Sunday, November 10, 2019

Can We Better Assure Retirement Security in the U.S.?

Everyone agrees that we need a stronger national commitment to "retirement security" in America.  But what, exactly does that mean?  Townsend-Kathleen-KennedyThis topic will be a central focus for discussion during a Public Forum hosted at Penn State's Dickinson Law on Tuesday, November 12, 2019.  The keynote speaker is former Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is currently the Director of Retirement Security at the Economic Policy Institute, as well as serving as a research professor at  Georgetown University.  

Along those very lines, last week I read a news article  about the latest stalemate at the federal level on specific legislation that could promote better retirement savings.  The measure in question is H.R. 1994, the "Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement" Act -- and of course that name was chosen to reinforce the goal of SECURE futures.  The bill passed the House with strong, bipartisan backing in May 2019, but is now mired in the Senate. Excerpts from The Hill describe the roadblocks to passage:

GOP senators on Thursday attempted to bring a House-passed retirement savings bill to the Senate floor with votes on a limited number of amendments, but the effort was rejected by Democrats.

 

The Republican effort and Democrats' rejection highlighted how, despite widespread bipartisan support and backing from industry groups, it is still unclear when the retirement bill will be enacted.

 

The House in May in a nearly unanimous vote approved the bill, known as the SECURE Act. The bill includes a host of provisions aimed at making it easier for businesses to offer retirement plans and for people to save for retirement. It also reverses a provision in the 2017 Republican tax-cut law that inadvertently raised taxes on military survivor benefits paid to children....

 

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) objected to the Republican request, saying that Senate Democrats want the chamber to pass the House-passed bill as-is, without any amendments.

 

“We have a few Republican senators who want to sidetrack it with last-minute amendments, including proposals that are not in the interest of working families and will kill any chance this bill has of becoming law,” she said.

 

Murray asked Toomey to modify his request in order to allow the bill to pass as-is, but Toomey said he wouldn’t modify his request.

For another perspective, see "What is the SECURE Act? How Could It Affect Your Future?"

November 10, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Scams & Older Adults: The Picture Isn't Pretty

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently sent a report to Congress, Protecting Older Consumers 2018-2019: A Report of the Federal Trade Commission.   Here is the introduction to the 40 page report:

As the nation’s primary consumer protection agency, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” or “Commission”) has a broad mandate to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices in the marketplace.1 It does this by, among other things, filing law enforcement actions to stop unlawful practices and, when possible, returning money to consumers. The FTC also protects the public through education and outreach on consumer protection issues. Through research and collaboration with federal, state, international, and private sector partners, the FTC strategically targets its efforts to achieve the maximum benefits for consumers, including older adults. Protecting older consumers in the marketplace is one of the FTC’s top priorities. Unfortunately, in numerous FTC cases, older  adults have been targeted or disproportionately affected by fraud. For example, the FTC has brought numerous enforcement actions in federal court to stop deceptive technical support schemes that affected older consumers.As the population of older adults grows,the FTC’s aggressive efforts to bring law enforcement action against scams that affect them, as well as provide useful consumer advice, become increasingly important.

The FTC submits this second annual report to the Committees on the Judiciary of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives to fulfill the reporting requirements of Section 101(c)(2) of the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act of 2017. The law requires the FTC Chairman to file a report listing the FTC’s enforcement actions “over the preceding year in each case in which not less than one victim was an elder or that involved a financial scheme or scam that was either targeted directly toward or largely affected elders.” Given the large number of consumers affected in FTC actions, this list includes every administrative and federal district court action filed in the one-year period. Appendix A to this report lists all of the FTC’s enforcement actions over the preceding year. In addition to the list, the FTC files this report to provide detail on the agency’s efforts to protect older consumers, including its research and strategic initiatives, its law enforcement actions that noted an impact on older adults, and its targeted consumer education and outreach.

(citations omitted)

The full report is available here.

November 7, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Other | Permalink

Monday, November 4, 2019

Medicare Simplified?

Social Security recently posted on the SSA Blog a quick explanation of the basics of Medicare.   Medicare, A Simple Explanation  first explains original Medicare which "includes Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). If you want drug coverage, you can join a separate Part D plan. To help pay your out-of-pocket costs in Original Medicare (like your deductible and 20% coinsurance), you can also shop for and buy supplemental coverage." The blog then explains Part C (Medicare Advantage):

Medicare Advantage is an “all in one” alternative to Original Medicare. These “bundled” plans include Part A, Part B, and usually Part D. Part C plans may have lower out-of-pocket costs than Original Medicare. They also may offer extra benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover — like vision, hearing, dental, and more.

If you can’t afford to pay your Medicare premiums and other medical costs, you may be able to get help from your state. States offer programs for people eligible for or entitled to Medicare who have low income. Some programs may pay for Medicare premiums and some pay Medicare deductibles and coinsurance. To qualify, you must have limited income and resources.

I assigned the post to my students. I think it will help them get the parts right in their heads before we start drilling down into the details of each program. 

November 4, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink

Friday, October 18, 2019

Resources on Learning More on Opiod Pain Meds & the Public Health Emergency

Here's a new fact sheet from the Keck School of Medicine at USC on an important topic. What I should know about opioid pain medicine is a valuable 2 page fact sheet in an easy-to-use format. The topics include pain meds vs. opioids, items that interact badly with opioids, signs of overdoses and more.

Check it out!

 

October 18, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

GAO Report: Protecting Vets from Financial Exploitation

The GAO recently issued this report, Veterans Benefits: Actions VA Could Take to Better Protect Veterans from Financial Exploitation. Here are the highlights from the report

Why This Matters

Veterans with disabilities who receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can be tempting targets for exploitation and scams. Veterans and their survivors who need help performing everyday activities, like bathing and dressing, can receive increased pension benefits known as aid and attendance.

Key Takeaways

VA paid $3.2 billion in total pension benefits to 232,000 recipients of aid and attendance in fiscal year 2018. Most recipients were over 80.

Scams that target them include:

  • being overcharged for home care, or charged for services they did not receive, and
  • getting bad investment advice from financial services organizations.

VA does not centrally collect and analyze information, such as complaints made against companies, that could show the prevalence of these scams, help VA target outreach to veterans, and help law enforcement go after scammers.

Other threats to veterans include:

  • VA’s applications do not warn them about exploitation or scams: For example, forms do not warn veterans that they cannot be charged fees for filing claims.
  • Misdirected benefit payments: VA does not always verify direct deposit information on applications, which could lead to payments being stolen. In contrast, the Social Security Administration verifies this information by reviewing individuals’ checks or account statements.
  • What GAO Recommends

    We made four recommendations to VA, including that it collect better information on potential financial exploitation, post warnings on applications, and examine if it should take more steps to verify veterans' direct deposit information. VA agreed in principle with the need to collect better information, but its proposed actions do not fully address our concerns. VA agreed with the other three recommendations.

The full report is available here.

October 8, 2019 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 7, 2019

Hospitals in the Housing Business?

Kaiser Health News ran this story, Why Hospitals Are Getting Into The Housing Business.

The article opening with anecdotes involving patients at a Denver hospital,

In the first half of this year alone, the hospital treated more than 100 long-term patients. All had a medical issue that led to their initial hospitalization. But none of the patients had a medical reason for remaining in the hospital for most of their stay.

Legally and morally, hospitals cannot discharge patients if they have no safe place to go. So patients who are homeless, frail or live alone, or have unstable housing, can occupy hospital beds for weeks or months — long after their acute medical problem is resolved. For hospitals, it means losing money because a patient lingering in a bed without medical problems doesn’t generate much, if any, income. Meanwhile, acutely ill patients may wait days in the ER to be moved to a floor because a hospital’s beds are full.

What's a hospital to do? In some cases, provide or pay for housing for  those patients. According to the article, a number of hospitals are "exploring ways to help patients find a home. With recent federal policy changes that encourage hospitals to allocate charity dollars for housing, many hospitals realize it’s cheaper to provide a month of housing than to keep patients for a single night."  Think about that statement again.... one month of housing may be cheaper than one night's hospital stay.

So the Denver hospital featured in the story is taking this a step farther, "partnering with the Denver Housing Authority to repurpose a mothballed building on the hospital campus into affordable senior housing, including about 15 apartments designated to help homeless patients transition out of the hospital."

Examine these numbers: One night in the hospital featured in the story "costs ... "$2,700 a night [and] ..... [p]atients who are prime candidates for the transitional units stay on average 73 days, for a total cost to the hospital of nearly $200,000. The hospital estimates it would cost a fraction of that, about $10,000, to house a patient for a year instead."

The KHN article references a recent report from the Urban Institute on the correlation between health and housing.  Fascinating info!

October 7, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Report-SSA Needs More Oversight of Those Who Handle Vulnerable Beneficiaries $

The GAO recently released a new report, Social Security Benefits: SSA Needs to Improve Oversight of Organizations that Manage Money for Vulnerable Beneficiaries. Here are the highlights:

What GAO Found

The Social Security Administration (SSA) approves organizational payees—such as nursing homes or non-profits that manage the Social Security benefits of individuals unable to do so on their own—by assessing a range of suitability factors, such as whether the organizations have adequate staff to manage benefits for multiple individuals. However, GAO found that SSA's policy does not specify how to assess more complex suitability factors, such as whether an organization demonstrates sound financial management. Without clearer guidance, unqualified or ill-prepared organizational payees could be approved to manage benefits. Also, SSA does not currently require background checks for key employees of an organizational payee. In contrast, SSA requires background checks for individual payees—such as a relative or friend of the beneficiary. A comprehensive evaluation could help SSA determine whether and how to expand their use of background checks to organizational payees.

To ensure organizational payees are managing funds appropriately, SSA uses several monitoring tools, including resource-intensive onsite reviews. Certain organizational payees, such as those that charge fees for their services or have 50 or more beneficiaries (high-volume), receive onsite reviews every 3 to 4-years. In contrast, payees that serve fewer than 50 beneficiaries (low-volume)—the vast majority—are selected for review based on their estimated likelihood of misusing beneficiary funds, and a relatively low percent of them receive onsite reviews (see figure). SSA uses a predictive statistical model to identify higher risk low-volume payees, but the model's effectiveness cannot be fully assessed by GAO or others due to missing documentation on how it was designed. SSA officials said they will update the model in the future, but do not have a time frame for doing so. Establishing such a time frame and documenting design decisions are key steps toward assessing the model's effectiveness.

. . .

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making nine recommendations in this report, including that SSA: clarify how to assess complex suitability factors; assess requiring background checks for organizational payees; establish a timeframe for reviewing the predictive model and document design decisions resulting from that review; and establish timeframes for, and conduct revisions of the accounting form. SSA agreed with all nine recommendations and provided technical comments that GAO incorporated as appropriate.

The full report is available here.

October 7, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Special Needs Trust Failing?

Kiplinger recently ran an article, How a Special Needs Trust for Your Child Can Fall Apart,  which explains

Parents of disabled children must juggle a lot of responsibilities: work, bills and of course caregiving. But one ball they can’t afford to drop is special needs planning. One wrong move in this complicated ballet balancing benefits and services with asset rules could be disastrous. While every family’s situation is unique, the laws regulating special needs trusts are complex and can require some strategizing by families and trust companies — and if necessary, utilization of available government and nonprofit support programs. 

The article reviews the laws, the requirements for a valid third party SNT and highlights one person's experiences, an attorney's advice for the person and advice for parents of children with special needs.

The key takeaway from this story is that it is essential that parents of a disabled child learn about federal, state, local community, charitable and other nonprofit support programs that may help. They must also discuss eligibility rules with relatives who may want to make gifts for the child, leave a share of their estate, include the child in a beneficiary designation for a retirement plan or life insurance or provide other types of in-kind support and maintenance.

Finally, setting up a special needs trust requires planning, legal and financial expertise, and the proper and compassionate administration of a professional trustee.

September 25, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Property Management, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Elder Justice Policy Highlights

USC has published  Elder Justice Policy Highlights for March-August 2019. The introduction explains that

"[t]he elder justice legislation found in this document was elicited and finalized from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) Listserv and independent websites in August 2019. The compilation is intended to reflect highlights across the nation and does not include all legislation related to elder justice. However, updates will be sent quarterly and states are encouraged to send updates on significant legislative action to Ageless Alliance. This document reflects activity in 17 states and highlights at the federal level.

The report divides the information by federal and state, includes a summary for each development as well as a link to view the information online. It also includes a section of pending activity that deserves a look.

This is a great resource and provides students with a quick snapshot of activities across the country.

September 24, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 23, 2019

GAO Report on Elder Abuse & Oversight

The GAO has issued another report on quality in nursing homes and ALFs. This report, Elder Abuse: Federal Requirements for Oversight in Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities Differ

reports

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) oversees the Medicare and Medicaid programs and is responsible for safeguarding the health and welfare of beneficiaries living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. This includes safeguarding older residents from abuse—referred to as elder abuse. CMS delegates responsibility for overseeing this issue to state survey agencies, which are responsible for overseeing nursing homes. When assisted living facilities provide services to Medicaid beneficiaries, they are indirectly subject to CMS oversight through the agency’s oversight of state Medicaid agencies. GAO found that there are specific federal requirements for nursing homes and state survey agencies for reporting, investigating, and notifying law enforcement about elder abuse in nursing homes. (See table below). For example, state survey agencies must prioritize reports of elder abuse in nursing homes based on CMS’s specified criteria and investigate within specific time frames. In contrast, there are no similar federal requirements for assisted living facilities—which are licensed and regulated by states. Instead, CMS requires state Medicaid agencies to develop policies to ensure the reporting and investigation of elder abuse in assisted living facilities. For example, CMS requires that state Medicaid agencies establish their own policies and standards for prioritizing reports when investigating incidents in assisted living facilities. Officials from the three selected states in GAO’s review said they apply certain federal nursing home requirements and investigation time frames for assisted living facilities when overseeing elder abuse.

Here's part of what the GAO did in investigating the issue:

To describe federal requirements for reporting, investigating, and notifying law enforcement about elder abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, we reviewed relevant statutes and regulations and CMS guidance, including the State Operations Manual and HCBS waiver guidance and interviewed CMS officials regarding the agency’s oversight of the requirements. We selected a non-generalizable sample of three states—Connecticut, Oklahoma, and South Dakota—that have implemented HCBS waivers and vary in HCBS waiver program size and geography.10 In each state, we reviewed their waiver agreements and spoke with officials from the state survey agency, state Medicaid agency, and the state agency responsible for licensing assisted living facilities and investigating complaints.11 We also interviewed CMS officials, including regional office officials, about their oversight of state survey agencies and HCBS waivers in our selected states. We interviewed representatives from national stakeholder groups representing consumers, facilities, Medicaid directors, and investigators to obtain their perspectives on elder abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. We also reviewed related audits issued by the HHS-OIG and state auditors between 2014 and 2018 related to reporting and investigating elder abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and included them with a discussion of related GAO reports.

The full report is available here.

 

September 23, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 16, 2019

Long-Term Care Hospitals

A recent story from the New York Times highlights the role of long-term care hospitals in carrying for elders. For Older Patients, an ‘Afterworld’ of Hospital Care explains that for these long-term care hospitals, sometimes referred to as " a long-term acute care hospital"... is where patients often land when an ordinary hospital is ready to discharge them, often after a stay in intensive care.But these patients are still too sick to go home, too sick even for most nursing homes." 

Never heard of these LTCH?  There are a fair number of them, and they treat quite a large number of individuals."Close to 400 such hospitals operate around the country, some free-standing, others located within other hospitals, most for-profit. They provide daily physician visits, high nurse-to-patient ratios and intensive therapy...In 2017, they accounted for about 174,000 hospital stays. Medicare covered about two-thirds of them, at a staggering cost of $4.5 billion, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has reported."

A recent study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society notes poorer outcomes for these individuals. The article notes that there is a decline in the use of these hospitals, with tighter regulations and more stringent patient requirements.  Oftentimes the LTCH is a stop between the hosptial and nursing home.  This "should prompt frank discussions among families, doctors and patients about whether a frail older person leaving an intensive care unit or standard hospital truly wants to spend another month or more in an L.T.C.H. and then move to a nursing home, which is the likely scenario."  There are other options and the article notes the importance of having a conversation with the patient and family about them.

 

September 16, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Two Upcoming Webinars on Important Topics

There are two upcoming webinars that I wanted to alert you about so you can register.  The National Center on Elder Abuse is hosting a webinar on September 18, 2019 from 3-4 edt, on Recognizing and Addressing Abuse in Long-Term Care Facilities. According to the email announcement

People living in long-term care (LTC) facilities can be vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Recognizing and addressing abuse and neglect in LTC facilities as well as knowing their rights is crucial for both residents and their family members.   

This webinar presented by the Paralysis Resource Center will help to understand the rights of residents of LTC facilities, identify the signs of abuse and neglect, and learn how to report concerns and complaints to the appropriate agencies. Attendees will learn about the important role of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program in addressing complaints and how to contact the program. The webinar will also seek to empower people with paralysis and their family members by providing information on choosing a long-term care facility and tips for advocating for quality care. 

The webinar will be presented by Amity Overall-Laib, Director of the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center (NORC). Amity served as a local long-term care ombudsman in Texas for six years advocating for residents in 65 nursing homes and 130 assisted living facilities in a 12-county region. During her tenure in Texas, she led the formation of the Gulf Coast Culture Change Coalition, resulting in two free conferences for long-term care consumers, providers, advocates and regulators promoting culture change practices and has presented at local, state, and national conferences. She also had the pleasure of representing fellow local ombudsmen on the Board of Directors for NALLTCO (National Association of Local Long-Term Care Ombudsmen). Amity was previously a consultant to NORC then served as Manager for Program and Policy. 

To register, click here.

Next, the National Center on Law & Elder Rights is hosting a webinar on Issues at the Intersection of Social Security and Medicare on October 8 at 2 eastern time. According to the email announcement,

Social Security benefits and Medicare benefits are closely intertwined, and most people who receive one also receive the other. The close connection means that a problem with one benefit will sometimes cause problems with the other benefit. It can be difficult to figure out which agency is responsible and where to go for relief. This webcast will focus on why cross-program issues occur and what advocates can do to resolve them.

Presenters will share:

  • Agencies and key players: Who is in charge of what?
  • Situations when Medicare and Social Security benefits are linked and when they are not.
  • Issues that arise and strategies for resolving them, including state buy-in issues for Medicare Part B premiums, and challenges keeping Medicare active during an appeal of the termination of Social Security disability benefits.

To register, click here.

September 11, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Hunger Amongst America's Elders

Kaiser Health News addressed the topic of hunger amongst elders in Starving Seniors: How America Fails To Feed Its Aging.

This is incredibly sobering

[M]illions of seniors across the country quietly go hungry as the safety net designed to catch them frays. Nearly 8% of Americans 60 and older were “food insecure” in 2017, according to a recent study released by the anti-hunger group Feeding America. That’s 5.5 million seniors who don’t have consistent access to enough food for a healthy life, a number that has more than doubled since 2001 and is only expected to grow as America grays.

While the plight of hungry children elicits support and can be tackled in schools, the plight of hungry older Americans is shrouded by isolation and a generation’s pride. The problem is most acute in parts of the South and Southwest. Louisiana has the highest rate among states, with 12% of seniors facing food insecurity. Memphis fares worst among major metropolitan areas, with 17% of seniors like [one mentioned in the article] unsure of their next meal.

You're thinking to yourself, surely there are options. What about those federally funded meals programs? Something else? Uh....not likely.

[G]overnment relief falls short. One of the main federal programs helping seniors is starved for money. The Older Americans Act — passed more than half a century ago as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society reforms — was amended in 1972 to provide for home-delivered and group meals, along with other services, for anyone 60 and older. But its funding has lagged far behind senior population growth, as well as economic inflation.

The biggest chunk of the act’s budget, nutrition services, dropped by 8% over the past 18 years when adjusted for inflation, an AARP report found in February. Home-delivered and group meals have decreased by nearly 21 million since 2005. Only a fraction of those facing food insecurity get any meal services under the act; a U.S. Government Accountability Office report examining 2013 data found 83% got none.

Oh and by the way-the act expires at the end of this month-it's now up to COngress to reauthorize and determine its budget.  Food stamps may be an option, but "only 45% of eligible adults 60 and older have signed up for ... SNAP, the food stamp program for America’s poorest. Those who don’t are typically either unaware they could qualify, believe their benefits would be tiny or can no longer get to a grocery store to use them."

Government programs have long wait lists but there are those who get help, "2.4 million people a year benefit from the Older Americans Act’s group or home-delivered meals, allowing them to stay independent and healthy."  Poor diet, hunger, and starvation have significant consequences, in some instances resulting in major health issues or even death.

Where you one of those kids growing up whose parent said something along the lines of "eat your vegetables (or clean your plate), there are children starving in (insert country)?  Nowadays it may be "eat your vegetables, grandma is starving...."

Keep an eye on Congress' actions on reauthorization-it's important!

 

September 10, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Food and Drink, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Assisted Living-Is It the Right Option for Assistance in Living?

My colleague and dear friend Professor Bauer, sent me the link to a recent op-ed in the New York Times,  How Not to Grow Old in America.The assisted living industry is booming, by tapping into the fantasy that we can all be self-sufficient until we die.

Assisted living seems like the solution to everyone’s worries about old age. It’s built on the dream that we can grow old while being self-reliant and live that way until we die. That all you need is a tiny bit of help. That you would never want to be warehoused in a nursing home with round-the-clock caregivers. This is a powerful concept in a country built on independence and self-reliance.

The problem is that for most of us, it’s a lie. And we are all complicit in keeping this dream alive.

The author notes that the ALF industry has a financial incentive to market their product and it's appealing to the kids of those who reside in ALFs.  The author writes, "[t]he irony of assisted living is, it’s great if you don’t need too much assistance. If you don’t, the social life, the spalike facilities, the myriad activities and the extensive menus might make assisted living the right choice. But if you have trouble walking or using the bathroom, or have dementia and sometimes wander off, assisting living facilities aren’t the answer, no matter how desperately we wish they were." Further, the author offers data that most of these residents need more care than that provided and argues in favor of regulation, using several actual cases as illustrations to support the call for regulation.

We need to let go of the ideal of being self-sufficient until death. Just as we don’t demand that our toddlers be self-reliant, Americans need to allow the reality of ourselves as dependent in our old age to percolate into our psyches and our nation’s social policies. Unless we face up to the reality of the needs of our aging population, the longevity we as a society have gained is going to be lived out miserably.

September 4, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Other, Retirement, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Financial Fraud in US Upcoming Conference

The FINRA Foundation has announced an upcoming conference, Research Conference on The State of Financial Fraud in America. The conference will be held on October 2, 2019 in Washington, D.C.   Here's some info about the conference:

Featured Keynote: Cybercrimes, Digital Fraud and You

It's no longer just about changing your password, cyber threats are growing in frequency and complexity. As technology continues to develop, there are more opportunities for impactful cyber-attacks. In this featured talk, Roy Zur, Cybint Solutions, will discuss trends in cyber-fraud tactics, how Dark Web markets and forums fuel cybercrime, and how cybercriminals utilize digital currencies.


Sessions include:

  • What Separates Victims from Non-Victims?
  • From Fraud Victim to Fraud Fighter
  • What We Can Learn from Neuroscience
  • Life Course Transitions, Thresholds, and Turning Points to Elder Financial Exploitation
  • Promising Interventions
  • Federal Approaches
  • Serving the Victims of Financial Crimes
  •         Where Do We Go from Here?

To register, click here.

September 3, 2019 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Programs/CLEs, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 30, 2019

Accessibility of Elder Housing-What Happens When the Elevator is Out of Order?

A local news station recently ran an article about the impact of a broken elevator on the residents who live on top floors in  8 On Your Side gets results for seniors in building with broken elevator.   Knowing my colleague and dear friend, Professor Bauer, had written an article on 55+ housing that included a discussion of accessibility issues, I asked him if he'd write a guest post for us on this topic. Here it is:

Would You Please Just Fix It?

By
Mark D. Bauer
Professor Law
Stetson University College of Law

 

A recent news story in Tampa Bay reported that the single elevator in a mid-rise apartment building stopped working in late May and would not be repaired until October.  That alone is surprising and seems wrong.  But what makes this story particularly shocking is it occurred in an age 62 and older HUD subsidized building.  Even more shocking:  there are no federal laws regulating elevator repairs in federally managed or sponsored elder housing.

The story was made for television.  A local news station interviewed numerous tenants with disabilities incapable of walking down staircases.  One elder tenant interviewed said she had not been able to leave her home in two months and she found it very depressing.  I have little doubt that most anyone would feel the same way.

The good news is that by airing this story and providing publicity to the tenants, the company managing the apartment complex arranged for free hotel rooms for any resident desiring one.  The elevator still will not be repaired until October because a part needs to be manufactured abroad.  But at least the elder tenants now have an alternative to remaining prisoners in their own homes.

The bad news is that while this particular situation may be extreme, elder residents of multi-story apartment buildings are often trapped in their homes with little warning and no real alternative.  The fact that most elevator repairs take less than six months is little comfort.

Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations require only the most basic life safety features in elder housing, such as smoke detectors.  Most state and local laws covering elevators require that they be inspected and remain in good repair.  It is always hard to search for the absence of a law or a case, but I have found nothing in the United States that regulates how long a repair may take.  Unfortunately, I suspect the answer is “as long as needed.”

I did find one relevant case in Indiana where residents of elder housing suffered without elevators for over a month and then sued.  On procedural grounds, the federal court held that the residents might have a viable argument under the Americans with Disabilities Act but could not sue under traditional landlord-tenant law (here the residents claimed that the broken elevator “constructively evicted” them).  And as you might imagine, once the judge opened the door just a crack for possible litigation, the owners of the elder housing complex immediately fixed the elevator and settled with the residents.

It is ironic that the government sponsors or subsidizes elder housing without ensuring the physical safety of the residents, particularly when private entities often profit through participation in these programs.  In researching this issue, a simple Google search produced literally hundreds of news stories about elders all over the country being trapped in multi-story buildings during lengthy elevator repairs.  Like the situation here in Tampa Bay, the elevators were often repaired quickly after a local news story.

Even elevators in good repair cannot function without electricity.  After many elders were killed or injured in Florida after a major hurricane in 2005 made their apartments inaccessible, a state law was passed requiring all 55 and older housing to add emergency generators for elevators.  The real estate lobby was particularly effective here and got the state legislature to repeal the law a short time later.

Subsidized or government-owned congregate housing for elders is aging; few units have been added since the 1980s, and certainly not enough to replace housing demolished or converted to other uses.  Five elevator companies remain after industry consolidation, and only one is located in the United States.  It is no surprise then that elevators installed in the last century are difficult to repair.  Cities and counties with large elder populations often spend extraordinary amounts of money responding to emergency calls requiring firefighters to carry elders down staircases.

It is easy to ignore a problem like stranded elders in high-rises because any single building has these problems infrequently, and with no publicity.  But nationally we are putting lives in danger and wasting precious public funds by ignoring the problem.  Currently it is very unlikely that HUD will take any corrective action.  But in the long-run, it would be much cheaper to plan for broken elevators by requiring elder communities to provide for temporary accessible housing, or coordinate services necessary for daily living, or require emergency generators in mid- or high-rise buildings with only one elevator.

Professor Bauer's law review article on 55+ housing is available here.  Thanks Professor Bauer!

August 30, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Other, State Statutes/Regulations, Television | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Veterans Victims of Consumer Scam

The New York Times recently reported indictments against five perpetrators of an identity theft scam that targeted vets.

5 Indicted in Identity Theft Scheme That Bilked Millions From Veterans explains how the scam worked:

First, they secretly photographed the Social Security and bank account numbers of thousands of veterans and senior military members on a computer screen at a United States Army base in South Korea.

Then, they used the personal information to withdraw or reroute millions of dollars in disability benefits and other payments made to veterans. The stolen funds were later wired to the bank accounts of so-called money mules and laundered so that they could not be traced.

The perpetrators were charged with aggravated identity theft, wire fraud and conspiracy according to the article.  Described as the largest ever perpetrated against military personnel, "the personal information of more than 3,000 veterans and military personnel had been compromised over a period from 2014 to 2019. Many of the victims were disabled and older, and were unlikely to access their account information online." DOJ is still looking to identify victims.  "The Justice Department and Veterans Affairs are in the process of notifying victims and trying to help them recover lost funds."

August 28, 2019 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Other, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Medicare Observation Status: Post-Trial Report

I reported a couple of weeks ago about the trial in federal court in Connecticut on observation status. The trial has concluded. Here is an update from the Center for Medicare Advocacy

Since 2011 the Center for Medicare Advocacy has been pursuing a nationwide class action lawsuit seeking an appeal for Medicare beneficiaries who are classified as hospital outpatients in observation status. (Alexander v. Azar, 3:11-cv-1703, U.S. District Court, Connecticut.) Co-counsels in the case are Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati and Justice in Aging.

The Alexander trial was held before US District Court Judge Michael Shea from August 12 – 20, 2019. The Judge ordered post-trial briefing, which is expected to take approximately 75 days. Then the parties will await Judge Shea’s decision.

Medicare beneficiaries who received “observation services” in a hospital on or after January 1, 2009 and either did not have Medicare Part B, or, were hospitalized for at least three consecutive days but not three days as an inpatient, may be a member of the Alexander class. No action is required to “join” the class. Individuals who meet the class definition, are in the class (note that the class definition is subject to change). We recommend saving paperwork related to the hospital observation status and to costs that may have resulted from it.

August 27, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Recent Developments on Guardianship Laws

There are a couple of recent developments I wanted to point out to you. One is a bill recently introduced in the House of Representatives, H.R. 4174, the Guardianship Accountability Act of 2019.  Section Two of the bill contains findings and purposes:

 (a) FINDINGS.—Congress finds the following:

(1) An estimated 1,300,000 adults and approximately $50,000,000,000 in assets are under the care of guardians in the United States.

(2) Most guardians are selfless, dedicated individuals who play an important role in safeguarding individuals in need of support. However, unscrupulous guardians acting with little oversight have used guardianship proceedings to obtain control of individuals in need of support.

(3) Once a guardianship is imposed, there are often few safeguards in place to protect against individuals who choose to abuse the system and few States are able to report accurate or detailed guardianship data.

(4) A full guardianship order may remove more rights than necessary and may not be the best means of providing support and protection to an individual. If individuals subject to guardianship regain capacity, all or some rights should be quickly and efficiently restored.

(5) States should encourage courts to use alter natives to guardianship through State statutes, including the adoption of the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act, to ensure better protections and control for individuals being considered for guardianship and those pursuing a restoration of their rights.

(6) A national resource center on guardianship is needed to collect and publish information for the benefit of courts, policy makers, individuals subject to guardianship, guardians, community organizations, and other stakeholders.

(b) PURPOSES.—The purposes of this Act are to help States improve guardianship oversight and data collection by—

 (1) designating a National Online Resource Center on Guardianship;

(2) authorize grants for the purpose of developing State Guardianship Databases; and

(3) establishing procedures for sharing background check information related to appointed guardians with other jurisdictions.

The bill calls for the Elder Justice Coordinating Council to establish the National Online Resource Center on Guardianship as well as some steps at the state level regarding data collection and analysis.   Read the bill here.

The second item is from the Governor of New Mexico who in a recent speech at the state's conference on aging indicated improving the guardianship system is a priority. Governor vows to stop guardianship abuse  explains that in her speech the Governor

“Here in New Mexico, veterans, senior citizens and disabled adults have been taken advantage of by unscrupulous court-appointed, corporate guardians,” she told the conference....

Corporate guardians, she said, “have been stealing people’s property, separating them from their families and hiding their benefits, as well as “locking folks away where nobody can find them and nobody can visit.”

Her administration, she said, is working to prevent this and adopt the best possible standards and safeguards. McCoy, who will become the director of the state Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, will lead that effort.

There is more action that just these two items, so keep reading this blog as we report on more updates.

August 21, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Medicare Abroad? Don't Retire Abroad Without Thinking This Through.

Kaiser Health News ran an article about the issues Medicare presents for beneficiaries who want to retiree to other countries. Dream Of Retiring Abroad? The Reality: Medicare Doesn’t Travel Well explains the issues:

As the number of American retirees living overseas grows, more of them are confronting choices ... about medical care. If they were living in the United States, Medicare would generally be their coverage option. But Medicare doesn’t pay for care outside the U.S., except in limited circumstances.

Expatriate retirees might find private insurance policies and national health plans in other countries. But these may not provide the high-quality, comprehensive care at an affordable price that retirees expect through Medicare. Faced with imperfect choices, some retirees cobble together different types of insurance, a mix that includes Medicare.

The article notes that the quality of the health care may be dependent on the country, and as the number of U.S. retirees move to other countries, they need to think hard about how they will pay for health care. The article discusses issues with private health insurance policies, the costs and rates, which may be different depending on the country.  Even with private health insurance, expats need to look at Medicare as the article explains:

Even when retirees buy a private policy, Medicare is another piece of the puzzle that they have to consider. Once people become eligible for Medicare coverage, usually at age 65, they face a 10% premium penalty for every 12 months they are not enrolled in Part B, which covers outpatient services. (People who are 65 but still covered by an employer plan generally do not face that penalty.)

After paying into the Medicare system for decades, it’s no wonder some expats are frustrated that they can’t generally use the program outside the United States.

That’s just the way the law is written, an official at the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said.

...

And retirees should honestly consider whether they will spend the rest of their lives overseas.

August 21, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, International, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)