Monday, January 11, 2016
Our good friend and elder law guru, Professor Dick Kaplan from Illinois has released a new article, Reflections on Medicare at 50: Breaking the Chains of Path Dependency for a New Era. (In my opinion, anything Dick Kaplan writes is a must-read). The article is available for download on SSRN here. The abstract explains more:
On the occasion of Medicare’s 50th anniversary, this Article examines the evolution of this essential program from its enactment in 1965 through implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Persons who are, or soon will be, newly enrolled in Medicare may be especially interested in the first part of this Article, which addresses the coverages, exclusions, and costs of Medicare’s constituent parts and concludes (on pp. 20-21) with seven critical questions that every new beneficiary must consider before enrolling. The Article then proffers policy recommendations to better align Medicare with current models of health insurance and provide more appropriate coverage of long-term care expenses.
Thursday, December 31, 2015
An article in the most recent issue of the ABA Commission on Law & Aging, BIFOCAL focuses on instructional directives. In light of CMS reimbursing doctors for end of life discussions with patients, author Susan P. Shapiro, in The Living Will as Improvisation, suggests "it is appropriate to reflect on the legacy of advance directives and ask how physicians might best serve their patients as they anticipate life’s end."
The author notes that
Although the value of proxy directives, which designate a medical decision maker in the event that a person loses capacity in the future, has been repeatedly demonstrated, that of instructional directives or so-called living wills, which state treatment preferences, has not. A new report by the Institute of Medicine concludes that legal approaches embodied in living wills have “been disappointingly ineffective in improving the care people nearing the end of life receive and in ensuring that this care accords with their informed preferences .... (citations omitted).
However, the author discusses the lack of hard data makes it difficult to determine whether living wills have little usefulness these days. The author turns to her own research, explaining that for 3 years she and hospital social worker
observed medical decision making on behalf of patients without decision-making capacity, day after day, from admission to discharge. Daily observations over the course of each patient’s ICU stay tracked when anyone asked about or referred to an advance directive, how the directive was used, and the correspondence between the patient’s treatment preferences articulated in the directive and the host of decisions made on their behalf....
The article discusses her findings regarding the role of advance directives in these cases . It's quite illuminating, especially the discussion about the correlation (or lack thereof) between the directive's existence and how decisions are made. The author suggests there are significant differences between making the directive when all is well and using the directive when all is not. The author concludes the article with this thought: "[a] truly directive living will is not a script, but rather an evolving, ongoing dialogue throughout the life course with those who may someday be called to improvise on our behalf. Let’s hope that Medicare dollars are used to help enrich the conversation."
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
The Senate Special Committee on Aging is taking up the important issue of drug pricing:
A Senate investigation of drug-price spikes at four companies kicked off Wednesday with specialists from all corners of the health-care system testifying that they're powerless to manage the out-of-control prescription costs.
The hearing launches the Special Committee on Aging's investigation into the soaring prices of old drugs, including the recent overnight price hike of Daraprim from $18 to $750. Doctors and policy experts offered a slew of proposed policy solutions, such as expediting applications for generic drugs to increase competition and requiring companies to reveal how much drugs really cost.
But the testimony to the committee in advance of the hearing underlined a stark fact about the current system, too: Doctors, companies that manage prescription drug benefits, hospitals, and health care policy experts alike feel fairly powerless to control high drug prices -- because they are allowed.
For instance, a pediatrician from the University of Alabama at Birmingham testified that an infant needed a treatment that had increased from $54 a month to $3,000 a month, causing the pharmacist to scramble for a solution. A kidney transplant patient in Baltimore began experiencing hallucinations as her medical team tried to obtain a drug once easily available.
For more coverage, read the Washington Post's article, Doctors, Hospitals Condemn Out-of-control Drug Prices as Senate Investigation Begins.
Monday, December 7, 2015
Money Magazine's final article in the series on the costs of dementia focuses on the costs in the final stages of the disease. Coping With the Costs of Dementia: The Final Stage discusses the costs and the options for caring for an individual in the final stage of this disease.
In the final stages of dementia, which typically last four to five years, the need for care intensifies. [One's] spouse eventually will require around-the-clock assistance with most activities of daily living. [One's] toughest decision: whether to try to continue caregiving at home or move [one's] loved one to an assisted-living facility or a nursing home. [One] may feel guilty at the prospect of putting someone [one] love[s] in “a home”—that’s common and understandable—but a setting where professionals are providing the intense level of care needed at this point is often the best path, especially if they’re trained in the needs of dementia patients. That said, it’s also the most expensive care option by far.
The article urges caregivers to take proactive action, suggests caregivers pick a nursing home with a memory care unit, get advice on the order in which to spend assets and start planning for the caregiver's own future. "Caring for someone with dementia is emotionally exhausting and financially draining, but it comes with one particular satisfaction: knowing that you’ve done whatever you can to make the last years easier for someone you love."
Sunday, December 6, 2015
Money Magazine's second article on the costs of dementia focuses on the middle stage of dementia. Coping With the Costs of Dementia: The Middle Stage discusses a series of steps for the caregivers and family to take, not only for the present, but in positioning themselves for the final stage of the disease. The article discusses a number of suggestions:
- greater levels of care, including adult day care and respite care and recommends only hiring caregivers with experience in caring for individuals with dementia;
- examine the terms of any long term care insurance policy, if the individual has one;
- if the individual is a veteran, look into VA benefits;
- examine the individual's and family member's investment portfolio; rearranging allocations to more conservative investments may be needed;
- investigate a reverse mortgage;
- caregivers should talk to employers about options; and
- begin to research nursing homes.
December 6, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, November 30, 2015
I have a confession. I've been avoiding writing about Medicaid. It's so complicated it scares me. But, Medicaid can be really important to daughterhood because someday you might have to decide if it's right for your parent. So you have to get smart about it.
She explains the importance of the Medicaid program as a "safety net for when everything falls apart" and after a brief description, moves into a discussion of the 5 misconceptions:
- "Medicaid is a lot like Medicare...
- Medicaid is available to everyone...
- Medicaid Will Take Your Parents' Home...
- Medicaid is a national program that's the same for everyone...
- Medicaid only covers nursing homes...."
With each she offers explanations as to what Medicaid really covers and concludes her post noting
When is Medicaid right for your parent? It depends on so many individual and family circumstances. And, it depends on your state. There are no hard and fast rules. But, if you've been walking down this caregiving road for a long time and you are looking at nursing home care, Medicaid may be necessary to pay for the care. OR, if your parent's money is running out because of expensive care --- even if he or she isn't in a nursing home --- then it could be helpful, especially if there's a good community program in your parent's local area... [a]nd, figuring this program out for your family is not easy. Just remember that it's a crazy complicated hard situation. Not that you are failing.
Note, you can also access her post on her blog here.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Prior to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 , all indications pointed to a pretty significant increase in the 2016 Part B premiums for Medicare. However, the increase was much less than expected in part because of the compromise in the Budget Bill. The Kaiser Family Foundation released a very helpful issue brief on November 11, 2015, explaining the developments and the impact on beneficiaries. What's in Store for Medicare's Part B Premiums and Deductible in 2016, and Why? explains the premium increase, the hold harmless provision and a $3 repayment surcharge to make up the deficit Part B will incur in 2016 because of the lower premium. ("includes a $3 repayment surcharge, which will be added to monthly premiums over time to cover the cost of the reduced premium rate in 2016.")
The brief explains the hold harmless provision, identifies the categories of beneficiaries who will have to pay the higher premiums (and why) and the amount of premiums paid by higher income beneficiaries. The brief also offers a projection for 2017 and concludes that but for Congressional intervention, "in the face of flat Social Security benefits and rising out-of-pocket costs, many people on Medicare could have greater difficulty affording their medical care costs in the coming year."
Thursday, November 19, 2015
CMS has released the 2016 amounts for deductibles, premiums, and co-pays for Medicare A and B. The Inpatient Hospital Deductible and Hospital and Extended Care Services Coinsurance Amounts are available in the Federal Register here. (The inpatient deductible is $1,288 for 2016). The Part B amounts are available here. Remember because there is no COLA this year, the hold harmless provision keeps the Part B premium the same as last year for many Medicare Beneficiaries. For those not protected by the hold harmless provision, their Part B premiums will be $121.80+ $3. Don't forget that higher income beneficiaries will pay a higher premium, referred to as the income-related monthly adjustment. The higher premium amounts can be found here as well.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Living in a Sunbelt state, I know how hot it can get in the summer months. I recently ran across a July 2015 decision from HHS' Departmental Appeals Board (DAB) reviewing the imposition of a "per instance" monetary penalty CMS assessed against an Arizona SNF.
CMS’s allegations in this case are predicated on complaints that portions of Petitioner’s facility – including several residents’ rooms – were uncomfortably hot. Those allegations are supported by the complaints of several residents and by temperature readings taken by a surveyor on July 16, 2014. Readings taken by the surveyor showed portions of some of the residents’ rooms being as hot as 90 degrees Fahrenheit.... Such temperatures plainly exceed what any reasonable person would consider to be "comfortable." On their face they comprise violations of 42 C.F.R. § 483.15(h)(6).
After discussing the ways the surveyor and the SNF measured the temperatures inside the SNF, the ALJ in the opinion notes
The overwhelming evidence is that rooms at Petitioner’s facility were uncomfortably hot due to the failure of the facility’s air conditioning system. Arizona in July is a very hot place. Building interiors in that State that are not adequately air conditioned can become dangerously hot. As Petitioner admits, the air conditioning in its facility had failed to work adequately in July 2014. The failure prompted residents to complain that their rooms had become uncomfortably hot.... The staff took various measures to address the failure of the air conditioning system, including closing curtains in residents’ rooms and conducting random temperature checks....
"The evidence that residents were not comfortable is overwhelming, beginning with these residents’ complaints and further evidenced by the fact that Petitioner’s own staff recognized that there were problems with overheating in the residents’ rooms." The ALJ upheld the penalty.
Coinciding with the presentation yesterday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the journal Health Affairs released a report by Melissa Favreault, Howard Gleckman, and Richard W. Johnson, titled "Financing Long-Term Services And Supports: Options Reflect Trade-Offs For Older Americans And Federal Spending." Noting the history of weak buy-in for existing long-term care insurance products, the authors' study, funded by the SCAN Foundation, AARP and LeadingAge, looks to future alternatives. From the abstract:
To show how policy changes could expand insurance’s role in financing these needs, we modeled several new insurance options. Specifically, we looked at a front-end-only benefit that provides coverage relatively early in the period of disability but caps benefits, a back-end benefit with no lifetime limit, and a combined comprehensive benefit. We modeled mandatory and voluntary versions of each option, and subsidized and unsubsidized versions of each voluntary option. We identified important differences among the alternatives, highlighting relevant trade-offs that policy makers can consider in evaluating proposals. If the primary goal is to significantly increase insurance coverage, the mandatory options would be more successful than the voluntary versions. If the major aim is to reduce Medicaid costs, the comprehensive and back-end mandatory options would be most beneficial.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
As the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services prepares to finalize a plan to pay physicians for discussing end-of-life treatment options with Medicare patients, this month’s Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that about 8 in 10 of the public favors Medicare and private insurance covering such discussions and about 9 in 10 say doctors should have these discussions with their patients. However, relatively few (17 percent) say they’ve had such discussions with a doctor or other health care provider, including 27 percent of people age 65 or older, while half of the public says they would want to have such a discussion. Over 8 in 10 say they would feel very comfortable talking about their end-of-life medical wishes with their spouse or partner and closer to half say they would be very comfortable talking with a doctor, their children, their close friends or their parents....
The detailed discussion of the poll results provides interesting statistics. Consider the following:
About 9 in 10 (89 percent) say doctors should discuss end-of-life care issues with their patients. But, relatively few (17 percent) say they’ve had such discussions with a doctor or other health care provider, including 34 percent of people age 75 or more, 23 percent of people age 65-74, 19 percent of those age 50-64 and 12 percent of those age 18-49. In addition, those who report having a debilitating disability or chronic condition are more likely to say they have discussed their end-of-life care wishes with a health care provider than those without a disability (31 percent vs. 13 percent). A third of the public says they have participated in a discussion with a doctor about another family member’s wishes about their care at the end of life, including 46 percent of those ages 50-64. Across age groups, many say they would want to have such a discussion about their own end-of-life care (50 percent overall).
The full poll results are available here.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
In the last month of life, one in two Medicare beneficiaries visits an emergency department, one in three is admitted to an intensive care unit,and one in five has inpatient surgery. But one of the most sobering facts is that no current policy or practice designed to improve care for millions of dying Americans is backed by a fraction of the evidence that the Food and Drug Administration would require to approve even a relatively innocuous drug.
The article explains why this evidence is important
The public and private sectors are now engaged in an unprecedented array of virtuous efforts to improve end-of-life care. That these efforts are generally not evidence-based is not the fault of the organizations promoting them. It is the responsibility of investigators and research sponsors to identify, develop, and rigorously test interventions so that they can offer guidance as growing political and cultural tolerance increasingly permits implementation of end-of-life care programs. Achieving evidence-based end-of-life care will require at least four key developments — which, fortunately, are now attainable.
The article discusses the four key developments and notes in conclusion "the central challenge is to avoid complacency regarding plausibly useful but non–evidence-based initiatives. Researchers, research sponsors, and large insurers, employers, and health systems can collaborate to advance knowledge about what works best for whom. And the sooner they do so, the better...."
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
It's that time of year...CMS releasing the 2016 figures for Medicare. For some beneficiaries, the amount of their Part B premiums and deductibles is going to be a big OUCH! The New York Times ran an editorial on October 10, 2015 on how the premiums and deductibles are calculated and what it means for some beneficiaries in 2016. The Unlucky Millions Paying More for Medicare explains
Under a 1997 law, premium payments must cover 25 percent of the projected per capita costs for Part B. The premiums, which can rise and fall from year to year, are usually deducted from beneficiaries’ Social Security payments each month. A “hold harmless” provision guarantees that for most people the dollar amount of a premium increase cannot be so big that they are left with a Social Security check that is less than that of the year before. The goal is to ensure that beneficiaries, most of whom have modest incomes, don’t have less money to live on.
Since there will be no Social Security COLA for 2016 but Part B premiums are set to rise, the impact is going to hit hard a certain group of beneficiaries:
The roughly 70 percent of beneficiaries who are “held harmless” will pay the same premium as last year. That means the increased cost will have to be made up by the other 30 percent, because of the rule that premiums must cover one-quarter of Part B costs. This group includes 2.8 million new enrollees, 1.6 million people who don’t collect Social Security benefits and 3.1 million higher-income beneficiaries.
How big a hit will this group take? A pretty big one. Consider this in dollar amounts.
The Part B premium has been just under $105 a month for three years, but it is projected to reach $159 in 2016 and then drop to $120 in 2017.
Similarly, the Part B deductible, which must be paid by everyone on Medicare (no one is “held harmless”), will rise from $147 in 2015 to $223 in 2016, before falling back to $169 in 2017. This will pose a particular burden to beneficiaries just above the poverty line who aren’t eligible for assistance from Medicaid in paying deductibles.
The editorial calls for action by Congress to resolve the way premiums are determined. But for now, OUCH!
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Trying to keep straight all of the preventive services available to individuals is daunting, but the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) has made it easy with their new tool, Preventive Services Tracker. There are separate trackers for each condition including cancer chronic conditions, immunizations, sexual health, health promotions and preganancy-based. Organized into easy-to-use charts,, each chart provides information on the required service, the target population, the recommendation, coverage clarifications and effective dates. The charts also provide links for each required service to explain more details.
You might also want to check out their article on Preventive Services Covered by Private Health Plans Under the Affordable Care Act and the accompanying fact sheet.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
If you have worked in Elder Law long enough, you have probably received a panicked call from a family caregiver who is unprepared for a loved one to be discharged on short notice from hospital care.
On September 22, the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg was crowded with individuals wearing coordinated colors, showing their support for Pennsylvania Caregivers, including family members who are often struggling with financial and practical challenges in caring for frail elders. Here's a link to a CBS-21-TV news report, with eloquent remarks from Tamesha Keel (also pictured left), who has first-hand experience as a stay-at-home caregiver for her own aging mother. Tamesha recently joined our law school as Director of Career Services.
AARP helped to rally support for House Bill 1329, the Pennsylvania CARE Act. The acronym, coined as part of a national campaign by AARP to assist family caregivers, stands for Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable Act. HB 1329 passed the Pennsylvania House in July 2015 and is now pending in the Pennsylvania Senate.
We have written on this Blog before about pending CARE legislation in other states. A central AARP-supported goal is to achieve better coordination of aftercare, starting with identification of patient-chosen caregivers who should receive notice in advance of any discharge of the patient from the hospital. Pennsylvania's version of the CARE Act would require hospitals to give both notice and training, either in person or by video, to such caregivers about how to provide appropriate post-discharge care in the home.
I'd actually like to see a bit more in Pennsylvania. It is unfortunate that the Pennsylvania CARE Act, at least in its current iteration (Printer's Number 1883), does not go further by requiring written notice, delivered at least a minimum number of hours in advance of the actual discharge. AARP's own model act suggests a minimum of 4 hours, consistent with Medicare rules.
Under Federal Law, Medicare-participating hospitals must deliver advance written notice of a discharge plan, and such notice must explain the patient's rights to appeal an inadequate plan or premature discharge. A timely appeal puts a temporary hold on the discharge. See the Center for Medicare Advocacy's (CMA) summary of key provisions of Medicare law on hospital discharges, applicable even if a patient at the Medicare-certified hospital isn't a Medicare-patient. CMA's outline also suggests some weaknesses of the Medicare notice requirement.
AARP's original CARE Act proposals are important and evidence-based, seeking to improve the patient's prospects for post-hospitalization care through better advance planning. At the same time, there's some irony for me in reading the Pennsylvania legislature's required "fiscal impact" report on HR 1329, as it reports a "0" dollar impact. That may be true from the Pennsylvania government's cost perspective, but for the hospitals, to do it right, whether in person or by video, training is unlikely to be revenue neutral. I think we need to talk openly about the costs of providing effective education or training to home caregivers.
If passed by the Senate, Pennsylvania's CARE Act would be not become effective for another 12 months. The bill further provides for evaluation of the effectiveness of the rules on patient outcomes.
As is so often true, states are constantly juggling the need for reforms to solve identified problems, with the costs of such reforms. Perhaps the current version of the Pennsylvania bill reflects some compromises among stakeholders. According to this press statement, the Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania supports the current version of AARP's Pennsylvania CARE Act.
September 24, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, September 18, 2015
As we have frequently reported on this Blog (see e.g., here and here and here), the Obama Administration has been aggressive in pursuit of Medicare and Medicaid claims tied to unlawful reimbursement or kickback claims for companies involved in long-term care. But even given that history, often tied to whistleblowing by current or former employees, it is unusual to see criminal investigations. Thus recent media reports about the FBI raiding the CEO of American Senior Communities was eye-catching, including this report from the Indianapolis Star:
A cadre of federal agents raided the Carmel home of an executive of a chain of nursing homes Tuesday morning. But the most important question remains unanswered: Why?
The home is owned by James G. Burkhart, the CEO of American Senior Communities, according to Hamilton County property records. FBI investigators also were at the Southside headquarters of American Senior Communities, at 6900 Gray Road, according to reports.
American Senior Communities manages nearly 100 senior care facilities and is one of the largest nursing home management companies in Indiana. Among those are 60 sites, including skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities throughout the state, that the company manages under a contract with Marion County’s public health agency.
According to media reports, American Senior Communities (ASC) issued the following press statement following the raid:
"American Senior Communities’ most important priority is to continue to provide excellent care to our patients and residents. ASC has been contacted by the federal government in connection with an investigation into certain individuals or practices. ASC is fully cooperating with the government and is conducting its own review to ascertain the relevant facts. ASC is in compliance with all federal, state and local laws and regulations and will continue to conduct its business in accordance with the highest standards of integrity."
Stay tuned...(but don't hold your breath).
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.)
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)
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provides the Medicare Learning Network (MLN). MLN provides, among other things, articles, trainings, and national provider calls. The next national provider call is scheduled for September 3, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. edt on the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care and QAPI. Here is the description of this call
During this MLN Connects® National Provider Call, two nursing homes share how they successfully implemented person-centered care approaches and overcame the barriers of cost and staff. Additionally, CMS subject matter experts update you on the progress of the National Partnership and Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement (QAPI). A question and answer session follows the presentations.
The National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes and QAPI are partnering on MLN Connects Calls to broaden discussions related to quality of life, quality of care, and safety issues. The National Partnership was developed to improve dementia care in nursing homes through the use of individualized, comprehensive care approaches to reduce the use of unnecessary antipsychotic medications. QAPI standards expand the level and scope of quality activities to ensure that facilities continuously identify and correct quality deficiencies and sustain performance improvement.
Should you register for this program? The intended audience is "[c]onsumer and advocacy groups, nursing home providers, surveyor community, prescribers, professional associations, and other interested stakeholders." So, if you fall into one of those groups, the answer is yes, you should register. Registration information is available here.
More information about the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes is available here.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
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.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Kaiser Health News (KHN) ran a story Telephone Therapy Helps Older People In Underserved Rural Areas, Study Finds, that reports that "[t]herapy provided over the phone lowered symptoms of anxiety and depression among older adults in rural areas with a lack of mental health services.... The option is important, one expert said, because seniors often have increased need for treatment as they cope with the effects of disease and the emotional tolls of aging and loss."
The folks in the study suffered from generalized anxiety disorder. Fifty percent of the participants "received cognitive behavioral therapy, which focused on the recognition of anxiety symptoms, relaxation techniques, problem solving and other coping techniques." The remaining fifty percent received "less intensive phone therapy in which mental health professionals provided support for participants to discuss their feelings but offered no suggestions for coping." The results show that both groups benefited from the therapy but those in the first group did better.
There are roadblocks to using phone therapy, according to the article. "Medicare only pays for telehealth services done in rural areas with provider shortages; patients cannot do a phone call in their home, but must drive to a physician’s office or hospital to connect with the mental health professional at another site" according to a Professor quoted in the article. As well, some states require those who are providing "medical care must be licensed in the state where the patient resides."
The study, Telephone-Delivered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Telephone-Delivered Nondirective Supportive Therapy for Rural Older Adults With Generalized Anxiety Disorder was published in JAMA Psychiatry and is available here.