsylvanians would be losing a cabinet level post, their singular, dedicated spokesperson. This would be likely to affect all future budget and programming battles.
  • The timing is, to use a favorite Trump adjective, "sad."  While the leading edge of the big wave of aging baby boomers began to be felt a few years ago when those born in in 1945 started turning age 65 in 2010, the "real" need for an effective advocate is when boomers start turning age 75, age 80 and so on, the higher ages when they are more likely to need or question access to services.

Perhaps of greatest significance is the potential impact of consolidation on the process for assessment of need for services and assistance, especially Medical Assistance.  

Under the current allocation of resources, "assessment" of need is handled by individuals employed under the authority of Pennsylvania's Department of Aging.  

However, the financial allocations are currently determined under the authority of the Department of Human Services.  Consolidation might make sense on paper, but wait

As one of my mentors in aging, Northern Ireland's former Commissioner of Older People Claire Keatinge, says, to be helpful, fair and effective, any individual assessment of need for health care, social care and security, should be exactly that -- individualized and focused on the client,  and should not be simply a match to "what services (if any) are available."  That process-based distinction is critical to determining current and future funding priorities.

In Pennsylvania, the lion's share of budget and personnel for aging services has long been housed in the Department of Human Services (formerly Public Welfare), but those workers -- perhaps by necessity and perhaps by design, have often functioned as dedicated bean counters, as in "here's what services we fund, so do you or don't you meet the eligibility criteria?"  

By losing the aging assessment focus of the current Department of Aging, it seems likely the state would compromise, and perhaps lose entirely, the independent thinking and opportunity for critical needs-based assessment.

Several elder-focused organizations have raised these and other key points in opposition to the existing budget-based consolidation proposal.  Those active in the debate include:

  • The Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (PAELA)  has asked thoughtful legislators to "oppose such consolidation" as presented in the current budget proposal.   As Pittsburgh Elder Law attorney Julian Gray testified on May 1 in state Senate hearings, a "bigger" agency is not necessarily a "better" agency. 
  • Representatives for the service organization for Pennsylvania senior service workers, P4A, testified strongly in favor of the role of the Department of Aging as the advocate for the "unique needs of seniors."  Speakers focused too on the Department's historical role in protecting and managing a unique funding stream dedicated to seniors, "lottery" funds.
  • Long-time practitioner and elder law guru, Jeff Marshall, has a comprehensive commentary, with links, detailing the history and importance of Pennsylvania's Department of Aging.  There's a simple bottom line expressed here -- "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."  
  • Related articles

May 23, 2017 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Return to Nursing Home After Hospital

Justice in Aging, the Center for Medicare Advocacy and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care have issued another in the series of issue briefs about the revised nursing home regulations.  Return to Facility After Hospitalization covers several important topics including notice, bed holds, right to return and appeal rights. Here is the executive summary:  

Bed hold rights are set by state law. Federal law complements state law by requiring facilities to notify residents of those rights. Notice of bed hold rights must be provided at two separate times: in advance of a hospitalization, and at the time of transfer to a hospital. The advance notification must include the resident’s right to a bed hold, whether the state’s Medicaid program pays for a bed hold, and the facility’s bed hold policies (which must be consistent with state and federal law). The time-of-transfer notification must describe the resident’s bed hold rights under the facility’s policy.

Federal law also establishes a resident’s right to return to the facility even if a bed hold period has been exceeded, or if the resident did not have a bed hold. The resident can return to her previous room if available, or to the next available room if the previous room is not available. The regulations specify that the resident can request a transfer/discharge hearing if the facility refuses to accept her back.

 

May 8, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

More Issue Briefs on the Revised Nursing Home Regs

Justice in Aging announced the release of two additional issue briefs concerning the revised nursing home regs.  One brief concerns quality of care and the other, grievances and resident/family councils.

The executive summary for the quality of care issue brief explains 

The substantive requirements for quality of care are retained in the revised regulations, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) affirms the regulations’ overriding goals: supporting person-centered care and enabling each resident to attain or maintain his or her highest level of well-being. Finding all of the requirements presents a challenge, however. CMS has significantly reorganized the quality of care provisions, moving some provisions to other regulatory sections, expanding the standards of the prior regulations, and adding several entirely new requirements.

The executive summary for the grievances and resident/family councils issue brief explains:

 Residents have the right to file grievances and the facility must work to resolve those concerns promptly. A grievance official at the facility is responsible for complaint handling. Each facility must have a grievance policy and provide residents with information about how to file a grievance, how to contact the grievance official, a time frame for complaint review, a written decision, and information about other entities with which grievances can be filed. Written decisions must include, but are not limited to, the steps the facility took to investigate the complaint, the findings, whether the complaint was confirmed or not, and the action the facility has taken or will take to correct the problem.

The resident has a right to: form and participate in a resident council; have family member(s) or other resident representative(s) meet in the facility with the families or resident representative(s) of other residents; and participate in the family council. There must be a staff person assigned to assist both resident and family councils and the council, along with the facility, must approve this person. The councils must be given a private space in which to meet and no one outside of a resident or family member can attend without invitation. The facility must act upon council concerns and recommendations and provide a reason for its decision, although it does not have to implement all that the councils request.

All of the issue briefs are available here.

 

May 3, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 1, 2017

CMS Reversing Course? Pre-Dispute Arbitration Clauses

Late last week I learned that CMS may be reversing course on prohibiting pre-dispute arbitration clauses in nursing home admission contracts.  I couldn't decide if my response should be "say it isn't so" or "you have got to be kidding me". Nevertheless, Justice in Aging reported in their weekly newsletter, This Week in Health Care Defense  that:

CMS Backtracks on Nursing Home Arbitration Prohibition

As part of last year’s revision of nursing facility regulations, CMS prohibited federally-certified nursing facilities from obtaining arbitration agreements at the time of admission. CMS concluded that it was unfair to have residents and families waive legal rights during such a difficult and chaotic time. Now, however, CMS has reversed course and has filed language that would revise the regulation to allow facilities to obtain arbitration agreements at admission. For more on the revised regulations, see the series of issue briefs developed by Justice in Aging in partnership with the Center for Medicare Advocacy and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care.

Serious bummer.

May 1, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Other | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Webinar: Elder Financial Abuse & Medicaid Denials

Justice in Aging has announced a free webinar for May 17th, 2017 from 2-3 edt on Elder Financial Abuse & Medicaid Denials.   Here is a description of the webinar

Financial exploitation can devastate low-income older adults, especially those who rely on Medicaid for their health and long-term care. For example, older adults who are victims of financial abuse may be denied eligibility for Medicaid because their abuser won’t turn over their bank records. Without Medicaid eligibility, the older adult may be threatened with eviction or involuntary discharge from a nursing home because of nonpayment. Legal services are critical to helping older victims of financial exploitation receive the medical care and services to which they are entitled. Join us for Elder Financial Abuse and Medicaid Denials to learn how to identify victims of elder financial abuse, what problems this exploitation can cause for Medicaid eligibility, and how legal services attorneys can help their older clients receive the benefits they need and prevent future problems accessing Medicaid.

To register for the webinar,https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5875005469626032643?source=SALSA.  Did I mention, it's free!

April 26, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Programs/CLEs, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Register Now: Webinar on Fundamentals of SNT Administration

Registration is now open for Stetson's annual Fundamentals of SNT Administration webinar.  This half-day webinar is scheduled for May 5, 2017 from 1-5 p.m.  The 4 speakers will cover topics on how to become a SNT administrator,  Tax issues when making distributions, services and products a SNT administrator can provide, and an update on the laws, regs and POMS.  The agenda is available here and registration is available here. (you can register online and fill out and submit a pdf). 

Full disclosure, I'm the conference chair. Hope to see you virtually at this webinar!

April 13, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Programs/CLEs, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Health Care Bill & Impact on Elders

It's not final, it's not been passed, and changes are likely, but the current health care bill, known as the American Health Care Act, has a significant impact on elders.  Last week's CBO report engendered a lot of discussion about the impact of this new health care proposal. The New York Times ran an article last week discussing it, No Magic in How G.O.P. Plan Lowers Premiums: It Pushes Out Older People.  The article explains that lower premiums are on the way for some under this proposal. But, the way the lower premiums are achieved? "[T]he way the bill achieves those lower average premiums has little to do with increased choice and competition. It depends, rather, on penalizing older patients and rewarding younger ones. According to the C.B.O. report, the bill would make health insurance so unaffordable for many older Americans that they would simply leave the market and join the ranks of the uninsured."

We know that insurers want to have a broad pool to spread the risk. Typically, "older customers cost substantially more to cover than younger ones because they have more health needs and use their insurance more. By discouraging older people from buying insurance, the plan will lower the average sticker price of care."  Ready for some sticker shock?  Under the proposal, according to the story, the plan "increases the amount that insurers can charge older customers, and it awards flat subsidies by age, up to an income of $75,000. ... On premiums alone, prices would rise by more than 20 percent for the oldest group of customers. By 2026, the budget office projected, 'premiums in the nongroup market would be 20 percent to 25 percent lower for a 21-year-old and 8 percent to 10 percent lower for a 40-year-old — but 20 percent to 25 percent higher for a 64-year-old.'"

The story explains that it's not just the premiums that give the whole picture. Tax credits factor into this as well.  Here is where the real sticker shock comes in. "[T]he change in tax credits matters more. The combined difference in how much extra the older customer would have to pay for health insurance is enormous. The C.B.O. estimates that the price an average 64-year-old earning $26,500 would need to pay after using a subsidy would increase from $1,700 under Obamacare to $14,600 under the Republican plan."  Did you see that-an increase from $1,700 to $14,600...

The article also discusses out of pocket costs and more.  The CBO report in pdf is available here.

The semester is quickly drawing to a close, but the bill could be a basis for an interesting class discussion on social policy, if you have time.

 

March 21, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink

Monday, March 20, 2017

The New Health Care Bill

Wonder what is in the new health care bill?  New Health Plan Broken Down appears in the Centre Daily Times on March 12, 2017. The article is written by Amos Goodall, a prominent elder law attorney (and graduate of Stetson's LL.M. in Elder Law). The article explains changes to the individual mandate (penalty repealed and replaced), preexisting conditions protection (none), age-based premiums (5:1 ratio & will be up to states which ration), cost-sharing subsidies (will be eliminated), over the counter drugs (adding reimbursement from HSA, FSA or Archer MSA), Medicaid expansion (changes financing) and per capita caps.

To read more about these and other proposed changes, click here.

Thanks to Amos for sending me the link to the story.

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Call Congress Today on Medicaid and Medicare

Today is Call Congress About Medicaid day. Here is the information from the Medicare Rights Center:

Tell Congress to protect our care by joining today’s national call-in day. Urge your representative to vote “no” on the American Health Care Act... Call 866-426-2631 to contact your member of Congress.

The message is to vote no for changes to Medicaid and Medicare. The Medicare Rights Center also offers a one page issue brief on the proposed changes to Medicare, available here.

Regardless of your views, it is always important to make  your voice heard.

Thanks to Kim Dayton, the elderlawprof blog founder, for sending me a note on this.

 

March 16, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink

Monday, February 20, 2017

How Do "Domestic Partnerships" Fare for Elderly Couples?

George Washington Law Professor Naomi Cahn recommended an interesting new article from the Elder Law Journal, "The Precarious Status of Domestic Partnerships for the Elderly  in a Post-Obergefell World."

Authors Heidi Brady, who is clerking for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson from the University of Illinois College of Law, team to analyze key ways in which elderly couples in domestic partnerships may be treated differently, and sometimes more adversely, than same sex couples who are married.  From the abstract: 

Three states face a particularly thorny question post-Obergefell [v. Hodges, the Supreme Court's 2015 decision recognizing rights to marry]: what should be done with domestic partnerships made available to elderly same-sex and straight couples at a time when same-sex couples could not marry. This article examines why California, New Jersey, and Washington opened domestic partnerships to elderly couples. . . . This Article drills down on three specific obligations and benefits tied to marriage -- receipt of alimony, Social Security spousal benefits, and duties to support a partner who needs long-term care under the Medicaid program -- and shows that entering a domestic partnership rather than marrying does not benefit all elderly couples; rather, the value of avoiding marriage varies by wealth and benefit. 

Thank you, Naomi, for this recommendation.  

February 20, 2017 in Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

New Issue Briefs from Justice in Aging

Justice in Aging has released two new issue briefs concerning the new nursing home regs.  One is on involuntary transfers and discharges and is available here. The other is on unnecessary medications and antipsychotic meds, and is available here. The briefs were done with the Center for Medicare Advocacy and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.

Here's the executives summary for the transfer/discharge brief

The involuntary transfer/discharge regulations have changed, but not dramatically. Facilities still can force a transfer/discharge only under one of six specified circumstances, and a resident continues to have the right to contest a proposed transfer/discharge in an administrative hearing. The revised regulations narrow the facility’s ability to base a transfer/discharge on a supposed inability to meet the resident’s needs, by requiring increased documentation by the resident’s physician. The regulations also limit transfer/discharge for nonpayment, by stating that nonpayment has not occurred as long as Medicaid or another third-party payor is considering a claim for the time period in question. All transfer/discharge notices must be sent to the resident, resident representative(s), and (in a new requirement) the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. The revised regulations now explicitly state that a facility cannot discharge a resident while an appeal is pending.

Here's the executive summary for the medications brief:

Regulations about unnecessary drugs and antipsychotic drugs have been moved from the quality of care section to the pharmacy services section. Some provisions have been moved but not otherwise changed: these include protection from unnecessary medications, requirements for gradual dose reductions, and the use of behavioral interventions in order to discontinue drugs, "unless clinically contraindicated." In addition, the pharmacy services regulation includes a new discussion of a broader category of psychotropic drugs, along with new controls over "as needed" (PRN) psychotropic drugs. The revised regulations also expand requirements for drug regimen reviews.

These and the first brief in the series are available here.

February 8, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Tuesday and Wednesday: Call Your Senator and Representative on Aging Issues

There is a lot of buzz about changes to programs that impact elders and none of us knows what the end results will be. The Leadership Council on Aging Organizations has designated Tuesday (January 31) and Wednesday (February 1) as call your Senators and Representatives days. Here is the information from the American Society on Aging:

The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), of which ASA is a member, is organizing call-in days next Tuesday and Wednesday, January 31 and February 1. This is an opportunity for you to contact your Senators and Representatives to let them know of your concerns about preserving these major programs. To participate, dial 866-426-2631. You’ll hear a brief overview of the issues, and then be asked to enter your zip code to be connected with your legislators.

ASA offers some tips on talking points, available here.  

January 29, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Medicaid and the Middle Class

The Long Term Care Community Coalition recently released a publication, Medicaid: A Lifeline for Middle Class Families. This one page pdf document discusses 7 topics:

  • Financial Security For Middle Class Families.
  • Forty Percent Of People Who Reach Age 65 Will Need Nursing Home Care.
  • Peace Of Mind For Middle Class Families.
  • Millions Of Americans Are Providing Care And Support Today To An Older Adult.
  • Ensuring Skilled Dementia Care
  • Essential Protections For Frail Elderly And Their Families
  • Preserving Life In The Community.

January 24, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid | Permalink | Comments (0)

New PBS Documentary on Alzheimer's to Air Nationally on Wednesday, January 25

A new one hour documentary, Alzheimer's: Every Minute Counts, is scheduled to begin airing nationally on PBS stations on Wednesday, January 25.  

In part, the documentary will focus on research funding issues.  Dr. Ruby Tanzi, a Harvard Medical School researcher who appears on the film, explained for NextAvenue's website:

We should be absolutely panicked at the government level. When the Medicare and Medicaid [treatment and care] bill for Alzheimer’s goes from one in five dollars to one in three dollars — that could happen over the next decade with baby boomers getting older — we could single-handedly collapse Medicare and Medicaid with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Now, the government [research funding for Alzheimer's] has gone up to about a billion dollars. Which is great, it’s more money. It’s still not the billions of dollars that go to other age-related diseases. I’m glad that cancer and heart disease and AIDS get many billions of dollars, but Alzheimer’s has to get as much or more now given the epidemic and the urgency here with how many cases we’re going to have.

 

It’s going to crush us. Never mind the social burden on the families. I might add that two-thirds of patients are women. And most caregivers are women. What’s going to happen when so much of our female population is (struck) with this disease? So it’s a huge problem and if we don’t throw a ton of money at it now, it’ll be a disaster.

For more information on the documentary, including links to watch it on-line (free!), see PBS "Alzheimer's: Every Minute Counts." There is an important opportunity here for schools, including law schools, to host an airing of the documentary to promote discussion about strategies.  

January 24, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Film, Medicaid, Medicare, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mobile Palliative Care for Homeless

Kaiser Health News ran a story about a project that provides palliative care to individuals who are homeless and terminally ill. Mobile Team Offers Comfort Care To Homeless At Life’s End covers a pilot project in Seattle. "Since January 2014, the pilot project run by Seattle/King County Health Care for Homeless Network and UW Medicine’s Harborview Medical Center has served more than 100 seriously ill men and women in the Seattle area, tracking them down at shelters and drop-in clinics, in tents under bridges and parked cars." The project is funded through 2017 and is designed to avoid unneeded or unwanted care at the end of life while giving people who are homeless input in their care.  The care providers arrange for the clients to get medical treatment (through Medicaid or pro bono care), follow up with patients, help patients make decisions and care for them so they don't die alone.

The mobile program has some advantages over other existing programs, such as going to where the patients are located and  the providers are "more likely to engage the hardest-to-reach patients, those distrustful of medical care and outsiders...."  Although the medical treatment is important, so far, the team is finding that coordination of care is a huge benefit of the mobile program.  Mobile palliative care programs do exist worldwide, but aren't prevalent in the U.S. "Worldwide, there are only a few other mobile palliative care programs, all outside the U.S. The closest one in North America is the Palliative Education and Care for the Homeless program — known as PEACH — in Toronto."

January 17, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid | Permalink | Comments (0)

UCLA Prof. Allison Hoffman on "Reimagining the Risk of Long-Term Care"

With the new Presidential administration ahead, many of us are asking what government policies or programs will be "re-imagined."  With changes on the horizon, an especially interesting perspective on long-term care is offered by UCLA Law Professor Allison Hoffman with her recent article, "Reimagining the Risk of Long-Term Care,"  published in the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law & Ethics. From the abstract:

While attempting to mitigate care-recipient risk, in fact, the law has steadily expanded next-friend risk, by reinforcing a structure of long-term care that relies heavily on informal caregiving. Millions of informal caregivers face financial and nonmonetary harms that deeply threaten their own long-term security. These harms are disproportionately experienced by people who are already vulnerable--women, minorities, and the poor. Scholars and policymakers have catalogued and critiqued these costs but treat them as an unfortunate byproduct of an inevitable system of informal care.
 
 
This Article argues that if we, instead, understand becoming responsible for the care of another as a social risk--just as we see the chance that a person will need long-term care as a risk--it could fundamentally shift the way we approach long-term care policy.
 
Professor Hoffman examines various ways in which society expects third parties, including but not limited to family members as "next friends," to provide unpaid assistance and/or out-of-pocket dollars to disabled adults or seniors needing help.  She writes, for example, about filial support laws used sporadically to compel certain family members to finance care.  She observes that often, without direct personal experience, society members are unaware of the real costs of long-term care, both financially and emotionally, writing: 
 
As one informal caregiver and scholar described: “I feel abandoned by a health care system that commits resources and rewards to rescuing the injured and the ill but then consigns such patients and their families to the black hole of chronic ‘custodial’ care.” What next friends do for others is herculean, both in terms of the time spent and the ways that they offer assistance.
 
Recommended reading for the new year.  

January 17, 2017 in Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Social Security, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)