Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Aging in Community

We've blogged on several occasions about aging in place. So a recent article in the New York Times caught my eye.  The Future of Retirement Communities: Walkable and Urban starts out noting our dependence on cars to get where we want to go, but perhaps that is about to change. "Few people in America walk to work. Most of us drive to the supermarket. But more older people these days are looking for a community where they can enjoy a full life without a car." Focusing on one couple's search for the perfect community,  the couple explained, "'[w]e realized ‘aging in place’ means a lot more than just a comfortable house ... [s]o we began thinking more about ‘aging in community.’ That means an urban neighborhood where you can walk or take transit to just about everything you need.'”

This concept, walkable living, isn't a new one, but is one that has somewhat fallen to the wayside with our dependence on cars and cities designed for vehicles rather than people.  "Developments for independent retirees typically come in two flavors: isolated, gated subdivisions or large homes on golf courses, often in the same bland package of multiple cul-de-sacs. Both require driving everywhere, which is a problem for those who either don’t want to drive or can’t."

With new urbanism, an emphasis on walkable communities is gaining traction. Of course, walkability leads to more activity, which we know has benefits to those walking.   There are challenges to building  communities for aging.  The article mentions the hurdles. "Age-friendly communities within cities may require extensive infrastructure improvements, including wider sidewalks, bike lanes, more public transportation options and longer pedestrian signal walk times. Local officials may not want to rezone or invest in the improvements or even permit them."  Then factor in costs, because some currently walkable cities are also costly for residents.  There are tradeoffs, however, so don't rule those out.

Have you students read this article, and have them judge your community for "aging in community."

October 18, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Suit Filed Challenging CMS Rule vs. Pre-Dispute Arbitration

We knew it was coming. The American Healthcare Association has filed suit in the federal district court in the Northern District in Mississippi, challenging the CMS rule that prohibits pre-dispute arbitration in nursing home admission contracts, American Health Care Association Files Court Challenge to Arbitration Rule: CMS Exceeds Statutory Authority by Banning Pre-Dispute Arbitration Agreements in Updated Requirements of Participation

The press release explains

The American Health Care Association (AHCA) today filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services challenging the legality of a provision of a recently released regulation. The Requirements of Participation final rule, issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on September 29, will prohibit skilled and nursing care facilities from entering into pre-dispute arbitration agreements with residents at their centers, no matter how fair or beneficial those agreements may be to residents.against the Department of Health and Human Services challenging the legality of a provision of a recently released regulation. The Requirements of Participation final rule, issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on September 29, will prohibit skilled and nursing care facilities from entering into pre-dispute arbitration agreements with residents at their centers, no matter how fair or beneficial those agreements may be to residents.

The suit "request[s] the courts [act] to stop the enforcement of the arbitration portion of the rule after its effective date of November 28, 2016." The complaint is available here.

October 17, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (1)

Gauging Aging

I was reading recently the following report, Gauging Aging: Mapping the Gaps between Expert and Public Understandings of Aging in America  from the Frameworks Institute.  The report comes from a collaboration of aging organizations, with the purpose "to develop a new, evidence-based narrative around the process of aging in our country, and the roles and contributions of older Americans. This first phase of the project identifies the patterns of thinking that Americans use to reason about issues related to aging, and compares those patterns with the knowledge of experts in the aging field." Why is this report different from others? 

The research presented here is distinct from most public opinion research that documents what people say by conducting polls or focus groups. In this report, we take the analysis a level deeper to document the assumptions and thought processes that inform what people say and structure their judgments and opinions. This cultural-cognitive approach is powerful because identifying ways of thinking is key to developing more effective and strategic communication. By understanding the various ways that people are (and are not) able to think and reason about an issue, communicators can craft messages that avoid unproductive understandings, activate productive ones, and elevate new ways of thinking that are better aligned with policy goals. In short, an understanding of how people think is a powerful tool in identifying the specific perceptual challenges that require reframing.

The executive summary covers the experts' views on aging (what is it, what is older, policy needs).  The executive summary offers these  characteristics of older adults: "Experts explain that, as a group, older adults vary greatly with respect to health, financial situation and functional status. Adults over the age of 60 are living and staying productive longer, and represent the fastest-growing segment of our population. This unprecedented trend represents a long-term shift in the age structure of our society. Older adults have an enormous economic and social impact on American society — an impact that is often not well accounted for in our discourse, media and public policy."

The public view of aging section is particularly interesting as is the section on gaps in understanding.  The report is written in a way that makes it a useful tool for classroom discussion. A pdf is available here. Check it out!

October 17, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Other | Permalink | Comments (0)

Will Increases to Minimum Wage Impact Seniors?


Arizona has two interesting initiatives on the 2016 ballot for the November 8th election.  One is Proposition 205, which would legalize recreational marijuana if passed; the other is Proposition 206 which would increase the state's minimum wage from $8.05 per hour to $10 per hour in 2017 (and incrementally thereafter to $12 by 2020), plus require employers to provide paid sick leave (40 hours annually for large employers and 24 hours annually for small employers). Guess which Prop is getting the lion's share of attention on media airwaves? Nonetheless, both measures are high profile and certainly the wage initiative should be carefully considered.  

Mark Young, who is president of the Arizona In-Home Care Association, and operates a home care company in Arizona, offers an interesting perspective on the potential impact of higher minimum wages in a column published recently on the Opinion page for the Prescott Daily Courier. He opens: 

He cites Seattle's increase of minimum wage to $15/hour as evidence of an corresponding increase for the average cost of in-home care to nearly $35 per hour, making such services "out of reach for many seniors."  He continues: 

Even more concerning is the potential unintended consequences of Prop 206: The emergence of an underground market which would place liability and risk on our most vulnerable community members. This could result in increased financial, physical, or even mental abuse by predators targeting seniors and disabled adults and children – a segment of our society already at risk.

 

As our senior population grows the demand for skilled caregivers has been increasing dramatically. If the cost to employ skilled caregivers goes up while the pool of available workers shrinks, many in-home care agencies will be forced to meet demand by hiring workers who are less expensive but also less experienced which could negatively impact overall quality of care.

The affordability argument for home care I understand, but I'm pretty darn skeptical of an argument that keeping the official minimum wage under $10 per hour protects against predatory behavior by home care workers. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how Arizonans vote on these two propositions, especially given the state's often libertarian take on conservative politics. At least one poll shows Arizonans favor the incremental increases under Prop 206 to $12 per hour.

October 17, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Gray Gender Gap

The New York Times ran an article on October 7, 2016 exploring the "gray gender gap." The Gray Gender Gap: Older Women Are Likelier to Go It Alone is based on a recent report Older Americans 2016: Key Indicators of Well-Being (available here as a pdf). The author focuses on marital status, and notes by age, men are more likely than women to be married. "About three-quarters of men ages 65 to 74 are married, compared with 58 percent of women in that age group. More surprisingly, the proportion of men who are married at 75 to 84 doesn’t decline; among women, it drops to 42 percent...Even among men over 85, nearly 60 percent are married. By that point, only 17 percent of women are."  The article looks at the reasons for this disparity and discusses the economic impact of "going it alone."  According to a study referenced in the article, "[a]bout 8 percent of married older adults are poor or “near poor.” Among unmarried men, the percentage rises to about 20 percent. For unmarried women, it’s 27 percent."  Economics are not the only benefit that may come from marriage. There may be health benefits, too.  The article notes as well that there are caregiving facing those who are going it alone.   Some people actually flourish being alone, but it is interesting to think about this gray gender gap!

October 14, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Structure Unconsitutional

On October 11, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in PPH Corp. v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Although initially conceived as a "multi-member independent agency" in its final form approved by Congress, the CFPB is "an independent agency headed not by a multi-member commission but rather by a single Director. Because the CFPB is an independent agency headed by a single Director and not by a multi-member commission, the Director of the CFPB possesses more unilateral authority – that is, authority to take action on one’s own, subject to no check –than any single commissioner or board member in any other independent agency in the U.S. Government. Indeed, as we will explain, the Director enjoys more unilateral authority than any other officer in any of the three branches of the U.S. Government, other than the President."  The opinion notes the great power held by the director and describes it as "massive in scope, concentrated in a single person, and unaccountable to the President [and thus] triggers the important constitutional question at issue in this case." Examining historical precedent and discussing the lack of checks on the director's power under the current structure which (the court described as a "threat to individual liberty posed by a single-Director independent agency"), the court held "that the CFPB is unconstitutionally structured."

The court looks next at the appropriate remedy, with the Plaintiff arguing the agency should be shuttered. Instead, the court severed the offending language in the statute, to provide "the President ... the power to remove the Director at will, and to supervise and direct the Director."  The court goes on at length (and acknowledges this) to explain its ruling, and to also address the Plaintiff's challenge to the fine imposed against it by the CFPB. 

The CFPB therefore will continue to operate and to perform its many duties, but will do so as an executive agency akin to other executive agencies headed by a single person, such as the Department of Justice and the Department of the Treasury. Those executive agencies have traditionally been headed by a single person precisely because the agency head operates within the Executive Branch chain of command under the supervision and direction of the President. The President is a check on and accountable for the actions of those executive agencies, and the President now will be a check on and accountable for the actions of the CFPB as well.

The opinion is available here.

 

October 12, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Enthusiastic Aging: The 9th Stage of Life?

The International Journal of Aging & Society recently published The Ninth Stage of Life: Aging with Enthusiasm.  The abstract explains

A new stage has been added to the human life cycle due to increasing numbers of the very old. In particular, adults over eighty constitute a new focus for developmental research. These older adults seem to have reached a stage beyond Erikson’s eight stages, first proposed sixty-four years ago. As Joan Erikson suggested, eight stages no longer capture the end of life concerns of this older group. In this paper, I review the research focusing on the self-reports of individuals who are still thriving in their eighties and nineties. I suggest that this research supports a ninth Eriksonian life stage. This ninth stage might be called “Appreciation versus Resignation with the associated strength, Enthusiasm.” A defining aspect of the elders described in the studies cited below is that they express a keen appreciation for their extended years and a determination not to squander them. I discuss implications for practice and for further research.

Who are these 9th stagers and why study them? According to the introduction,

“Ninth stagers” are individuals in their eighties and nineties. I suggest that the emerging picture of this stage is considerably brighter than the one Joan Erikson painted. In the spirit of Erik Erikson’s (1950) proposed eight stages, I suggest that the ninth stage is characterized by a dialectical tension between two qualities, appreciation and resignation, with the associated strength, enthusiasm. I consider research focused on ninth stagers’ self-reports as well as research on the essential conditions for sustaining vitality and enthusiasm. Following Gawande (2015), I suggest that our diminished picture of the capacity for vitality in ninth stagers is, in part, an artifact of the medicalized assisted living environment in which many of our seniors live and the deleterious effect of this environment on their autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

The 9 page article looks  at vitality, longevity and psychological variables to name a few.  The author concludes "this ninth life stage might be called “Appreciation versus Resignation with the associated strength, Enthusiasm.” A defining aspect of many of the elders in the studies cited was that they expressed keen appreciation for their extended years and a determination not to squander them. Enthusiasm does not seem too strong a word to characterize their strength. Toquote Henry David Thoreau: 'None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.'"

A pdf of the article is available for download from here.

 

 

October 12, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Robin Williams, Lewy Body Disease, and a Personal Account From His Wife

Robin Williams was an amazing, brilliant individual.  His wife, Susan Schneider Williams, wrote an editorial recently for Neurology The terrorist inside my husband's brain was written to help the doctors have a better understanding of their patients, spouses and caregivers.  This is a compelling essay that gives us insight into Mr. Williams' situation and that of his wife. All dementias are horrible diseases, and Lewy Body strikes almost 1.5 million folks according to the editorial.  Of course, Mr. Williams isn't the only one who has had Lewy Body, but he might be the most famous and was one of the few hit so hard by the disease. "Although not alone, his case was extreme. Not until the coroner's report, 3 months after his death, would I learn that it was diffuse LBD that took him. All 4 of the doctors I met with afterwards and who had reviewed his records indicated his was one of the worst pathologies they had seen. He had about 40% loss of dopamine neurons and almost no neurons were free of Lewy bodies throughout the entire brain and brainstem."

Mrs. Williams walks the reader through the last months of their life together, describing how the disease was affecting Mr. Williams personally and professionally.  Brilliant and talented, "Robin was losing his mind and he was aware of it. Can you imagine the pain he felt as he experienced himself disintegrating? And not from something he would ever know the name of, or understand? Neither he, nor anyone could stop it—no amount of intelligence or love could hold it back."  She explains the difficulties with diagnosis and their work to determine how to treat him.

She offers  that she and Mr. Williams "had begun our unplanned research on the brain through the door of blind experience. During the final months we shared together, our sights were locked fast on identifying and vanquishing the terrorist within his brain. Since then, I have continued our research but on the other side of that experience, in the realm of the science behind it."

This is a powerful, emotional first person account.

October 11, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Update on 2015 Iowa Case, Raising Issue of "Consent" to Sexual Relations in Nursing Homes

In April 2015, we followed the Iowa state criminal trial of a former state legislator for allegedly having sexual relations with his wife in her nursing home after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.  See here, here and here, for example.  The charge of "sexual assault" was based on an Iowa statute that criminalized a sexual act "between persons who are not at the time cohabiting as husband and wife" if "the other person is suffering from a mental defect or incapacity which precludes giving consent." See Iowa Criminal Code Sections 709.1, 709.1A, and 709.4(2)(a).   After a several day high-profile trial -- where emotions were running high on all sides with family members, witnesses and attorneys --  the jury acquitted Henry Rayhons, then age 79.  The prosecutor took the position that any theory the wife "consented" to sexual relations was completely irrelevant as a matter of law, because of her debilitating mental condition.

The legal proceedings did not stop with the criminal case.  A year later, Henry Rayhons filed a civil suit for damages, alleging various state law claims such as (1) defamation, (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (3) malicious prosecution, (4) negligent infliction of emotional distress, (5) negligence, and (6) loss of consortium against various individual defendants. Defendants named on certain of the state law counts included two adult daughters of his deceased wife and his wife's  treating physician at the nursing home.  Separate counts named the nursing home itself on state law claims of vicarious liability.  Count IX of the petition alleged a claim under the federal civil rights statute, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, against the state prosecutor in the criminal case.  In July 2016, the prosecutor, Susan Krisko, removed the case to federal court and filed a motion for summary judgment.  

Continue reading

October 10, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (2)

Will New Federal Ban on Pre-Dispute "Binding" Arbitration Clauses in LTC Agreements Survive Likely Challenges?

My colleague Becky Morgan provided prompt links and important initial commentary for CMS's recently issued final regulations that are intended to "improve the quality of life, care, and services" in Long-Term Care (LTC) facilities.  As we start to digest the 700+ pages of changes and commentary, it seems clear the battle over a key section that bans pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements is already shaping up.  This rule, at 40 CFR Section 483.70(n), has an implementation date of November 28, 2016.

The regulatory ban on pre-dispute binding arbitration in covered facilities raises the question of "conflict" with the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. Section 1 et seq.   The 2012 per curium ruling by the Supreme Court in Marmet Health Care Center, Inc. v. Brown, shapes the issue, if not the result. 

CMS distinguishes Marmet and presents the rule change as based on authority granted under the Social Security Act to the Secretary of Health and Human Service to issue "such rules as may be necessary to the efficient administration of the functions of the Department," which necessarily includes supervision of all providers, including LTC providers, who "participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs."  CMS points to the long history of regulatory authority over LTC including long-celebrated "patient's rights" legislation adopted in the late 1980s.  CMS further explains (at page 399 of the 700 page commentary to the new rules):

Based on the comments received in response to this rulemaking, we are convinced that requiring residents to sign pre-dispute arbitration agreements is fundamentally unfair because, among other things, it is almost impossible for residents or their decision-makers to give fully informed and voluntary consent to arbitration before a dispute has arisen. We believe that LTC residents should have a right to access the court system if a dispute with a facility arises, and that any agreement to arbitrate a claim should be knowing and voluntary. . . . 

 

We recognize that an argument could be made that Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries can assert in Court the FAA's saving clause if they believe that a pre-dispute arbitration agreement should not be enforced. However, the comments we have received have confirmed our conclusion that predispute arbitration clauses are, by their very nature, unconscionable. As one commenter noted, it is virtually impossible for a resident or their surrogate decision-maker to give fully informed or voluntary consent to such arbitration provisions. That same commenter 402 also noted that refusing to agree to the arbitration clause, in most cases, means that care will be denied.

 

Furthermore, Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries are aged or disabled and ill. Many beneficiaries lack the resources to litigate a malpractice claim, much less an initial claim seeking to invalidate an arbitration clause. Rather than requiring Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to incur the additional fees, expense, and delay that would be the direct cost of opposing a motion to enforce arbitration, we have concluded that this is precisely the type of situation envisioned by the Congressional grant of authority contained in sections 1819(d)(4)(B) and 1919(d)(4)(B) of the Act authorizing the Secretary to establish "such other requirements relating to the health, safety, and well-being of residents or relating to the physical facilities thereof as the Secretary may find necessary.”

By coincidence, just hours before the final LTC rules issued by CMS, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court enforced pre-dispute arbitration agreements for nursing home residents in Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities (decided September 28, 2016).  

The LTC industry seems ready to fight, as reported by industry insiders at McKnight's News on September 29, 2016: 

Both the American Health Care Association and LeadingAge expressed disappointment in the arbitration ban in statements provided to McKnight's.

 

“That provision clearly exceeds CMS's statutory authority and is wholly unnecessary to protect residents' health and safety,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA.

 

LeadingAge has supported arbitration agreements that are “properly structured and allow parties to have a speedy and cost-effective alternative to traditional litigation,” but believes CMS has overstepped its boundaries with the ban, the group said.

 

“Arbitration agreements should be enforced if they were executed separately from the admission agreement, were not a condition of admissions, and allowed the resident to rescind the agreement within a reasonable time frame,” LeadingAge added in its statement.

Stay tuned -- but don't hold your breath as the next round is likely to take some time. My special thanks to Megan Armstrong, Class of 2018 at Dickinson Law, for sharing key links with me for our research on this important development. 

    

October 10, 2016 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 9, 2016

SNF Expenditure Data-GAO Report

The GAO issued a new report regarding the accessibility of SNF expenditure data. Skilled Nursing Facilities:  CMS Should Improve Accessibility & Reliability of Expenditure Data was released October 6, 2016. Here is what the GAO found

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) ... collects and reports expenditure data from skilled nursing facilities (SNF), but it has not taken key steps to make the data readily accessible to public stakeholders or to ensure their reliability. SNFs are required to self-report their expenditures in annual financial cost reports, and CMS posts the raw data on its website. However, CMS has not provided the data in a readily accessible format and has not posted the data in a place that is easy to find on its website, according to public stakeholders and GAO's observations. In addition, CMS does little to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data. Federal internal control standards suggest that agencies should make data accessible to the public and ensure data reliability. Until CMS takes steps to make reliable SNF expenditure data easier to use and locate, public stakeholders will have difficulty accessing and placing confidence in the only publicly available source of financial data for many SNFs.

GAO found that, for each fiscal year from 2011 through 2014, direct and indirect care costs were lower as a percentage of revenue, on average, at for-profit SNFs compared with nonprofit and government SNFs. Direct and indirect care costs were similarly lower at chain SNFs compared with independent SNFs. In addition, the median margin, which measures revenue relative to costs, was higher for for-profit and chain SNFs than for other SNFs in each of the 4 years.

The relationship between SNFs' nurse staffing levels (hours per resident day) and their margins varied by ownership type in each fiscal year from 2012 through 2014, the 3 years with complete staffing data. For-profit SNFs generally had lower nurse staffing ratios than did nonprofit and government SNFs. Examining each fiscal year separately, GAO estimated that a SNF's margin had a small, but statistically significant, effect on its case-mix adjusted (that is, adjusted for residents' health care needs) nurse staffing ratios. For example, for each percentage point increase in a for-profit SNF's margin in fiscal year 2014, GAO estimated that the SNF's total nurse staffing ratio (including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and certified nursing assistants) decreased by 4.1 minutes per resident day after controlling for other factors. However, in GAO's analyses, these other factors, such as geographic location, were more important predictors of a SNF's case-mix adjusted nurse staffing ratios.

A pdf of the report is available here.

October 9, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Medigap's Gap for People with Disabilities

The Kaiser Family Foundation ran a story, The Gap in Medigap focuses on the "gap" for those individuals with disabilities on Medicare who don't have Medigap policies.  The gap is significant: "even with Medicare, beneficiaries under 65 with disabilities report greater difficulty accessing the care they need, sometimes because they cannot afford the cost. For some, this may be related to not having supplemental coverage, such as Medigap, to help with their out-of-pocket costs. In fact, a much smaller share of beneficiaries under 65 with disabilities than seniors have a Medigap policy (2% versus 17%, respectively), and a much higher share have no supplemental coverage whatsoever (21% versus 12%)."

Why the gap?  Cost may be a factor, but the article offers another, compelling reason. 

The substantially lower rate of Medigap coverage among under age 65 adults with disabilities may be due in large part to the provision in the federal law mentioned above that gives Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older the right to purchase a Medigap policy during the first six months after they enroll in Medicare Part B and under other limited circumstances, but does not provide the same guarantee to younger people who are entitled to Medicare due to having a disability. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 31 states have gone beyond the federal minimum standard to require insurers in their states to provide at least one kind of Medigap policy to beneficiaries younger than age 65, but the other 19 states and DC have not ....

The article also notes how things have changed since the law went into place over 25 years ago, including changes to the Medigap provisions of the Medicare statute. One of the big changes is that with Part D, Medigap policies no longer cover prescription drugs. So factoring out the Part D spending, the Kaiser story notes "Medicare per capita costs are similar for younger beneficiaries with disabilities and seniors...."

So why maintain the difference between those 65 and older and those under 65 with disabilities?  Is it time for a change? The article suggests yes, that "it’s not clear what the justification is for treating younger adults with disabilities differently from older adults when it comes to buying a Medigap policy." The article proposes several benefits to changing the law which "could help to reduce the gap in Medigap coverage between younger and older beneficiaries, help alleviate cost-related access problems among the relatively small but vulnerable group of people under 65 who qualify for Medicare, and provide more equitable treatment to Medicare beneficiaries across the states."

Good food for thought! (and maybe a good topic for a student paper)

October 7, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Alzheimer's Patients and Play Therapy

Kaiser Health News wrote about a new and somewhat controversial therapy being used with Alzheimer's patients, known as "doll therapy." When Pretend Play Is Real For Alzheimer’s Patients explains that "[n]ursing homes and other senior facilities nationwide are using a controversial technique called doll therapy to ease anxiety among their residents with dementia. Senior care providers and experts say the dolls are an alternative to medication and help draw in elderly people who are no longer able to participate in many activities." 

As elder law profs, we know how important it is to educate our students about autonomy and avoiding stereotypes, so some may be wondering about the therapeutic benefit this therapy might have with elders. An expert from the Alzheimer's Association expounded on that point: "[c]aregivers aren’t trying to make their charges believe the dolls are real infants, and they don’t want to infantilize the seniors ... They are just 'trying to meet them where they are and communicate with them in a way that makes sense to them.'” The article refers to some studies on this therapy, features stories of individuals with family members who have undergone the therapy and discusses some of the concerns about such therapy such as the perception that may arise as a result of elders playing with dolls.

The story made me think of Paro, the therapeutic robot which is used for some similar reasons, such as "to reduce patient stress... stimulates interaction between patients and caregivers... and improves the socialiazation of patients with each other and with caregivers...."

 

October 6, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Elder Housing: Linking Residents to Services

The GAO has issued a new report of interest to all of us who read this blog or teach elder law.  Elder Housing: HUD Should Do More to Oversee Efforts to LInk Residents to Services was released on October 3, 2016.  The 66 page report is available here as a pdf and the highlights are available here.

Here are the findings:

While limitations in the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) data make an accurate assessment difficult, GAO estimates that roughly half of the 7,229 Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly (Section 202) properties have HUD-funded service coordinators—staff who link residents to supportive services such as transportation assistance or meals. HUD's data indicate that 38 percent of Section 202 properties have a HUD-funded service coordinator, but these data likely underestimate the true number. GAO surveyed a generalizable sample of Section 202 properties not identifiable in HUD's data as having a service coordinator and, on this basis, estimates that an additional 12 percent of Section 202 properties actually had one—bringing the actual total of Section 202 properties with service coordinators to about 50 percent. Federal internal control standards note that it is important for management to obtain relevant data from reliable sources. Properties with service coordinators are subject to additional monitoring, but without accurate information, HUD risks not taking steps to monitor Section 202 properties with service coordinators to help ensure they are connecting residents to supportive services.

Properties without service coordinators connect residents to services in a variety of ways—for example, property managers may serve this function themselves, or they may utilize other local organizations. Several stakeholders told GAO that property managers are well-positioned to know their residents, and have some insight into their needs. Others noted that property managers generally lack the time and expertise to effectively manage this responsibility, and that the manager's role can conflict with that of the service coordinator. Through GAO's survey and site visits, managers of Section 202 properties without service coordinators cited a variety of reasons for not employing them, including lack of funding and having too few units to justify hiring someone to focus on supportive services for the elderly residents.

HUD requires its staff to monitor Section 202 properties' adherence to program requirements. However, HUD lacks written policies and procedures that describe how its staff should monitor the requirement for Section 202 property managers to coordinate the provision of supportive services. Available guidance describes general monitoring procedures for multifamily properties but does not address Section 202 specifically. HUD officials told GAO they plan to develop guidance on monitoring Section 202 properties with service coordinator grants by December 2016. Federal internal control standards note the importance of documenting responsibilities through policies. Without written policies and procedures, HUD cannot be assured that elderly residents are receiving assistance obtaining services. In addition, HUD collects performance data, such as the number of services provided, from Section 202 properties that have service coordinators but does not have policies or procedures in place to verify the accuracy of the data or for analyzing the data collected. Federal internal control standards also note the importance of evaluating data for reliability and processing data into quality information to evaluate performance. Until HUD takes steps to assess service coordinator performance data for reliability and analyze the data reported, its ability to use that information to monitor whether service coordinators are performing effectively and helping to fulfill the goals of the Section 202 program will likely be limited.

Make note that HUD plans to have Section 202 monitoring guidance with grants for service coordinators by December.  Stay tuned!

 

October 4, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Housing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Over 50 and Homeless

Homelessness is a serious problem. For elders, it may be even more so.  Statistics in a recent article are sobering; nearly 1/3 of those who are homeless are over 50.  A recent article in Vox highlighted this problem. "Elderly homelessness is on the rise. A combination of slow economic recovery from the recession and an aging baby boomer population has contributed to the rise of the 51 and older homeless population. The percentage has spiked by almost 10 points since 2007 — in 2014, the 51-and-older group represented nearly a third of the national homeless population."  The story is told in the first person to a free lance reporter, the woman, 66, explaining how she came to this point in her life.

Everywhere in our country, people are having a hard time finding affordable places to live. The housing crash and its chilling effect on mortgage lending have hit the poor the hardest. Affordable housing rates, defined as a unit that costs less than $800 a month, dropped by 12 percent in the past few years. Homeowners are being replaced by renters, as the American dream of owning your own property is becoming increasingly a luxury for the rich and upper middle class...I used to be middle class. Now I’m nouveau poor.

In the story she details her health problems, loneliness, the lack of privacy and loss of dignity and how her dog is her one bright spot in her life.

On some days, I’ll drive to the beach. I’ll walk my dog in the parking lot, then sit in my car and watch the waves and listen to the birds. The sounds of the ocean are calming and soothing. The sun on my face warms me... I try to remember what’s important in life. I try to remember that there’s beauty everywhere and good people in the world. I try to remember my previous life, filled with interesting characters, connections, wondrous places I have lived and visited... If I’m lucky, I’ll fall asleep and dream about living in a home again during a short, heavenly nap.

October 3, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Housing | Permalink | Comments (1)

New York Case Provides Window Into Roles of Attorneys as Counsel and Guardian in End-of-Life Case

In the Matter of Jane Doe, a case pending in New York state courts for several years, involves tragic facts.  A 37-year old woman experienced cardiac arrest in 2003 following complications during delivery of her third child.  With a cascading series of events, "Jane Doe" suffered anoxic brain damage and spastic quadriparesis, and became dependent on a respirator and full time care in a nursing home's ventilator unit.  Her husband, John D., was initially appointed as her personal needs guardian, while a separate person, an attorney, was appointed property management guardian.  In 2012, John D initiated measures to remove his wife's life support; litigation ensued when other family members opposed the proposed withdrawal.  After more than a year of proceedings, John D. stepped down as special needs guardian and in 2012, the court appointed one attorney as legal counsel for Jane Doe, and a separate attorney as the new special needs guardian with authority under New York law to determine the patient's health care, including any decision to withdraw life supports.

In 2016, a New York Court held extensive hearings on the surrogate decision of the special needs guardian to withdraw life support for Jane Doe.  The court heard testimony from medical professionals, friends and relatives of Jane Doe, including those who recounted conversations with Jane, offered to show that she would not want life sustaining measures to be withdrawn. The testimony, summarized in the opinion, is wrenching.  Ultimately, on August 19, 2016, the court issued a detailed ruling, finding that the decision of the special guardian to withdraw life support was supported by the evidence. The court denied the petition of family members opposing termination of life support but also stayed its final order for 60 days to permit further appeals.

On one level, this is case is another window into the use of courts for end-of-life decision-making.  But the case also highlights the important roles potentially played by lawyers for the incapacitated person, including as appointed legal counsel for the incapacitated person and separately, as the surrogate decision maker.  The surrogate's experience as an elder law attorney was viewed by the court as important to her credentials.

Here are the court's reasons for accepting the surrogate's decision:

Continue reading

October 3, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Caregiver's Checklist

We have blogged on a number of occasions about the importance of caregivers. Kaiser Health Network (KHN) recently ran a story, A Practical To-Do List For Family Caregivers. The story starts by sharing experiences of an attorney who is the caregiver for her parents.  "On several occasions, doctors have treated this accomplished lawyer like she was an interloper — not the person to whom her elderly parents had entrusted health care and legal decision-making."

Citing to the National Academies report on caregiving (which we blogged about previously), the KHN article offers some "recommendations ...  extrapolated from its findings."

  • The caregiver needs to make sure that her status as caregiver is noted in the medical records of parents. "Thirty states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have now passed versions of the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, drafted by AARP, which calls for information about family caregivers to be included in hospital medical records.givers should double check that the doctors have their info and lists them as the emergency contact."
  • The caregiver needs to make sure she is capable of providing the needed care and her tasks incorporated into the parent's care plan.
  • The caregiver needs to be trained on how to do the tasks (especially medical ones) she will be completing.
  • The caregiver needs access to her parent's medical info (make sure the parent has ok'd access) and
  • The caregiver should know and connect with helpful community resources.

 

 

October 2, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 30, 2016

Filial Friday: PA Trial Court Rules that New Jersey's Law Controls Outcome of "Reverse" Filial Support Claim

I've been following for some time an interesting "reverse filial support law" case in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.  A key issue in Melmark v. Shutt is whether New Jersey parents of a New Jersey, disabled, indigent adult son are liable for his costs of his care at a private, nonprofit residential facility specializing in autism services, Melmark Inc., in Pennsylvania. Since most of the modern filial support claims I see involve facilities (usually "nursing homes") suing children over the costs of their elderly parents' care, I describe cases where the facility is suing parents of an adult child as a "reverse filial support" law claim.

In a September 2016 opinion that followed a June nonjury trial, the Pennsylvania trial court used a "choice of law" analysis to determine which state's substantive "filial support"  law controlled the parents' liability. The court ultimately ruled that New Jersey's statutes applied.  N.J. filial support obligations are more limited than those affecting families under Pennsylvania law.  Under N.J. Stat. Ann. Section 44:1-140(c), the state exempts parents over the age of 55 from support obligations for their adult children (and vice versa). By contrast, Pennsylvania does not place age limits on filial support, either for adult children or elderly parents.  See Pa.C.S.A. Section 4603. In the Melmark case, the father was 70 and the mother was 68 years old during the year in question.  The disabled son was 29.

The court decided that New Jersey had the "most significant contacts or relationships" to the dispute. That's classic conflict-of-laws analytical language.  At issue was more than $205,000, for costs of residential services between April 1 2012 and May 14, 2013.

Continue reading

September 30, 2016 in Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

More on the Reg Change Regarding Pre-Dispute Arbitration Clauses for Nursing Homes

I blogged yesterday about the new and updated regs for nursing homes and highlighted a few changes. One that is getting attention is the reg regarding pre-dispute arbitration clauses, mentioned in yesterday's post. The NY Times ran an article, U.S. to Bar Arbitration Clauses in Nursing Home Contracts offers some examples of individuals who were injured but not able to seek redress in the courts.   The article notes that this is the first significant revision to the FNHRA regs in a while, and also another federal agency moving to limit the use of arbitration clauses. "It is the most significant overhaul of the agency’s rules governing federal funding of long-term care facilities in more than two decades...And the new rule is the latest effort by the Obama administration to rein in arbitration’s parallel system of justice that was quietly built over more than a decade...In May, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the nation’s consumer watchdog, unveiled the draft of a rule that would prevent credit card companies and other financial firms from using arbitration clauses that bar consumers from banding together in a class-action lawsuit." The article also references prior stories by the Times that focused on arbitration, the links to which are available at the end of the story.

September 29, 2016 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Important: CMS Issues FInal Rules on Requirements for LTC Facilities

The Federal Nursing Home Reform Act went into effect back in 1987. Those accompanying regs have been in place a long time. Now CMS has issued final rules that revise the LTC regs.  The official publication date is Oct. 4, 2016.  The regs are being implemented in phases, with phase one going into effect on November 28, 2016.  Here is the Federal Register summary:

This final rule will revise the requirements that Long-Term Care facilities must meet to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. These changes are necessary to reflect the substantial advances that have been made over the past several years in the theory and practice of service delivery and safety. These revisions are also an integral part of our efforts to achieve broad-based improvements both in the quality of health care furnished through federal programs, and in patient safety.

The regs are over 700 pages and are available here. Here are the effective dates: "Phase 1 must be implemented by November 28, 2016... Phase 2 must be implemented by November 28, 2017 ... Phase 3 must be implemented by November 28, 2019 ...  A detailed discussion regarding the different phases of the implementation timeline can be found in Section B. II 'Implementation Date.'"

42 C.F.R. 483.10 is updated but CMS is "retaining all existing residents’ rights and updating the language and organization of the resident rights provisions to improve logical order and readability, clarify aspects of the regulation where necessary, and updating provisions to include advances such as electronic communications."

There's a new reg, 42. C.F.R. 483.21, "Comprehensive Person-Centered Care Planning" wherein CMS, among other things, is "requiring facilities to develop and implement a baseline care plan for each resident, within 48 hours of their admission,  the instructions needed to provide effective and person-centered care that meets professional standards of quality care."

One of the most watched sections involved the use of arbitration clauses. 42 C.F.R. 483.70 now includes, among other things, the following: "Binding Arbitration Agreements: We are requiring that facilities must not enter into an agreement for binding arbitration with a resident or their representative until after a dispute arises between the parties. Thus, we are prohibiting the use of pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements."

This is just a brief overview of a few provisions. We'll blog about more of them later, but for now, be sure to read the new regs. They're important!

P.S. this post has been updated to correct the publication and effective dates (I was too excited)

September 28, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)