Wednesday, July 21, 2021
PHI recently released a new report, Federal Policy Priorities for the Direct Care Workforce. This excerpt from the introduction sets the stage
Throughout the country, millions of direct care workers—home care workers, residential care aides, and nursing assistants—ensure that older adults and people with disabilities have the support they need across care settings. The COVID-19 crisis has reinforced the enormous value of these workers, and government officials have rightfully deemed them “essential” during this period—one of the greatest truisms ever publicly affirmed about this workforce. Unfortunately, the quality of direct care jobs does not reflect their essential contribution. These jobs are often characterized by inadequate compensation, limited training and advancement opportunities, long-standing inequities, and a general lack of recognition and support. As a result, employers struggle to recruit and retain workers during a time when the rapid aging of this country continually drives up demand for these workers— with many workers opting for modestly better jobs in fast food and retail. Without enough workers willing to take these jobs, consumers are forced to go without the services they need, and family caregivers are left without support and respite.
The report focuses on eight categories, providing data, discussion and recommendations for each category. The categories cover financing, compensation, training, workforce interventions, data collection, direct care worker leadership, equity, and public narrative.
The report concludes with a call for action:
Federal leaders across the board can make this vision a reality by prioritizing direct care workers and investing in long-term care financing, compensation, training, workforce interventions, data collection, direct care worker leadership, equity, and the public narrative. We have always believed that quality care is rooted in quality jobs—now is the time for a federal strategy that brings this mission to life.
Elizabeth Moran, a relatively new staff attorney for the ABA's Commission on Law and Aging, has an interesting article in the latest issue of Bifocal, Vol. 42, Issue 6 (July-August 2021). Moran outlines several key recommendations made by the National Guardianship Network during their May 2021 national Summit. She points to two of the 22 recommendations that bear on "effective communication" for persons with disabilities, especially when involved in court proceedings that may affect any determination of "legal capacity."
Recommendation 1.2 advocates for courts and state authorities "must ensure that all judicial proceedings" that can impact a determination of an adult's legal capacity must provide "meaningful due process" which includes respect for the individual's "preferred communication accommodations."
Recommendation 2.4 provides that federal and state authorities "should recognize that supported decision-making can be a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities act of 1990, as amended, in supporting an individual in making their own decisions and retaining their right to do so."
Moran acknowledges there is weak understanding within some courts for how supported decision-making will work, even as she advocates strongly for its use. She writes:
While there is growing awareness of “supported decision-making” (SDM), particularly as an alternative to guardianship, SDM does not have a universally accepted legal definition. It is, however, becoming a more commonly understood concept of integrated supports which honors an individual’s integrity of choice with the underlying principle that, with enough appropriate supports and services, nearly every individual has the capacity to make decisions. When people use SDM as a communication accommodation, they use family members, friends, professionals, and others they trust and who know them well to help them understand the situations and choices they face, but with the ultimate choice left to the adult. This eliminates a substitute decision-maker and maximizes autonomy for the individual who may need communication supports for speaking, reading, writing, or understanding in order to meaningfully participate. The need for this kind of support necessarily includes and can provide for meaningful participation in court services, programs and activities.
For more on this important topic, read Moran's full piece, "Something to Talk About: Supported Decision Making and Access to Justice for All."
July 21, 2021 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, July 15, 2021
The Center for Medicare Advocacy recently released a new report, Nursing Home Industry is Heavily Taxpayer-Subsidized.
I offer you this opening paragraph as a teaser to the 6 page report:
It is well-known that Government health care programs, Medicare and Medicaid, are the primary payers for nursing home care. The two federal programs paid facilities tens of billions of dollars for providing care to residents and were the primary payer for nearly 80% of residents. Far less known is that, in addition to receiving these direct payments, the nursing home industry also benefits from the extensive subsidies, through income-related public benefit programs – Medicaid, food assistance, housing assistance, heating assistance, cash payments, tax credits, and more – that help support its underpaid staff. The Government subsidizes the nursing home industry by billions of dollars each year by providing needs-based public benefits and earned income tax credits to its many low-wage nursing home workers. (citations omitted in this quote).
The article discusses the facilities, the employees, salaries and public benefit programs, and issues this call to action: "Change is beginning to happen in wages for low-wage workers, but until all nursing home workers’ wages are raised to (at least) living wages and until all workers receive health benefits and paid time off, the Government will continue to subsidize nursing homes by billions of dollars by providing needs-based public benefits and earned income tax credits to the nursing home industry’s low-paid workers. ..." (citations omitted in this quote).
In the interest of full disclosure, I am on the board for the Center for Medicare Advocacy.
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Kaiser Health News ran this story last month, Desperate for Home Care, Seniors Often Wait Months With Workers in Short Supply. Using Maine as an example, the article explains
The Maine home-based care program, which helps Shackett and more than 800 others in the state, has a waitlist 925 people long; those applicants sometimes lack help for months or years, according to officials in Maine, which has the country’s oldest population. This leaves many people at an increased risk of falls or not getting medical care and other dangers.
The problem is simple: Here and in much of the rest of the country there are too few workers. Yet, the solution is anything but easy.
The article reminds us that the President had included funding for home and community-based care in the infrastructure bill ("human infrastructure") and that this shortage was not unexpected. "For at least 20 years, national experts have warned about the dire consequences of a shortage of nursing assistants and home aides as tens of millions of baby boomers hit their senior years."
And here we are. The article emphasizes money--the lack of it, the low wages and more.
Monday, July 12, 2021
Last month the New York Times ran an article on How Deceptive Campaign Fund-Raising Ensnares Older People.
The dirty little secret of online political fund-raising is that the most aggressive and pernicious practices that campaigns use to raise money are especially likely to ensnare unsuspecting older people, according to interviews with digital strategists and an examination of federal donation and refund data.
Older Americans are critical campaign contributors, both online and offline. More than half of all the online contributions processed by [one company] in the last cycle, 56 percent, came from people who listed their occupation as “retired,” federal records show.
Digital operatives in both parties deploy an array of manipulative tactics that can deceive donors of all age groups: faux bill notices and official-looking correspondence; bogus offers to match donations and hidden links to unsubscribe; and prechecked boxes that automatically repeat donations, which are widely seen as the most egregious scheme.
But some groups appear to specifically target older internet users, blasting out messages with subject lines like “Social Security” that have particular resonance for older people, and spending disproportionately on ads for an older audience. In many cases, the most unscrupulous tactics of direct mail have simply been rebooted for the digital age — with ruthless new precision.
The article notes that age is not reported on federal filings, so the depth of this occurring is unclear. However, the NYT looked at refund data correlating with voter rolls for California and reports "that the average age of donors who received refunds was almost 66 on [a republican company] and nearly 65 on ... the equivalent Democratic processing site... Even more revealing: More than four times as much money was refunded to donors who are 70 and older than to adults under the age of 50 — for both Republicans and Democrats." The issue is not limited to political campaigns the article notes. "There is an entire initiative at the Justice Department devoted to elder abuse, and the F.B.I.’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported nearly $1 billion in losses for those 60 and older in 2020." One expert quoted in the article noted "older people face a double whammy online when combining their generational lack of familiarity with technology and age-related cognitive declines."
The article delves into some reasons for such an impact and examines some of the email messages. It's an interesting read.
Friday, July 9, 2021
During the first part of my summer, I wrote a review on Senator Amy Klobuchar's April 2021 book, Antitrust: Taking On Monopoly Power From the Gilded Age to the Digital Age. That turned out to be a very enjoyable, stimulating task and my article will be published late summer or early fall. This gave me the incentive to rethink how antitrust law, as a form of pro-consumer-protection "competition" rules might affect long-term care, including the concentration of ownership and operation of nursing homes and other types of "senior living." The student editor for the Law Review, Claudia Bernstein (Dickinson Law, Class of 2022), also has been captured by the topic, and she sent me an article today from the New York Times that furthered this inquiry. A key passage:
[In the U.S.] Fewer new businesses are starting. Existing businesses have slowed the pace at which they hire new workers . . . . Workers are less likely to switch jobs or move to a new city. Companies are investing in new buildings and equipment at a lower rate. And small businesses make up a shrinking share of the economy.
Together, these trends suggest that the economy suffers from a lack of fair competition, many economists believe. Large corporations are often able to increase profits not by providing better products than their rivals but instead by being so big that they exercise power over workers and consumers. The government also plays a role, through policies that protect existing companies at the expense of start-ups and new entrants into an industry.
The technical term for excess profits from a lack of competition is “monopoly rents.” Just think about how frustrated you may have been by the customer service from an airline, cable-television provider or health insurer. And then imagine how frustrating it may be to work there. Despite the problems at these companies, consumers and workers don’t always have good alternatives.
In my local area, there is a variation on this problem. As I have written about recently, county officials are proposing to close the county's "nursing home," which in my experience has been well run and served as a viable alternative for necessary services, including memory care. The likely purchaser will be a for-profit company (a modest-size, relatively new tri-state regional player). The county hopes to cease "having to subside the facility with general tax money." But, without those "subsidies," consumers' payment for care will have to increase, affecting residents unlikely to have the ability to pay more. As one article on the history of Pennsylvania's county nursing home conversions concludes:
County-owned homes, once ubiquitous, are becoming less common in Pennsylvania. Facilities that have been privatized generally have lower ratings on common metrics; a York Dispatch study in 2018 found that 15 formerly county-owned facilities sold since 2005 had an average rating of 1.9 stars out of five on the common scale used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, while the state’s 21 county-owned homes averaged 3.1 stars [out of a possible 5 stars].
Thursday, July 1, 2021
You may recall that the President proposed an increase in home care funding. But, Biden's pledge to boost home caregiver funding excluded from infrastructure deal.
Because the federal government does not require states to provide these benefits for all those who qualify, nearly 820,000 older or disabled Americans were on state waitlists for Medicaid’s home- and community-based services in 2018, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study published last year. Many rely on family members for their most basic needs, including bathing, getting dressed and taking medication. Without outside help, their family members often struggle to balance caregiving with work and face the enormous challenge of keeping their loved ones safe.
Amid the growing need, President Joe Biden vowed to eliminate these waiting lists during his campaign and originally proposed to inject $400 billion into these programs through the massive infrastructure bill currently under debate in Congress. Republicans, however, have blasted the effort to include “human infrastructure” in the bill, and Democratic leaders excluded the funding from the deal that the White House struck on Thursday with a bipartisan group of senators. Biden has pledged to pursue money for caregiving in a separate, far larger bill that could potentially pass with Democratic votes alone, but that is far from guaranteed.
The need is great and the wait is long, according to the article.
Without greater support, the number of vulnerable Americans who can’t access paid care at home will continue to rise, experts and advocates say, given the aging population, pandemic-fueled fears of nursing homes, and a growing shortage of workers, deterred by Medicaid’s low pay rates and tough working conditions. That means more families could be left scrambling to patch together care for their loved ones at home, not knowing if their number on the waiting list will come up or if they will be able to receive care when it does.
Add into the mix worker shortages and we are facing a critical situation. Although not included in the infrastructure bill, Democrats on Thursday introduced a bill "to expand eligibility and access to Medicaid home- and community-based services, helping states reduce waitlists and increasing pay and benefits for home health workers. Democrats can pass certain spending bills without Republican votes, but would need support from every member of their razor-thin Senate majority, and 10 Democratic senators have yet to sign on to the new home care bill."
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
We all have heard the stories about the number of SNF residents dying during the pandemic. The Inspector General for HHS recently issued a report looking at the number of Medicare beneficiaries who died in SNFs during the pandemic, COVID-19 Had a Devastating Impact on Medicare Beneficiaries in Nursing Homes During 2020.
The executive summary explains:
Nursing home residents have been particularly affected by COVID-19, as they are predominately elderly, tend to have underlying conditions, and live in close quarters. However, data on the number of nursing home residents who were diagnosed with COVID-19 or likely COVID-19 have not been readily available, particularly for early in the pandemic. Nursing homes are not required to report cases and deaths that occurred before May 8, 2020.
This data snapshot provides objective, standardized data based on Medicare claims for all Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes throughout the country. This data snapshot is the first in a three-part series. Subsequent work will address the characteristics of the hardest hit nursing homes and strategies used by nursing homes to confront the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHAT WE FOUND
- Two in five Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes were diagnosed with either COVID-19 or likely COVID-19 in 2020.
- Almost 1,000 more beneficiaries died per day in April 2020 than in April 2019.
- Overall mortality in nursing homes increased to 22 percent in 2020 from 17 percent in 2019.
- About half of Black, Hispanic, and Asian beneficiaries in nursing homes had or likely had COVID-19, and 41 percent of White beneficiaries did.
- Understanding the pandemic's effects on nursing home residents is necessary if tragedies like this are to be averted.
Note that this is the first of 3 reports on the topic. The full report is available here.
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Richard Kaplan, elite elder law professor and friend, sent me the link to this recent article from the Wall Street Journal, One Family’s Lessons Learned From a Decade of Caregiving.
As do many families, the spouse committed to caring for his spouse with dementia.
The family learned much along their decade-long caregiving journey, about setting up trusts, getting help in the home and respecting each other’s decisions. They think about a few things they would have done differently. And they found that caregiving, while relentless and heartbreaking at times, can also be rewarding.
Being a family caregiver is one of the most difficult jobs and one that nearly everyone will have at some point. An estimated 42 million people in the U.S. provide unpaid care to those 50 and older, a 14% increase since 2015, according to the Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.
Each family is different, and what works for one family may not work for another, says ... [the] chief executive of the National Alliance for Caregiving. Family members don’t always agree about when to call in hospice or sell a house, but it’s important to be supportive, she says. “The hardest thing to say is, ‘It’s not the choice I would make, but I want to honor their choice.’ ”
The story is heartfelt, and compelling. The caregiver spouse offers this advice as to what changes he would have made.
He would have gone to an elder-law attorney earlier to make sure their assets were in a trust that would better protect them from having to be spent down to qualify, if needed, for Medicaid’s coverage of long-term care costs.
And he would have bought a single-story patio home within walking distance of their church and shopping center when [his spouse] suggested it 20 years ago. “It was what [she] wanted to do, but I wanted the yard. My own little domain. I wish I would have,” he says. “Here I am now with this big house, by myself. I’ll probably reach a point where I can’t take care of it.”
Knowing how hard it is to provide hands-on care, and not wanting to be a burden, he recently told his daughters, “Just put me in a nice place. You don’t have to do what I did for mom. You don’t have to take me into your house. I don’t want that.”
I'm assigning this reading to my students. Thanks Professor Kaplan!
June 22, 2021 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Estates and Trusts, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, June 10, 2021
The CEO for Biogen, the publicly-traded biotechnology company that developed Aduhelm, issued a statement about the company's policies and plans for the new drug in conjunction with the FDA's announcement of its accelerated approval of the drug for patients with Alzheimer's Disease. He writes in part:
The approval of ADUHELM represents a crucial inflection point in our collective battle against Alzheimer’s disease. By addressing a defining pathology of the disease, this novel therapy has the potential to help fundamentally change the way patients are diagnosed and treated.
I have hoped for years that we would reach a moment like this. We all know the staggering numbers: there have been at least 100 drug development programs discontinued since 2003—the last time a new Alzheimer’s drug was approved. What it tells us is that the path for innovation is not straightforward, especially for something as complex as Alzheimer’s research. The journey during Biogen’s many years of research and development has been humbling, but we have learned from industry’s past research efforts and been determined to follow the science, always driven to address patients’ unmet needs.
ADUHELM is a first-in-class approved therapy: I believe it will be the catalyst to a new era of innovation for Alzheimer’s disease, and the first of many new treatments available to patients. More resources will be drawn into research that can help patients through the disease continuum, explore new pathways, and find potential therapy combinations.
The use of this drug involves some important questions about patient consent, precisely because the drug will most likely be used with people who have "confirmed presence of amyloid pathology and mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia stage of disease, consistent with Stage 3 and Stage 4 Alzheimer’s disease," the group of patients who took part in the pre-approval clinical trials. What is the process for obtaining such consent with cognitively-impaired patients?
Several articles have explored this topic outside of the specific drug in question:
In England, the nonprofit organization Physiopedia, offers a detailed protocol for informed consent in the context of cognitive impairment. For example, it suggests assessment of competence involves paying attention to four main abilities:
The person must have sufficient capacity to understand the information. If the study involves a considerable degree of risk, more information must be provided, particularly about possible risks and benefits, and the potential participant must be able to understand such information.
The person must be able to retain, use and weigh up such information long enough to be able to make a decision. In addition, they must also be able to understand what the decision is about, why they are being asked to make it, and what the consequences of making or not making that decision might be.
Possible benefits, risks and inconvenience linked to participating in research must be understood and weighed against the person’s own values and goals, which means that the person must understand how participating might affect him/her personally (High, 1992 and Stanley et al., 1984 in Olde Rikkert et al., 1997).
The person must have the ability to communicate his/her decision.
See also: "Informed Consent in Two Alzheimer's Disease Research Centers: Insights from Research Coordinators," by Christin M. Suver, and others, published April-June 2020, and announcing the plan to use the research to assist in development of "an electronic informed consent (eConsent) designed to boost engagement, enhance trust, and improve understanding by supporting participants' direct agency in the IC process."
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
I used to follow (and regularly blog about) new drugs in the pipeline for Alzheimer's treatment. Then I realized that the drugs weren't making it to the market place. While attending medical programs about R & D, I learned that it was going to be tough to find any magic treatments, much less "cures."
To it was interesting to read this week that for the first time in some 18 years, the FDA has approved use of a new drug, with the marketing name Aduhelm and the generic name Aducanumab (kind of sounds like abracadabra, doesn't it?), manufactured by Biogen.
Aduhelm is described by the FDA as an "amyloid beta-directed antibody," which was approved under an "accelerated approval pathway," to give "patients suffering from a serious disease earlier access to drugs when there is an expectation of clinical benefit despite some uncertainty about the clinical benefit of the drug."
But there is a lot of sobering news accompanying this announcement:
First, the mechanism of delivery: monthly intravenous infusions, which means a clinical visit lasting at least an hour per infusion.
Second, Biogen's own predictions about cost: a "list price" predicted to average $56,000 per year per patient! Yikes.
Third, the critical response from a range of experts in relevant research, pharmacy and health fields about the approval process to date, indicating a history of interruptions in the clinical trials when preliminary results showed little to no evidence of clinical benefit.
Fourth: the need for assessment before the first infusion with an MRI, plus recommended follow up MRIs prior to the 7th and 12th infusions, to assess the potential for ARIA-H, which are amyloid-related abnormalities, also potentially associated with edema in the brain.
Here are some links (and I'll try to keep this list up-to-date as new info comes in):
STAT's commentary, dated June 7, 2021 on FAQs: What You Need to Know about the Alzheimer's Drug Aduhelm
New York Times, dated June 8, 2021: FDA Approves Alzheimer's Drug Despite Fierce Debate Over Whether it Works
June 8, 2021 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)
Register now for this June 18 (3 eastern) webinar, NORC Webinar: Resuming In-Person Visits During COVID-19: Tips for Identifying Trauma, Potential Abuse, and Supporting Residents
In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) join us to learn how to identify and respond to signs of trauma and potential abuse or neglect and support residents as Ombudsman programs resume in-person visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Laura Mosqueda, a national and international expert on elder abuse and neglect, will provide tips for Ombudsman programs conducting in-person visits, such as signs of trauma in response to isolation and loss during the pandemic and potential signs of abuse and neglect. She will also share recommendations for supporting residents and available resources. As an accomplished physician and researcher, Dr. Mosqueda has testified in front of Congress and has been invited to the White House several times to discuss elder justice initiatives. She has taken the lead on landmark studies to identify forensic markers of abuse and neglect and serves as a volunteer representative for the California Long-Term Care Ombudsman program.
Attendees will also hear from two Ombudsman program representatives as they share their experience resuming in-person visits and highlight what they observed upon reentry, how they supported residents, tips for visits, lessons learned, and successful practices.
Click here to register.
June 8, 2021 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Programs/CLEs, State Statutes/Regulations, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, June 6, 2021
Call for Papers: Under Pressure: Legal And Systemic Responses To The Psychological Trauma Associated With Covid-19
Shepard Broad College of Law @ Nova SE has announced a call for papers for their Spring 2022 Symposium, Under Pressure: Legal And Systemic Responses To The Psychological Trauma Associated With Covid-19.
Nova Southeastern University (“NSU”) Shepard Broad College of Law and the Nova Law Review
seek submissions for the Law Review’s annual Symposium on March 11, 2022. Since January
2020, COVID-19 has ravaged the United States’ population physically, economically, and
psychologically. Caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (“COVID-19”), the pandemic
simultaneously decimated the population, shuttered businesses, and traumatized those
experiencing its effects. Consequently, increased prevalence of mental, neurological, and
substance use disorders already has and will continue to present the legal system with challenges of previously unknown proportions. As mental health professionals substantiate and address the negative impacts of uncertainty, fear, isolation, and economic hardship, legal issues are multiplying.
The Nova Law Review invites academics, scholars, practitioners, and stakeholders to submit
proposals for panel presentations on topics involving the legal impact of the psychological trauma produced by COVID-19 in the United States. (see website for topic ideas).
SUBMISSIONS & IMPORTANT DATES:
Please submit materials to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Submission Deadline for Abstracts: July 16, 2021
- Submission Deadline for Articles: January 14, 2022
- Symposium Date: March 11, 2022
LAW REVIEW PUBLISHED ARTICLES: The Nova Law Review will review, edit, and publish
submissions in the 2022 Symposium issue. Articles, as well as case studies and abstracts of
research in progress, will be considered for the Symposium Program for presentation purposes.
Only complete articles, however, will be published in the Law Review. Abstracts for these papers will be due no later than the July 16, 2021 deadline and will be accepted on a rolling basis until that time
There are also opportunities to present without submitting an article for consideration for publication. More information is available here.
Monday, May 31, 2021
Starting off the month of June with another roundup of articles about nursing homes.
First, from the New York Times at the end of April, Cuomo Aides Spent Months Hiding Nursing Home Death Toll.
Then, also from late April, this article from Politico, Will the Nursing Home of the Future be an Actual Home?
Then, a recent report from the GAO, COVID-19 in Nursing Homes: Most Homes Had Multiple Outbreaks and Weeks of Sustained Transmission from May 2020 through January 2021 (the link takes you to the page with links for highlights, the full report, fast facts, and a podcast).
On another topic related to SNFs, as we approach hurricane season, this important report about facilities in Florida with emergency power backups. See, generators by Florida county for ALFs and SNFs.
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Medicaid Estate Claims: Perpetuating Poverty & Inequality for a Minimal Return was released last month by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), Justice in Aging, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), National Health Law Program (NHeLP), and Western Center on Law & Poverty.
Federal law requires state Medicaid programs to seek repayment of specified Medicaid benefits, even if the state would prefer not to seek such recovery. The Medicaid program’s claim is enforced against the heirs of now deceased persons who relied on Medicaid, forcing the heirs in many cases to sell a family home that otherwise would have been passed down. The burden of estate claims falls disproportionately on economically oppressed families and communities of color, preventing families from building wealth through home ownership, which has been historically denied to communities of color through discriminatory public policy. The burden also falls inequitably on families due to medical unpredictability – for example, because their family member developed Alzheimer’s Disease, needing months or years of nursing home care or equivalent home and community-based services. This unpredictability is exacerbated by inequities in our health care system that particularly harm lower-income and older adults of color. All these factors contribute to estate claim collections being unfair and societally counterproductive. Congress should amend Federal law to eliminate Medicaid estate claims. Alternatively, the law should be amended so that states have the choice of whether to use Medicaid estate claims, as recommended in a recent report to Congress by the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC). (Citations omitted)
The full brief is available here.
Monday, May 24, 2021
Professor Nina Kohn recently released two new articles. The first, Nursing Homes, COVID-19, and the Consequences of Regulatory Failure, was published in volume 110 of the Georgetown Law Journal. Here is the abstract
This essay explores the COVID-19 crisis in America’s nursing homes and its lessons for the future of long-term care. It challenges narratives portraying nursing homes as the unfortunate victims of COVID-19 by showing how the crisis is the foreseeable result of regulatory gaps and failures that have long enabled nursing homes to engage in systemic neglect. It then shows how regulatory approaches employed in other parts of the U.S. healthcare system could be used to create a more humane and resilient long-term care system. It concludes by considering the implications of such reforms for enhancing equity and reducing structural ageism.
The full article is available here.
The second article is an opinion piece recently published in the Washington Post, Covid awakened Americans to a nursing home crisis. Now comes the hard part.
The problems in America’s nursing homes won’t go away even if we wrestle covid-19 into submission, however. The pandemic exposed long-standing problems in the nursing home industry that stem from chronic understaffing and underspending on care for residents — problems often motivated by owners who place profit-seeking above their residents’ welfare. Spurred by the covid-19 tragedies, some federal and state lawmakers have proposed (and, in some cases, passed) laws designed to improve the quality of nursing home care. It’s a promising start, but much work remains.
It's important to read anything Professor Kohn publishes. You have the links; now it is up to you!
Thanks to Professor Kohn for sending me the links to the articles.
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
Still emerging is the COVID impact on the SNF model of nursing home care. Take a look at these recent articles to note the trends.
- Medicare requiring nursing homes to report weekly vaccination statistics.
- Nursing Homes Must Educate, Offer Covid-19 Shots, HHS Says (1) and the corresponding interim rule, here.
- How Vaccine Hesitancy Is Driving Breakthrough Infections in Nursing Homes.
- Big Investors Push Nursing Homes to Upgrade Care and Working Conditions.
- Covid Forces Families to Rethink Nursing Home Care.
- Covid awakened Americans to a nursing home crisis. Now comes the hard part.
These are all worth the time to read. Stay tuned-there's no clear cut path yet.
Monday, May 10, 2021
This semester at Dickinson Law, I've been teaching a comparative law module on Social Security Benefits. We've been spending more time than usual examining issues associated with basic "retirement benefits" rather than the more complicated topics of Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplement Security Income (SSI) benefits.
A group of us ended the semester with an interesting hypothetical. Imagine that a retired, older client has a DWI -- his second within some number of years -- involving property damage and, thankfully, no direct endangerment to anyone's life or safety. Assume a damaged mailbox or telephone pole. The state law might treat that as a misdemeanor, but because it is a second offense, it could still mean substantial jail time. The client is thinking about pleading guilty, even if the sentence is 60 to 90 days. The older client might be thinking "the faster I get this over, the faster I can get home and headed back in the right direction with my life."
Do lawyers advise such clients of the potential impact of incarceration, whether in a jail or prison, on his or her right to receive basic Social Security benefits? This was a new topic for me and of course that sent me scurrying for information. Here's what I've read so far:
- The Social Security Administration has a December 2019 brochure, entitled "What Prisoners Need to Know."
- Federal statutory law currently provides, at 42 U.S.C. Section 402(x)(1)(A), that "no monthly benefits shall be paid" to any individual who is "confined in a jail, prison, or other penal institution or correctional facility pursuant to his conviction of a criminal offense" for 30 continuous days or more. Does this mean the trigger for loss of benefits is 30+ days of confinement for any crime, even a misdemeanor? While a related regulation, at 20 CFR Section 404.468, provides that no monthly benefits shall be paid if the confinement is for a "conviction of a felony," (my emphasis added) it may be that regulation's language reflects pre-1999 statutory law. See e.g., amendments to Section 402(x) set forth in P.L. 106-170 (Dec. 17, 1999), 113 Stat. 1860, an act with the ominous name of "Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act."
- Cases explain that since 1983, the statutory mandate to suspend payments applies to basic retirement benefits, as well as SSD and SSI, and can also trigger a demand for refunds of any SS program funds "overpaid" during confinement, potentially reducing any future benefits the individual would otherwise receive once out of jail. See e.g., Zipkin v. Heckler, 790 F.2d 16 (2d Cir. 1986).
- Attempts to challenge the application of Section 402(x) by arguing the law violates substantive due process, equal protection or is unconstitutional as a bill of attainder or ex post facto law have not met with success. See e.g., Butler v. Apfel 114 F.3d 622 (9th Cir. 1998).
Back to our hypothetical. The client might be planning to go home after 30, 60, 90 days or more in jail, but what if the client was depending on SS retirement income -- reflecting his life-time work record -- in order to keep making house payments for that time?
Originally the theory of suspending federal SS payments focused on "disability" payments, because the confined individuals were being maintained at public expense and their inability to work is a consequence of their criminal conviction, not their disability. But what of the 1983 amendment, expanding the suspensions to SS retirement income? In the Zipkin case linked above, at page 18-19, the Second Circuit rejected any distinction:
"We can perceive no reason why prisoners whose retirement benefits are suspended would have a need for replacement of income while prisoners whose disability benefits are suspended do not. Rather, prisoners, as a group, do not have the need for a continuing source of income that nonprisoners typically may have. . . . Social Security retirement benefits are designed to satisfy certain baseline economic needs, reasonably predictable when a worker retires. . . . They are not benefits held in trust and payable per se."
It is a tough world, right? But does it need to be this tough? According to the Social Security Administration's recent statistics, among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, "21% of married couples and about 45% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income." Feel free to add your own thoughts in the "comments."
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
I've had several recent opportunities to talk with individuals serving as primary caregivers for family members who have varying stages and types of neurocognitive disorders, including but not limited to age-associated dementia. One common concern in these conversations has been "that could have been my family member."
They are referring to news reports and body-cam videos of two officers in Loveland, Colorado in June 2020, as they apprehended, handcuffed, and took down "in a controlled manner" (the officers' description) a disoriented 72-year old woman. The officers were intent on arresting the woman following a report of her alleged "shoplifting" attempt of $14 dollars' worth of items at a local Walmart.
According to the federal civil rights suit filed on April 16, 2021, the actions of the police officers fractured Karen Garner's left arm, dislocated her shoulder, and terrified her. She was left for hours, crying and begging to go home while handcuffed in a booking cell, with no medical assistance offered or provided. One booking room video shows the officers laughing and commenting about the body-cam footage.
Such conversationa explained what many caregivers were thinking about when they learned what happened to the "frail little thing" (the officer's word), the 5 foot tall, 80 pound woman who had earlier been diagnosed with "mild" dementia:
- It could have been a lawyer's uncle, who has PTSD following return from tours of military duty and an IED injuty in Afghanistan;
- It could have been a colleague's father, who was diagnosed with FTLD causing him to lose inhibitions, sometimes involving confusing behavior in public;
- It could have been an older friend who recently needed help because she could not find her way through the "new" self-checkout system at the grocery store;
- It could have been a member of my family, as my sister related to me a story I had not heard before, about how our mother, distracted by a cell-phone call, walked out of a grocery store without paying for groceries and didn't realize that until after she had loaded them into her car;
- It "was" a man in his 60s with early onset dementia who wandered away from his home one night, only to be arrested for loitering and placed in a special containment area of the jail, where he was beaten to a pulp during the night by his cellmate (as I have written about before, here).
May 4, 2021 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (1)
Monday, May 3, 2021
Mark your calendars for May 11 at 2 eastern for Title II Auxiliary Benefits: Social Security Benefits You’ve Never Heard of and Who is Eligible for Them.
When most people hear about “Social Security benefits,” the first thought that comes to mind is income for older individuals who have retired from work. It’s true that the Social Security system provides a foundation of retirement income that permits older adults to live in dignity, with over 46 million retired workers receiving benefits each month.
However, the Social Security system is also the foundation of economic security for millions of family members of retired, disabled, or deceased workers. In addition to retirement benefits, Social Security offers disability insurance protection to workers and their spouse and children, as well as life insurance that pays monthly survivors benefits to dependents if the worker dies.
Join this training to learn more about the eligibility requirements for benefits for spouses and ex-spouses, children, and parents. About one American family in four receives income from Social Security benefits, and many more could receive this income if they knew they were eligible. These benefits offer an opportunity to provide more financial stability to eligible older adult households.
To register, click here.