Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hospital "Observation Status" Medicare Bill Goes to President Obama for Signature

The legislation carrying the name Notice of Observation Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility (NOTICE) Act, that has now passed both the House and Senate, goes to President Obama for signature. If signed by the president, it will still be another year before its official effective date.

Sadly, it doesn't actually fix the problem for the patients with the fact that hospitals frequently attempt to hold patients on a fictional "observation only" status.  Money is  still the issue. Hospitals want to avoid harsh potential Medicare penalties associated with readmissions of "admitted" patients.  At the same time, the lack of "admitted status" reduces the ability of patients to seek Medicare coverage for rehabilitation care post-hospitalization.  But now the patients get better "notice" of their status -- and the potential for it to affect Medicare coverage and therefor out-of-pocket expense for the patients.

ElderLawGuy Jeff Marshall has posted a good blog review of the new law, supplementing his earlier coverage of the problems.  See his Observation Status Bill Heads to President's Desk

July 30, 2015 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Social Security & Medicare Trustees Annual Reports

On July 22, 2015 the Social Security Trustees issued its annual report about the Social Security Trust funds. According to the press release, the good news overall is SSA gained a year in solvency. The bad news, the disability insurance trust fund reserve runs out of money next year.

The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age  and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds are  projected to become depleted in 2034, one year later than projected last year,  with 79 percent of benefits payable at that time.  The DI Trust Fund reserve will become depleted in  2016, unchanged from last year’s estimate, with 81 percent of benefits still  payable.

In the press release, Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin addressed the DI Trust Fund issue:

While the projected depletion date of the combined OASDI trust funds gained a year, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund's projected depletion year remains 2016. I agree with President Obama, we have to keep Social Security strong, protecting its future solvency. President Obama's FY 2016 budget proposes to address this near-term Disability Insurance Trust Fund's reserve depletion. By reallocating a portion of payroll taxes from Old Age Survivors to the Disability Trust Fund - as has been done many times in the past - would have no adverse effect on the solvency of the overall Social Security program....

The full report The 2015 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal      Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds is available as a pdf here.

The Medicare Trustees report was also released on July 22, 2015. The news from Medicare was slightly better, with the trust fund solvency still in place through 2030.

[T]he Medicare Trustees projected that the trust fund that finances Medicare’s hospital insurance coverage will remain solvent until 2030, unchanged from last year, but with an improved long-term outlook from last year's report. Under this year’s projection, the trust fund will remain solvent 13 years longer than the Trustees projected in 2009, before the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

However, the press release notes an anticipated increase in Medicare Part B premiums for next year:

[A]pproximately 70 percent of beneficiaries are expected not to see a premium increase in 2016 because it is projected that there will be no cost-of-living increases in Social Security benefits. The remaining 30 percent of beneficiaries would pay a higher premium based on this projection. These include only individuals who enroll in Part B for the first time in 2016; enrollees who do not receive a Social Security benefit; beneficiaries that are directly billed for their Part B premium; and current enrollees who pay an income related higher premium. Decisions about premium changes will be made in October and depend on a variety of factors.

The full report is available as a PDF here.

July 24, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 17, 2015

9th Circuit Sets Aside Case Precedent on Whistleblowers Under False Claims Act

On July 7, 2015, in U.S. ex rel Hartpence v. Kinetic Concepts, Inc., the Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, created an easier path for whistleblowers to recovery under the False Claims Act for disclosure of fraudulent claims for Medicare reimbursement.  From its introduction to the ruling in consolidated civil qui tam suits:

If a whistleblower informs the government that it has been bilked by a provider of goods and services, and that scheme is unmasked to the public, under what conditions can that same whistleblower recover part of what the guilty provider is forced to reimburse the government? We hold today that there are two, and only two, requirements in order for a whistleblower to be an “original source” who may recover under the False Claims Act: (1) Before filing his action, the whistleblower must voluntarily inform the government of the facts which underlie the allegations of his complaint; and (2) he must have direct and independent knowledge of the allegations underlying his complaint. Abrogating our earlier precedent, we conclude that it does not matter whether he also played a role in the public disclosure of the allegations that are part of his suit. We also hold that the district court erred in its application of the rule that a whistleblower must be the first to file an action seeking reimbursement on behalf of the government based on the fraudulent scheme.

According to one lawyer interviewed here, the impact of the decision to reverse 25-year old case precedent, though important, may be limited to older cases, "since 2010 amendments to the False Claims Act have further clarified the 'original source' requirements. 

Additional history -- and predicting clarifications --  about the public disclosure provisions of the False Claims Act comes from Albany Law Emeritus Professor Beverly Cohen, in an article from Mercer Law Review, titled "Trouble at the Source: The Debates Over the Public Disclosure Provisions of the False Claims Act's Original Source Rule."   For more, see Professor Cohen's interesting article (in my own law school's law review, I was happy to discover!), "Kaboom! The Explosion of Qui Tam False Claims Under the Health Reform Law."

July 17, 2015 in Crimes, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Medicare | 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

Medicare to Cover Advance Care Planning?

On July 8, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the proposed 2016 Physician Fee Schedule that includes a provision for paying doctors to talk to patients about end of life care.  Referenced in the proposed rule as advance care planning, comments are due by 5 p.m. on September 8, 2015.  The proposed rule will appear in the Federal Register on July 15, 2015. For more information see Kaiser Health News (KHN) Medicare Proposes Paying Doctors For End-Of-Life Discussions.

July 10, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 6, 2015

California State Bar Offers On-Line Guide for "Seniors and the Law"

SeniorsEnglish2015COVERThe State Bar of California offers an on-line "guide for maturing Californians," available in PDF format.  This is an updated, 2015 version. At first I was a bit dubious, as the length is just 12 pages and the print is small. However, on closer look (and with the help of that little built-in magnifying class for reading PDF documents on line), I found it fairly comprehensive and a good starting place. It works not just for seniors but the whole family. 

Written in a logical Q & A format, often starting with "yes or no" answers before offering a more detailed explanation and suggested resources, the brochure covers topics such as:

 

  • What is Supplemental Security Income?
  • Can my landlord evict me for any reason at all?
  • Can I install grab bars, lower my counters or make other needed modifications over my landlord's objections?
  • How is Medi-Cal different from Medicare?
  • How can I help ensure that my affairs will be handled my way if I become incapacitated?
  • If my elderly mother gives away her assets, will Medi-Cal pay for a nursing home?

In addition, the brochure describes more subtle topics such as how "assisted living communities," may differ (and be covered by different regulations ) than "continuing care retirement communities," or why "living trust mills" are something to avoid.  It warns that insurance brokers and agents other investment advisors are prohibited in California from using "senior specific" certificates or designations to mislead consumers. 

According to the July 215 issue of the California Bar Journal, the senior guide is available in both Spanish and English, although I could only find the English version on-line.  Free print copies are available for order (although donations to offset costs are accepted!)  

Thank you to Professor Laurel Terry for sharing this resource! 

July 6, 2015 in Books, Consumer Information, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, 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)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Time for Heart to Heart Conversations With Family and Caregivers

An essay I read when it was first published in the New York Times Magazine in 2010, "What Broke My Father's Heart," has stayed with me.  It is the deeply personal tale of a journalist-daughter's observation of her father's last years, as his pacemaker kept his heart pumping while dementia destroyed his quality of life.  The daughter, Katy Butler, later turned the story, supplemented by impressive research, into a book, Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death. 

In the essay, one of the key moments in the chronology was when Katy's father faced the prospect of surgery for a painful inguinal hernia, which doctors were not willing to perform unless his weak heart was first aided by implementation of a pacemaker.  Earlier, his father, while still competent, had rejected a pacemaker, but the decision was now in the hands of his wife because of his dementia:

"When [Dr.] Rogan suggested the pacemaker for the second time, my father was too stroke-damaged to discuss, and perhaps even to weigh, his trade­offs. The decision fell to my mother — anxious to relieve my father’s pain, exhausted with caregiving, deferential to doctors and no expert on high-tech medicine. She said yes. One of the most important medical decisions of my father’s life was over in minutes."

Ms. Butler makes it pretty clear that if the decision had been hers alone, she would not have made the same choice as her mother.  Additional research demonstrates the medical, moral and legal dilemmas faced by all parties in considering the use of pacemakers for the elderly.  For example, in "Pacing Extremely Old Patients: Who decides -- the doctor, the patient, or the relatives?," two physicians in the U.K. report on a three-case study where individuals, family members and doctors were not in agreement about implantation of pacemakers for patients aged 101, 90, and 87.

Continue reading

June 10, 2015 in Books, Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (2)

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

Modern Day Coverture? Medicaid Eligibility Rules' Harsh Effect on Married Women

University of South Dakota Assistant Professor of Law Thomas E. Simmons has an intriguing article in the summer 2015 issue of Hastings Women's Law Journal.  From his article, "Medicaid as Coverture," here are some excerpts (minus detailed footnotes)  to whet your appetite:

Not long ago, married women possessed limited rights to own separate property or contract independently of their husbands.  Beginning in the nineteenth century, most of the most serious legal impediments to women enjoying ownership rights in property and freedom of contract were removed....

 

Three twenty-first century developments, however, diminish some of this progress.  First, later-in-life (typically second) marriages have become more common.... These types of couples were not the spouses that reformers had in mind in designing inheritance rights or other property rights arising out of the marital relationship....

 

Second, perhaps as a product of advocacy for women's property rights, and perhaps out of a larger social remodeling, women's holdings of wealth have made significant advances.... [But] women of some wealth (in later-in-life marriages, especially) may in fact find themselves penalized by the very gender-neutral reforms that were designed to help them; especially, as will be unpacked and amplified below, when those reforms interface with Medicaid rules.

 

Third, beginning in the late twentieth century, the possibility of ongoing custodial care costs became the single greatest threat to financial security for older Americans.

As practicing elder law attorneys experience on a daily basis, Medicaid eligibility rules, despite the so-called "Spousal Impoverishment" protections, can impact especially harshly on married women as the community spouses.  They are often younger and thus will have their own financial needs, frequently have been caregivers before being widowed, but their personal assets may still be included in the Medicaid estate for purposes of determining their husbands' eligibility. This article takes a critical, interesting approach to that problem.  

May 25, 2015 in Discrimination, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

$10+ Billion Dollar Deal: CVS Health to Buy Pharma Giant Omnicare

 Anyone who's noticed the upsurge in M&A activity in the senior care industries will want to take special notice of today's news, with the announcement that CVS Health will spend $10.4 billion to buy Omnicare, thus giving CVS an even stronger pipeline for prescription drug distribution to the elderly.  (In 2006, CVS acquired Caremark Rx Inc. for a reported $21 billion.)

The Los Angeles Times reports:

The deal announced Thursday will give one of the nation's biggest pharmacy benefits managers national reach in dispensing prescription drugs to assisted living and skilled nursing homes, long-term care facilities, hospitals and other health care providers. Omnicare's long-term care business operates in 47 states and the District of Columbia. With more people entering assisted-living residences as the U.S. population ages, CVS Health says there is a "substantial growth opportunity" for companies serving those patients.

 

Cincinnati's Omnicare also provides pharmacy consulting and runs another segment that provides specialty pharmacy services. Specialty drugs are complex medications that treat certain forms of cancer or hepatitis C, among other conditions. They often represent treatment breakthroughs but can cost considerably more than other prescriptions. Use of these drugs is climbing, and insurers and employers are looking for help containing that cost.

This deal should keep a lot of lawyers busy! From The American Lawyer, news of four major law firms involved in the latest CVS acquisition.

UPDATE:  Here's an interesting editorial observation from an industry observer, describing Omnicare as the giant "lion of the jungle" who is now being gobbled up by giant CVS as the T-Rex.  Amusing, but apt, metaphors and observations about the potential implications for the public.

May 21, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

During Month of May on PBS: "Caring for Mom & Dad"

Caring for Mom & DadPBS is premiering a powerful documentary special, Caring for Mom & Dad, during the month of May, with Meryl Streep as the narrator.  A sample? Many of us might find resonance with one adult's "bad daughter" (or "bad son") feelings of guilt, candidly admitted here. 

Even more important than the video itself will be the conversations that follow viewing. Check your local public t.v. schedule to see when the program will air in your area.  (You can check here, to see if the documentary is scheduled yet in your viewing area -- go to the drop down menu for "Schedule.") Plus, in some markets, the documentary will be combined with a live call-in opportunity for individuals and families to explore health care, social care, financial topics and legal issues with a panel of experts.

My own university, Penn State, is hosting the special on Thursday, May 28, 2015  at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern time), followed by Conversations Live at 9:00 p.m. That is two weeks from today on WPSU-TV, a station that reaches a viewing area of 29 counties in central Pennsylvania. In addition, the Conversations Live program will be broadcast on WPSU-FM radio and can be viewed "on-line" at WPSU.org

As a result of an invitation to be part of the WPSU studio panel, I've had the opportunity to watch the documentary -- several times (it's that interesting!) -- in preparation to help in responding to audience comments, emails and call-in questions.  Additional Conversations Live guests include:

    Ai-jen Poo, co-director of Caring Across Generations and director of National Domestic Workers Alliance, will be joining via satellite from D.C.  Ai-jen Poo is featured in the documentary, and she also has a particular interest in enactment of a Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights, to deal realistically and fairly with the work force that will be necessary to meet the boomer generation's care needs.

    Dr. Gwen McGhan, Hartford Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence at Penn State, with a research background on informal family caregiving.

    Jane McDowell, Hartford Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence at Penn State, and a geriatric nurse practitioner.

The documentary was produced by WGBH-Boston, with funding assistance from AARP and Pfizer.

Please join us and share your stories and observations. The documentary starts with personal stories, but the public policy messages that emerge are ones that need to be heard at state and federal levels -- and heard clearly -- for there to be hope for realistic, necessary and timely solutions.

May 14, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Film, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

GAO Reports to "Congressional Requesters" on Advance Directives

Here we go again.  Another hard look at why a significant percentage of the public has not signed some form of advanced directive.  In April 2015, GAO issued Advance Directives: Information on Federal Oversight, Provider Implementation, and Prevalence, its response to requests made by Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga), and Mark Warner (D-Va) who were inquiring into the role of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in overseeing providers, including hospitals and nursing homes, that are mandated by law to maintain written procedures and provide information about advance directives. 

Perhaps it is just me, but whenever legislators raise this topic, it seems to me the not-so-subtle underlying message is "why aren't people agreeing in writing to forego aggressive health care as they near the end of life so that we can save more money on health care?"  

In any event, the report:

  • documents current practices for offering living wills, health care powers of attorney, and various alternatives such as DNR and POLST forms (including the potential for some confusion among staff members of health care providers about "who" should be handling the education and signing process),
  • refers to a major Institute on Medicine study (Dying in America, 2015) on a similar topic, and
  • concludes that there is no "single" point of entry for execution of advanced directives. 

As the GAO team observes, "[t]herefore, a comprehensive approach to end-of-life care, rather than any one document, such as an advance directive, helps to ensure that medical treatment given at the end of life is consistent with an individual’s preferences."

Hat tip to Karen Miller, Esq., in Florida for the link to the latest study and report. 

May 5, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Medicare to Stop Using SSN

Another change from the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 is that Medicare will stop using beneficiary Social Security numbers on the Medicare cards. Section 501 of the new law provides that

The Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Security, shall establish cost-effective procedures to ensure that a Social Security account number (or derivative thereof) is not displayed, coded, or embedded on the Medicare card issued to an individual who is entitled to benefits under part A of title XVIII or enrolled under part B of title XVIII and that any other identifier displayed on such card is not identifiable as a Social Security account number (or derivative thereof).

This will appear in 42 U.S.C. 405(c)(2)(C)(xiii).  The changes won't necessarily occur immediately and "shall apply with respect to Medicare cards issued on and after an effective date specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, but in no case shall such effective date be later
than the date that is four years after the date of the enactment of this Act." The same holds true with reissuing cards; HHS has up to 4 years from the date the Secretary picks for the new cards.

This is a critically important step, what with the rise of identity theft.  It has been a long time coming.

Finally.

April 28, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Is Georgia A Window Into Political Influence of State Nursing Home Lobbies?

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the "long-time head of [Georgia's] powerful nursing home lobby has resigned after months of internal differences."  The resignation appears to be about more than just internal politics, perhaps implicating state ethics.  AJC explains:

"The resignation of Jon Howell, first reported by Georgia Health News, came only a few months after he told lawmakers that the industry didn’t need all of the money Gov. Nathan Deal recommended as part of  a rate hike for select nursing homes. Several of those nursing homes are owned by one of Deal’s top contributors. But one state official said the 'civil war' within  the organization began before this year’s General Assembly session.

 

The nursing home association is a major player at the statehouse, and owners have a big stake in what happens at the Capitol. The state pays more than $1 billion a year to nursing homes to care for Georgians. Owners have long been politically active, donating big money to state leaders and lawmakers who fund  reimbursements. Earlier this year, Deal recommended that select nursing homes get a $27 million a year rate increase, a bump stalled by the Department of Community Health board last year...."

Separate articles in the AJC indicate that federal CMS authorities are now seeking millions of dollars of reimbursement for Medicaid payments made to 34 specific nursing facilities, although whether this claim correlates with the governor's recommended rate increase is not clear from the articles.  State officials are reported as disagreeing with the federal CMS ruling that triggers the reimbursement claim.

Recent rate increases recommended by the Georgia governor were rejected by Georgia's General Assembly. Additional coverage on the Georgia nursing home industry's organization is provided by McKnight's Long-Term Care News. 

I suspect the Georgia stories are part of a bigger picture.  Compare, for example, Al Jazeera's America Tonight report from April 2014 on The Whopping Political Power of the Florida Nursing Home Lobby, describing the nursing homes advocating for placement of children into facility-based care.

April 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Justice in Aging: Webinar on New Person-Centered Care Rules

Justice in Aging (formerly National Senior Citizens Law Center) is offering a free webinar on Wednesday. April 29, from 2 to 3 p.m. (eastern time) on "How New CMS Person-Centered Care Planning Rules Apply to Medicaid Delivered Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS)."

They report their webinar will focus on the rules as they apply to long-term services and supports delivered through Medicaid home and community-based waivers, and will:

  • Provide background context for the new person-centered planning and service plan      rule
  • Analyze the requirements of the new rule
  • Give examples of how selected states (Minnesota, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wisconsin) are implementing provisions of the rule
  • Identify gaps where more detailed state rules or better managed care plan contractual terms are needed to ensure that compliance with the intent of the rule

Who should participate?  The program is suggested for health care professionals and their staffs, attorneys for consumers of LTSS services, and public employees --  and consumers, too. 

Here is the link for the registration

April 23, 2015 in Consumer Information, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Statutes/Regulations, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Funding Opportunity: Senior Medicare Patrol and State Health Insurance Assistance Program

Seeking Applications for Hard-to-Reach Beneficiary Project

The Administration for Community Living oversees two programs geared toward educating and empowering Medicare beneficiaries; the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) and the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). The SMP helps beneficiaries spot and report fraud related to their use of Medicare, and the SHIP provides information and counseling to help Medicare beneficiaries select health insurance programs that best meet their needs.

ACL seeks to assist these state-based programs in providing their services to hard to reach beneficiaries.  Cooperative agreements of up to $150,000 will be awarded to successful applicants proposing to develop new and creative strategies and tools for connecting with hard to reach beneficiaries.  Entities eligible to apply include domestic public or private non-profit organizations.  Hard to reach populations include, but are not limited to, the following groups:

  •  Medicare Beneficiaries under age 65
  •  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Medicare Beneficiaries
  •  American Indian/Alaska Native Medicare Beneficiaries
  •  Beneficiaries located in rural areas
  •  Limited-English Speaking Beneficiaries
  •  Medicare Beneficiaries of Racial/Ethnic Minority Communities

An informational conference call will be held on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. ET. To participate in the call, dial 1-888-566-5976, when prompted, enter passcode: 5922266.

Letter of Intent Due: April 30, 2015

Application Deadline: June 14, 2015

Click here to see the full announcement.

April 21, 2015 in Consumer Information, Grant Deadlines/Awards, Medicare | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Talking about Sexuality, Gender, Aging and Cognition


On April 20, while the jury was hearing oral arguments on the high profile case of State of Iowa v. Henry Rayhons, I joined an academic colleague, Dr. Claire Flaherty, a neuropsychologist from Penn State Hershey Medical Center, to discuss the implications of this criminal case, during a Smart Talk public radio program in central Pennsylvania.  Claire and I have been engaged in a cross-discipline dialogue for about two years about a host of legal questions that can arise with a diagnosis of any form of dementia, including FTD and Alzheimer's Disease.   This time we were talking about the challenges of finding the right balance between protection from harm and recognition of human rights when the issue is sexual intimacy. Dr. Flaherty's clinical background, including her experience counseling individuals and families who are coping with the realities of dementia, helped make this a very down-to-earth conversation on a sensitive subject for live radio.

Our half of the program, was preceded by Joanne Carroll, president of TransCentral PA, and therapist and social worker Alexis Lake, a therapist and social worker who counsels LGBT clients, who discussed challenges and rights for transgender, gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual people, and the progress that has been made in the last decade, even as more progress needs to be made.  I was struck by their frankness, both about their personal journeys, and the potential costs for anyone transitioning, including simple costs associated with new documents of identity, to bigger questions about how to pay for any surgeries, including whether Medicare will pay for the older person's surgery. 

To listen to the two half-hour segments, here's a link to the podcast of WITF'-FM's Smart Talk program for April 20, 2015.

UPDATE:  Here is an alternative link to the Smart Talk Program described above, on "SoundCloud," and available in three segments, each about 15 to 20 minutes in length.  Our discussion of dementia and consent to sexual relations starts at about the 9 minute mark of Segment B.

Download 150420 SHOW A

 Download 150420 SHOW B

Download 150420 SHOW C 

April 21, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Science, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)