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: http://www.regulations.gov

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.)

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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.

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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: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article32941743.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter#storylink=cpy

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...."

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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)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Siblings' Dispute Over Filial Support Finds Way to Bankruptcy Court

Last fall, I blogged about In re Skinner, a case in which one son was trying to prevent a brother from obtaining a discharge in bankruptcy court of a "filial support" judgment to a long-term care facility. Both brothers had been sued, but one brother, Thomas, had defaulted on the suit, resulting in a default judgment as to his liability.  The bankruptcy court concluded that Brother William lacked standing" to prevent Brother Thomas' discharge of debt to an assisted living facility for care of their mother. 

In May, 2015 the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania affirmed the bankruptcy court's dismissal of the adversary proceeding, concluding that "William Skinner has not adequately alleged that he is a bankruptcy creditor of Thomas Skinner. He therefore lacks standing to bring an action challenging the dischargeability of Thomas Skinner's debts." 

The additional allegations described in the District Court opinion -- which are reminiscent of the allegations of misuse of Powers of Attorney in Presbyterian Medical Center v. Budd (Pa. Super. 2013) -- demonstrate the complicated nature of filial support suits for family members.  This is especially true in Pennsylvania where courts seem to be treating claims of statutory liability as "joint and several" in nature, and not proportional based on fault.  For the latest see In re Skinner, 2015 WL 3400943, (E.D. Pa. May 27, 2015).

UPDATE October 2015:   On June 30 2015,  William Skinner filed an appeal to the Third Circuit. As of early October, briefing is underway.

June 16, 2015 in Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Florida Task Force: Trouble With Medicaid Managed Care? Hit the Complaint Button

The Florida Joint Public Policy Task Force for the Aged and Disabled urges individuals, families and attorneys to bring emerging problems with Medicaid Managed Care in Florida to the attention of administrators at the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).  Only by staying on top of any problems can the new systems be evaluated and corrected.

In the Florida Bar News, the Task Force writes:

One issue the Task Force — a combined effort of the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys and The Florida Bar’s Elder Law Section — is concerned about is that seniors on Medicaid may be signing forms allowing their Medicaid managed care plans (MCP) to take control over who receives information from the state, including notices for annual deadlines for ongoing eligibility, without understanding what they are signing. This led to an MCP missing the deadline for at least one client.



“A wife was understandably very upset when she found out her husband’s Medicaid had been cancelled,” says Emma Hemness, the president of the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys, Task Force member and elder law attorney in Brandon. “The MCPs are supposed to make sure this doesn’t happen.  The wife says she never received  a notice and she doesn’t remember giving any authority to the MCP.

Continue reading

June 1, 2015 in Consumer Information, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Book Recommendation: Ai-Jen Poo's "The Age of Dignity"

Ai-jen Poo's The Age of DignityIn my preparation for an upcoming talk show on WPSU on "Caring for Mom & Dad," I had the incentive to get to my stack of "must read" books to focus on The Aging of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America, by Ai-Jen Poo (New Press 2015).  What I very much like about this book is the broad lens it brings to aging demographics, focusing not on "burdens" but on "opportunities" to be a more productive, healthy society by dealing realistically with the need for both professional caregivers and family caregivers.  Ai-Jen Poo writes:

Aging at home necessitates home care workers.  Yet the 3 million people currently in the home care workforce cannot meet even the current need, let alone the demand for care that will accompany the elder boom. We will need at least 1.8 million additional home care workers in the next decade. As a result, care giving, specifically home care, is the fastest growing of all occupations in the nation....

 

With some course corrections in our culture and in our institutions, we can have the care infrastructure that will enable us to live our full potential. . . . The moral of this story is that a caring America is entirely within reach.

Not surprisingly, given her inspiring call for action, Ai-Jen Poo was a MacArthur "genius" grant recipient in 2014.  She is one of the commentators on Caring for Mom & Dad, and in Pennsylvania,  she will be part of our panel for WPSU's Conversations Live following the airing of the documentary on Thursday, May 28.  The documentary is at 8 p.m., and the audience can "call-in, e-mail or text-in"beginning at 9 p.m.  More details and links available here about the documentary and schedules here. 

May 27, 2015 in Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Grant Deadlines/Awards, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Statistics, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Effect of Rising Levels of Acuity in Rehab and Nursing Homes on M&A Activity

Here is an interesting item from a recent Senior Care Investor News, published by Irving Levin & Associates:

"The rise in acuity in post-acute care is certainly having its impact in the skilled nursing M&A market. Historically, the range in price per bed for skilled nursing facilities has been approximately $100,00 to $125,000 per bed, according to the 2015 Senior Care Acquisition Report. Every year, there are always sales between $10,000 and $20,000 per bed, with the occasional sale below $10,000 per bed. And there have always been sales above $100,000. But in 2014, while the low price was a typical $9,000 per bed, the high was an astounding $268,500 per bed, resulting in a spread of $259,500. There was also a record number of deals valued over $100,000 per bed, with 19 transactions, which just goes to show the rise in acuity is pushing up prices across the board."

What would be driving the market for "skilled" beds to a higher figure, especially given the continued dependence on Medicaid as the primary payer for skilled care, combined with the fact that Medicaid pays below (and arguably significantly below) actual costs of skilled care?  This market data seems illogical to me, and I'm sure I'm missing something.  

May 26, 2015 in Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Affordable Care Act & Medicaid Expansion

A new report from the AARP Public Policy Institute/Urban Institute highlights the positive impact of Medicaid expansion for the 50-64 age group. Monitoring the Impact of Health Reform on Americans Ages 50–64 notes that "[t]he Uninsured Rate for 50- to 64-Year-Olds Dropped 31 Percent since December 2013."

The abstract for the report offers that

New data from the December 2014 Health Reform Monitoring Survey show that the share of Americans ages 50 to 64 without health insurance fell by nearly a third, from 11.6 percent to 8.0 percent, between December 2013 and December 2014. States that chose to expand eligibility for their Medicaid programs saw a larger drop in uninsured rates among 50- to 64-year-olds than states that did not. Overall, the number of 50- to 64-year olds with health coverage increased by approximately 2.2 million between December 2013 and December 2014.

The report determines that "Medicaid expansion was a clear driver of the reduction of the uninsured rate among 50- to 64-year olds."

The full report is available here.

May 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)