Thursday, November 30, 2006

Upcoming conference: Health Care and Quality of Life--Call for papers

Co-Sponsors: Penn State Dickinson School of Law
Penn State College of Medicine
Location: Capital Union Building, Penn State Harrisburg

Contact:  Katherine Pearson, Professor of Law and Director, Elder Law and Consumer Protection Clinic,

Date: Friday, March 2, 2007


GOALS AND OUTCOMES: The symposium will examine issues related
to health care and quality of life currently being addressed among regional
colleges/universities and other agencies. Participants can expect outcomes
that include an expanded network of research collaborators, a compilation of
presentation abstracts, and possibly organization of ongoing discussion groups.

ANTICIPATED TOPICS: Health care and quality of life: cultural
competency, health care policy and delivery, health education, legal and
fi nancial aspects, long-term care, quality of life and end of life issues, wellness
and health care for protected groups.

AUDIENCE: All interested parties, such as faculty, students, public offi cials,
and business leaders.

INVITATION TO PRESENT (see format below):
To stimulate as much discourse as possible, the 2007 Symposium on Health
Care and Quality of Life will provide an opportunity for poster presentations
and a limited number of oral presentations. Most oral presentations will be
limited to 10 minutes (plus 5 minutes for discussion). Authors may request their
preference for oral vs. poster format, and the Steering Committee will try to
accommodate these preferences.

REGISTRATION/PARTICIPATION FEE: Advance registration is preferred.
The registration fee of $30 ($10 for students) will be required of all participants
to help defray the cost of lunch and refreshment breaks. Registration
information will be posted at:

November 30, 2006 in Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Health Affairs: Enrollment in Part D

An article by Kaiser Family Foundation researchers published as a Health Affairs Web Exclusive provides a comprehensive look at the 2006 private Medicare drug plan enrollment as the enrollment period for 2007 begins. The article examines organization- and plan-level market share, as well as enrollment by type of plan, benefit design, and gap coverage.  This is aIssue Brief Icon Health Affairs Web Exclusive (free access)

November 29, 2006 in Medicare | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Not elder law: one dang scary fish...

The scariest fish ever is now extinct, but its bite rivals that of large alligators and Tyrannosaurus rex, making it one very terrifying predator. Fish

This animal of the ancient sea had the most powerful jaws of any fish that ever lived, more impressive even than that of the biggest great white shark. Scientists at the Field Museum and the University of Chicago are offering the world a view into the life and ways of a 400 million year old fish, the Dunkleosteus terrelli that “roamed” the waters with its great length of 33 feet and weight of 4 tons.

It has been known for years that this was a dominant predator, but the new report, to be published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters on November 29 reveals some compelling details about the marine predator: the force of its bite was remarkably powerful: 11,000 pounds, at an incredible force of 80,000 pounds per square inch. Even more surprising for the researchers was how fast the fish was. Dunkleosteus terrelli could open its mouth very quickly - in just one fiftieth of a second - which created a strong suction force, pulling fast prey into its mouth. With both a powerful bite and a fast bite, this predator was not something to escape from.

“The most interesting part of this work for me was discovering that this heavily armored fish was both fast during jaw opening and quite powerful during jaw closing,” said Mark Westneat, Curator of Fishes at The Field Museum and co-author of the paper. “This is possible due to the unique engineering design of its skull and different muscles used for opening and closing. And it made this fish into one of the first true apex predators seen in the vertebrate fossil record.”



November 29, 2006 in Other | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NAELA Student Writing Competition

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys is pleased to present the Second Annual NAELA Student Journal Writing Competition.  The writing competition helps law students find greater interest in, and understanding of, issues related to the field of elder law.  The contest is open to all part and full-time law students. All articles must be original and previously unpublished.  The winner will be announced on September 1st and honored at the 2007 NAELA Advanced Elder Law Institute.  For further information, please visit:

November 28, 2006 in Other | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Not elder law: Nora Ephron on older women

Humorist Nora Epron appeared on Minnesota Public Radio yesterday discussing women, aging, and chicken skin necks.  Listen to the broadcast at

November 28, 2006 in Other | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 27, 2006

900 million appropriated from China's social security fund

China said today more than $900 million was misappropriated from the nation’s $37 billion social security fund in the latest massive government fraud to be uncovered.

The government did not announce any arrests or even lay blame for the wrongdoing, but it said an audit revealed that most of the money had been siphoned off for foreign investments, building projects and commercial loans.

The country’s social security fund was created in 2000 to help the government cope with its massive and aging population, and to provide a cushion in a country where the gap between the rich and the poor has widened dramatically in recent years, despite a long running economic boom.

The report comes at a time when China has embarked on one of its most serious crackdowns on government corruption in decades.

In September, the government sacked Chen Liangyu, the Shanghai party secretary and a member of the Politburo, after a government investigation determined that he was implicated in the misuse of social security funds in Shanghai.

Since then, several other government and business leaders have been arrested or called in for questioning in a widening probe of official wrongdoing involving bribery or stealing government funds.

Some experts say the ongoing corruption investigations are being used as a political weapon to remove government officials who are not loyal to President Hu Jintao.

But most analysts also say that corruption is endemic here and that it is threatening the country’s prosperity.

“The social security fund is the key to the stability of the society,” said Zhu Lijia, a professor of public administration at the National School of Administration in Beijing. “This affects a large number of retirees and unemployed workers who live on the money. That’s why there have been huge disturbances in various places.”

The social security fund fraud was uncovered by the national audit office, which for the past few years has been systematically scrutinizing the books of government agencies and institutions and then releasing its findings to the public.


Read more in the New York Times.

November 27, 2006 in Social Security | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Dems may find it difficult to change Part D anti-negotiation provisions

It sounded simple enough on the campaign trail: Free the government to negotiate lower drug prices and use the savings to plug a big gap in Medicare's new prescription-drug benefit. But as Democrats prepare to take control of Congress, they are struggling to keep that promise without wrecking a program that has proven cheaper and more popular than anyone imagined.

House Democrats have vowed to act quickly after taking power in January to lift a ban on Medicare negotiations with drugmakers, which they hope will save as much as $190 billion over a decade. But House leaders have yet to settle on a strategy and acknowledge that negotiation is, in any case, unlikely to generate sufficient savings to fill the "doughnut hole," the much-criticized gap in coverage that forces millions of seniors to pay 100 percent of drug costs for a few weeks or months each year.

Drug-company lobbyists, Bush administration officials and many congressional Republicans are preparing to block any effort to increase federal control over drug prices, saying the Medicare benefit is working well. They contend that instead of saving money, government negotiations could raise drug prices for all consumers while limiting choices for people on Medicare.

Read more in the Washington Post (may require login).

November 27, 2006 in Medicare | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Blogmistress on vacation


Turkey_1               In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, I will be taking a break from the blog from today through Monday. Best wishes and good eating to all.

Gobble, gobble!

November 22, 2006 in Other | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Federal court orders Medicaid in spousal annuity case

A Federal District Court has permanently enjoined Pennsylvania from treating an actuarially sound, irrevocable, non-assignable immediate annuity as a resource of the community spouse. Pennsylvania had denied Medicaid eligibility based on the position that the annuity was marketable.  It had offered an affidavit from J.G. Wentworth Company stating that it would buy the community spouse’s rights to the annuity payments for $185,000. The plaintiff, Robert James, was represented by attorneys Matthew Parker and Kevin Grebas of the Elder Law Firm of Marshall, Parker and Associates.  The ruling, based on federal Medicaid law, is significant for the protection of community spouses from financial impoverishment. A copy of the Court’s memorandum and order is available online at

November 22, 2006 in Medicaid | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Not elder law: What can we learn from chimpanzees?

Researchers studying chimpanzee mating preferences have found that although male chimpanzees prefer some females over others, they prefer older, not younger, females as mates. The findings uncover a stark contrast between chimpanzee behavior and that of humans, their primate cousins. The basis for this difference may lie in the fact that whereas chimpanzees participate in a relatively promiscuous mating system, humans form unusually long-term mating bonds, thereby making young females more valuable as mates with greater reproductive potential. The findings, reported by Martin Muller of Boston University and colleagues at Harvard University, appear in the November 21st issue of Current Biology.

Theoretical explanations for the preference of human males for young females as mates include the facts that humans tend to form long-term mating partnerships, and that female fertility is limited by menopause and, therefore, age. The converse of such an explanation suggests that species that appear to lack long-term pair bonding and menopause (such as chimpanzees) should not exhibit such strong preferences by males for young females.

In the new work, researchers examined this idea by studying male mate preferences within the Kanyawara chimpanzee community in Kibale National Park in Uganda. The researchers found that, in contrast to humans, male chimpanzees prefer older females to younger ones. They found that, compared to younger females, older females were more likely to be approached for copulation, were more often in association with males during estrous periods, copulated more frequently with high-ranking males, and gave rise to higher rates of male-on-male aggression in mating contests.

The findings, in addition to supporting the idea that long-term pair bonding and menopause may contribute to the preference of human males for young females, also suggest that this characteristic may be an evolutionarily derived trait that arose in the human lineage sometime after the lineages giving rise to humans and chimpanzees diverged.

Read more at EurekAlert!
Ed:  Take that, Tom Cruise!

November 21, 2006 in Other | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Senior spends extravegently in his older years...

Ever since his retirement nearly a decade ago, area resident Oscar Subitzky just hasn't been the same. What began as a single, uncharacteristic extravagance—the payment of $15,000 for a coronary angioplasty to expand his narrowing arterial wall—has given way to a growing number of personal luxuries, from the latest brand-name heart medications to the most advanced palliative care. The unusual developments have led concerned family members to suspect that the once prudent and conservative 74-year-old widower is undergoing an acute end-life crisis.

"Sure, the operation seemed a little indulgent at first, but we could tell it was really important to Dad, so we didn't try to stop him from having it," said daughter Martha Welsch, 46, who can still remember when her father didn't need "pricey doodads" like defibrillators and cardiopulmonary-resuscitation devices to be content. "We all thought this was going to be a one-time thing, that it was just something Dad had to get out of his system, and then things would go back to normal," she said.

"Unfortunately, one surgery quickly became two surgeries, which soon turned into three surgeries," Welsch added. "That's when we realized the whole thing was a lot more serious than Dad just wanting to get a clogged artery cleared."

Read more in ...  The Onion, of course.

Thanks to Nate Hines....

November 21, 2006 in Other | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 20, 2006

NY Long Term Community Care Coalition releases White Paper

The Long Term Care Community Coalition (LTCCC) has released a white paper entitled "Developing a New and Better Long Term Care System in New York State".

Meant to be a resource for Governor-Elect Eliot Spitzer and incoming state leaders, the white paper outlines a new vision: that the process of empowering the consumers of long term care (helping them take control of the factors that determine their health and their lives and have the power to make decisions and choices) as well as empowering their formal and informal caregivers, is central to transforming the long term care system for the better. The governor-elect has said that we must "redesign our health care system to reward the right kind of care."

This paper seeks to offer a pragmatic path to accomplish this worthwhile goal, LTCCC officials said.

The full text of the White Paper is available at

November 20, 2006 in Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New CMA Weekly Alert: Medicare Part D Myths and Misinformation for 2007

The Center for Medicare Advocacy has flagged a number of myths about Medicare Part D.  With the enrollment process now underway, beneficiaries and those who assist them may wish to take heed of the news alert.  It's available at:

November 20, 2006 in Medicare | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Not elder law: Bo Schembechler dies at age 77

From a U-M press release prepare by President Mary Coleman:

A part of the University of Michigan died today with the untimely passing of Bo Schembechler.

Few people exceed their reputations. Bo was the exception. He was forever dedicated to Michigan ­ to our students, our alumni and our fans.

His contributions on the athletic field are legendary. Yet Bo's impact at Michigan goes well beyond the hash marks of Michigan Stadium, and we should always remember the depth of his contributions to a university he loved.

Bo was a teacher and a mentor. He was a benefactor who believed in the promise of cancer research at Michigan. And as he showed us just this semester, he was a student eager to learn. He loved the life and vitality of a university, and he contributed mightily to the culture and traditions of the University of Michigan.

Bo believed learning and excellence went hand-in-hand. He helped to shape the lives of generations of U-M students, and that is a timeless tribute to the dedication he showed our university.

"Leadership" is part of the Michigan lexicon. Bo helped to make this so, both on and off the field.

Never again will we know the likes of Bo Schembechler. And while we are saddened and stunned by his death, we are also filled with the gratitude that comes with warm memories. As individuals and as a university community, we enjoyed the privilege of knowing Bo and benefiting from his irrepressible personality and loyalty. He made Michigan a better university.

November 19, 2006 in Other | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

PBS to air "Living Old" on Nov. 21

The PBS program "Frontline" will air a feature entitled “Living Old,” which addresses the almost inevitable chronic illness and physical decline that affects the “old, old”.  The piece poignantly illustrates the challenges and needs unique to this the population.  It also highlights the fact that while medical advances are enabling patients to live longer and the need for care is rising, the number of professional caregivers in this area is dwindling.   The program airs on Nov. 21; check local listings for channel and time.

November 19, 2006 in Other | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Part D enrollment starts today

Part D enrollment begins today.  Here are some resources and information to help with that process:

HHS/CMS Part D information--official site

CMS--Landscape of Local Plans--Part D plans available in each state

Tricare/Part D information--for veterans and other military personnel

Kaiser Family Foundation Part D Resources

State Specific Resources on Part D--compiled by the National Mental Health Association

Center for Medicare Advocacy--Part D FAQs

November 15, 2006 in Medicare | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Death with dignity case ends when judge calls mistrial

A trial nine years in the making ended abruptly Monday after a death in the family of a doctor defending himself against allegations that he violated the wishes of a woman who wanted to die with dignity. Circuit Judge David Crow declared a mistrial and dismissed the jurors, who had heard only one day of testimony, after learning that the mother of Dr. Jaimy Bensimon had died Sunday. Bensimon had to travel to Israel for the burial, his attorney said. The trial against Bensimon and co-defendant Joseph L. Morse Geriatric Center will be reset at a later date. The lawsuit, filed in 1997 by the granddaughter of Madeline Neumann, claimed the 92-year-old woman had been intentionally battered when life-prolonging measures were taken at the West Palm Beach nursing home.  Linda Scheible, Neumann's granddaughter, was visibly distraught as it became clear the trial would not proceed Monday. "It's very difficult for the family," attorney Jack Scarola said. "They've been waiting for their day in court for a decade." One of the legal issues in the case is whether a patient must be diagnosed with a terminal condition before they can have a do-not-resuscitate order. Neumann, who died in October 1995, had a living will and advance directives indicating that life-prolonging treatments should be withheld if she were dying. Scheible's attorneys said Scheible was never told her grandmother needed a DNR order in her chart.

Read more in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

November 14, 2006 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Kidneys for sale--a million bucks OBO

The 2007 Ann F. Baum Memorial Elder Law Lecture will be presented on Monday, March 5 at 12:30 P.M. in the Auditorium by Dr. Sally L. Satel, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. on “When Altruism Isn't Enough: The Worsening Organ Shortage, What It Means for Seniors, and What To Do About It.”

Dr. Satel’s thesis is that organ donors, whether they are living or deceased, should be compensated to increase the supply of transplantable organs available. She will examine the specific issue of renal failure as a major problem affecting older people and how donated kidneys can ensure better outcomes for the affected elderly compared to dialysis. She will also consider implications for Medicare, which funds the very costly end stage renal disease program. Finally, she will evaluate current efforts to restructure the allocation system of donated kidneys that discriminates against older potential recipients on the basis of age.

November 11, 2006 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Vermont's new long term care at home program

Under Vermont's Choices for Care program, Medicaid-eligible senior citizens who need someone to tend to their needs have the choice of being cared for at home by a family member, friend or neighbor, who gets paid by the state.

"A nursing home? They sit there and moan and holler and sit in a chair and sleep. I don't want that," said Parsons, who has heart and thyroid problems and uses a walker to get around her senior citizen apartment building.

Experts say the closely watched project could spur dramatic changes in the way America handles long-term care for the elderly.

One year after enacting it, Vermont officials say it is reducing the number of people sent to nursing homes, cutting the cost of taxpayer-funded care and improving the quality of life for people like Parsons.

Critics, including the nursing home industry, say subsidized home care by family members and other non-professionals is far from a panacea. They say the care isn't as good, however well-meaning family members are.

Read more at Yahoo News.

Ed:  Thanks to Katherine Pearson for sending this link.

November 10, 2006 in Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Deadline for Center for Medicare Advocacy summer internship approaches

The Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc. has opportunities for internships for law students or health policy students in its Washington, D.C. office.  Interns can expect to engage in a full range of activities including conducting research and writing memoranda, attending hearings and briefings on Capitol Hill, participating with staff in coalition meetings and assisting with research for publications.  Attorneys supervise the students with whom they are working; students can receive from staff the support necessary to participate in work-study opportunities from their schools.

The office, staffed by lawyers, engages in legislative and administrative advocacy and litigation at the federal level, on Medicare, Medicaid, nursing home quality and enforcement and related issues concerning access to high quality healthcare.  Project staff most often work in collaboration with other organizations with similar interests.

Students are expected to commit to a 40-hour work week, for between eight to ten weeks.  A small stipend is available, but students are encouraged to arrange additional funding through law school public interest grant funds or other resources.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc. is a private, non-profit organization that provides education, advocacy and legal assistance to help older people and people with disabilities obtain necessary healthcare.  The Center focuses on legal concerns of Medicare beneficiaries, people with chronic conditions and those in need of long-term care.  The organization is involved in education, training and litigation activities of importance to Medicare beneficiaries nationwide.

Please send a cover letter and resume by December 1, 2006, to Jacqueline Bender, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., 1101 Vermont Avenue, N.W., Suite 1001, Washington, D.C. 20005.  202-216-0028 ext. 100.  Email:  For more information about the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., please visit our website at, beginning with “Frequently Asked Questions.”

November 9, 2006 in Medicare | Permalink | TrackBack (0)