Tuesday, October 5, 2021

New Brief on COVID Scams

The Adult Protective Services Technical Assistance Resource Center (APS-TARC) released a new brief, COVID-19 Fraud and Scams: What APS Needs to Know. Noting the pandemic causes greater use of technology, increased isolation and changes to personal circumstances, the Brief discusses several COVID-related scams. These include healthcare scams, government impersonator scams, money transfer scams, charity scams, mortgage relief scams, helper scams, and scams around vaccinations, treatments for COVID, and tech. The Brief offers suggestions for prevention, agencies to contact for help,  and dealing with misinformation. 

October 5, 2021 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Other, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Will the 2022 SSA COLA be "record-breaking"?

I don't know if it will be "record-breaking", but the buzz is that it's going to be larger than that of recent history.  CNBC reported Social Security cost-of-living adjustment could be at least 6% in 2022, the higher amount being due to inflation, but the increase in purchasing power will be tempered by the Medicare Part B premiums and income taxes.   The Senior Citizens League (the source of the estimate) explains its process "Our forecast is based on CPI data through August, and there is still one more month of consumer price data to come in before we get the official announcement in October ... [and] [t]his year is particularly difficult to forecast with certainty... [due to] inflation patterns, caused in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, [which] were unprecedented...."

It won't be long before we get the official news from SSA. Stay tuned....

September 29, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Two Articles on Caregiving

We all know the importance of caregiving and some of the issues facing the U.S. vis a vis caregivers.  First, an article a few days ago published in the Huffington Post, Why A Transformation Of Caregiving Could Be Biden’s B.F.D. Here's one excerpt from the article

It’s got three main components. One is an initiative to provide up to three months of paid leave to take care of family members, including newborns. Another is a proposal to make child care and prekindergarten available to any family that wants it, and to improve the quality of that care for everyone. The third piece is a proposal to fund what are known as “home- and community-based services,” a clunky piece of policy-speak that refers to programs that allow disabled and elderly Americans to live on their own rather than in nursing homes and other institutions.

After discussing the politics of the plan, the article provides a history of caregiving. "Responsibility for caregiving has historically fallen disproportionately on women ― who, in turn, were expected to provide it for little or no pay. That was possible, in part, because until relatively recently in history most women didn’t have alternatives in the paid workforce. That was especially true for women of color, who were subject to discrimination (and, at one time, enslavement)."  Discussing the pay scale for caregivers, and the approach in other countries, the article discusses the "policy opportunity" at hand in Congress.

Then consider this recent article from the New York Times, Long Hours, Low Pay, Loneliness and a Booming Industry,  about the home health industry.

The industry is in the midst of enormous growth. By 2030, 21 percent of the American population will be at the retirement age, up from 15 percent in 2014, and older adults have long been moving away from institutionalized care. In a 2018 AARP survey, 76 percent of those ages 50 and older said they preferred to remain in their current residence as they age. In 2019, national spending on home health care reached a high of $113.5 billion, a 40 percent increase from 2013, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The ranks of home care aides are expected to grow by more than those of any other job in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s also among the lowest paying occupations on the list.

The article examines the wages of aides and the activities they perform. The article also covers the impact of the pandemic on them, including those who died of COVID.  The article looks at the regulations of home health agencies in NY. This particular part of the article gave me pause. "Working overnight makes an already isolating and demanding job even more so. Aides assigned to “live-in shifts” spend 24 hours a day at a patient’s home, sometimes for several days in a row. The aides are paid for only 13 hours of that time because they are expected to get eight hours of sleep and three hours of meal breaks, according to New York State guidelines and federal regulations."  And it is only recently that aide  have been protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act "Home health aides are classified as “domestic service” workers, many of whom were exempt from a set of labor protections known as the Fair Labor Standards Act until 2015, when the Department of Labor expanded its regulations."

September 28, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 24, 2021

An Expanding Role for State and Federal Courts in Assessing "Dementia"

In any given week, I often have someone reach out to me, a mere lawyer, asking me for suggestions about how to access assistance for a family member, a friend, or a colleague who is experiencing "mild to moderate dementia."  Of course, part of those requests arise because of my identity as an elder law attorney.  But, still, I think that such requests are a sign of the public's difficulty in identifying trustworthy alternatives.  This week, for example, a call came from a commercial attorney who was startled to realize he might be the closest to a family friend who is struggling with her doctor's strongly-worded recommendation that she should no longer live alone, because of serious difficulties with her memory and balance.  The family was unable or unwilling to help her.   Thus, the commercial attorney was learning about how/whether he could become her surrogate, if needed, for accessing better care and more suitable living arrangements.  Without such a friend, the decision-maker would likely end up being a complete stranger. 

Also this week, however, I was researching a question that led me to put "dementia" into a search box on the Westlaw search engine for recent court decisions.  I expected to see guardianship and conservatorship cases, as that is probably the most obvious reason why lawyers and courts would be involved with dementia.

Instead,  3 of the first 5 case decisions (reported during September 15-September 24) reported on Westlaw involved requests by convicted criminal defendants for relief or modification of sentences due to consequences of dementia.  This means judges are being asked to evaluate the severity of progressive conditions and the impact of the diagnosis on the likelihood the defendant will reoffend if released.  See e.g., Sentencing Guidelines Manual's application notes listing "advanced dementia" as a possible factor in considering whether there are "extraordinary and compelling reasons" for a reduced or modified sentence.  

Two cases decided by federal courts on the same day stood out: 

In U.S. v. Shabazz (USDC for District of Columbia, 9/22/21), compassionate release was denied for a 55 year old man, who had served 46 of his 67 month sentence for heroin and cocaine sales.  The defendant was seeking early release to help provide live-in care for his 80 year old mother who was suffering from worsening dementia, requiring constant care.  The court observed:  

The Court finds that Mr. Shabazz does not meet this high bar [of proof to support compassionate release]. To be clear, the Court fully credits the assertions of Mr. Shabazz, his sister, and [his mother's] doctor with regard to [his mother's] condition. But Mr. Shabazz has not shown that he is the “only available caregiver” for his mother, nor is his situation so rare as to qualify as “extraordinary.” While the Court is deeply sympathetic with the plight of Mr. Shabazz, his mother, and his sister, this case simply does not present the kind of “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances required to reduce a defendant's sentence under [18 U.S.C. ] § 3582(c).

In U.S. v. Wiman (USDC Indiana, 9/22/21), granted release for a man who had served more than 6 years of a 110 month sentence for armed bank robbery, based on evidence of the defendant's diagnosis of Parkinson's related dementia.  The court observed:   

Mr. Wiman is 73 years old.  He has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and Parkinson's dementia. Those conditions are progressing, and he has recently been transferred to a federal medical center so that he can reside in a memory disorder unit. Over the past several months, his medical records show that he has ongoing gait problems and has fallen multiple times despite using a walker. BOP medical staff also report that Mr. Wiman requires assistance with activities of daily living. Finally, BOP medical staff report that Mr. Wiman is occasionally confused.  
 
Importantly, Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder that cannot be cured [citing Mayo Clinic website]. While medications can improve symptoms, those symptoms worsen as the condition progresses over time. That is, there is no reason to believe that Mr. Wiman's condition will improve. To the contrary, it will likely continue to deteriorate. . . . 
 
In the Wiman case, despite the government's argument that the federal prison system can provide a safe place to care for him and that his release "is not viable because he requires specialized care," the Federal District Judge granted the requested relief but stayed the date of release to permit establishment of a safe release plan including supervision, noting that if federal authorities are "unable to develop a viable release plan for Mr. Wiman despite making good-faith efforts to do so, the United State shall immediately notify the Court and explain why a viable release plan cannot be developed."  

September 24, 2021 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

DOJ Elder Justice Initiative Fall Webinars

DOJ's Elder Justice Initiative has announced its fall webinar series.  

Thursday September 30, 2021 2-3 p.m.,  INNOVATIONS IN GUARDIANSHIP: MAXIMIZING AUTONOMY AND ENSURING ACCOUNTABILITY.

Guardianship is one approach to providing support and assistance to adults who need help with decision-making about finances and personal issues. However, as recent high-profile and less visible cases illustrate, guardianship can also infringe on personal rights and can lead to mistreatment of older adults and adults with disabilities.

 

Join us for a webinar to discuss current trends and challenges in state guardianship systems, policies and practice. Using real-life guardianship scenarios, the webinar will explore ways to maximize autonomy and ensure accountability throughout the guardianship process. Presenters will discuss less restrictive alternatives to guardianship as well as ways to improve adjudication and post-appointment oversight of guardians.

To register, click here

Thursday October 21, 2021 2-3 p.m., IMPLEMENTING ELDER ABUSE RESTRAINING ORDERS

With the growing criminalization of elder abuse, greater attention has focused on elder abuse restraining orders, which are commonly used in the domestic violence context. Approximately sixteen states have an elder abuse restraining order statute, including California, with an additional three states having a financial exploitation only restraining order statute. Learn how one county-level adult protective services program in California implemented their restraining order statute. Overcoming some initial challenges, the presenters will share their lessons learned.

To register, click here.

Thursday November 18, 2-3 p.m., IDENTIFYING AND PROSECUTING POWER OF ATTORNEY ABUSE

Financial powers of attorney are legal tools commonly used to plan for the possibility that an adult may need help with financial decision-making in the future, but they can be used to steal money and property. Presenters will discuss common scenarios and recent prosecutions.

To register, click here.

September 24, 2021 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Programs/CLEs, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Senate Committee on Aging Hearing Today

The Senate's Select Committee on Aging is holding a hearing today at 9:30 a.m. on "Frauds, Scams and COVID-19: How Con Artists Have Targeted Older Americans During the Pandemic". The witnesses include three experts and one consumer.   The hearing will be available through a live feed.  Click here to watch the hearing.

September 23, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, State Statutes/Regulations, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

New Article on Medicare For All

Professor Richard Kaplan recently published a new article comparing Medicare for All to current Medicare.  Just a note-I make a point of reading anything Professor Kaplan publishes (just look at his download stats on SSRN, and you will see that many others share my opinion). He's a true elder law scholar and ROCK STAR. Here is the abstract for  Medicare for All vs. Medicare As Is: Eight Key Differences.

This article examines eight principal differences between the Medicare-for-All proposal championed by Senator Sanders, inter alia, and the Medicare program as it actually exists. In doing so, the article shows how the current program bears little resemblance to what the Medicare-for-All proponents are trying to enact. Those key differences include: (1) Medicare is a real program, (2) Medicare is only health care financing, (3) Medicare is an earned entitlement, (4) Medicare is not a simple program, (5)Medicare has a significant co-insurance component, (6) Medicare’s financing relies on non-Medicare enrollees, (7) Medicare’s coverage of long-term care is minimal, and (8) Medicare can accommodate expansion without major disruption. The article concludes that the differences between Medicare as it is and Medicare-for-All are too significant to elide and may make the effort to enact Medicare-for All less likely to succeed.

Professor Kaplan, thanks for publishing in Stetson Law's Journal of Aging, Law, & Policy.

September 22, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 20, 2021

SSI Recipients and Disaster Related Assistance Webinar

Mark your calendars now for a free webinar,  Pandemic-Related Disaster Assistance for SSI Recipients, hosted by the National Center on Law & Elder Rights. Scheduled for September 21, 2021 at 2 eastern, the webinar description explains:

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently changed their rules about how pandemic-related financial assistance can affect an individual’s eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or monthly SSI benefit amount. Previously, SSA had been counting many types of assistance as income and resources for SSI purposes, resulting in individuals having their SSI benefits reduced or suspended, or having their applications for SSI benefits denied. However, due to the severity of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, SSA has decided they will not count most types of pandemic-related financial assistance against SSI eligibility or benefit amount.

This training will review the guidance issued by SSA on what types of financial assistance they now consider pandemic-related disaster assistance, what steps they will be taking to restore individuals’ SSI benefits, and what advocates can do to assist clients with contacting SSA to access or restore SSI benefits.

To register, click here.

September 20, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Friday's Public Hearing re Approval for Third Dose Covid-19 Boosters Can Be Viewed Online

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hearing on Friday, September 17, 2021 to address the question of approval for "booster" doses of Covid-19 vaccines is scheduled to be "open" to the public through online portals.  The hearing begins at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.

The FDA's website helpfully links to the submissions from the drug companies and other interested parties as well to the hearing portal.  In contrast to The Lancet article published earlier this week which takes the position that a booster vaccine dose is not "currently" indicated for most members of the public, Pfizer and Moderna each submitted materials to the FDA this week in support of administering third shots beginning six months after an individual's second shot. Pfizer is recommending a full-strength dose for its booster shot, while Moderna is recommending a dose that is 1/3 the level of its original doses.  It appears both companies are citing observational studies, clinical trials, and antibody tests in support of their recommendations, including studies in the U.S., Israel, and South Africa, and discuss histories of reactogenicity, adverse events, and risk/benefit assessments.  

Here's the useful FDA vaccine hearing webpage and links:  https://www.fda.gov/advisory-committees/advisory-committee-calendar/vaccines-and-related-biological-products-advisory-committee-september-17-2021-meeting-announcement#event-materials

September 16, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Challenges of Federal Oversight for Medications or Food Supplements Targeting an Aging Public

I'm finding myself spending a lot of time reading and thinking about the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  Of course, public concerns about the efficacy of Covid-10 vaccines dominate the attention of many of us working on health-related legal concerns that affect older adults.  For example, I've been researching questions about the potential for FDA approved antibody tests for Covid-19 vaccines.  

But also intriguing is a report that a slow-moving FTC suit against developers and marketers of the dietary supplement known as Prevagen may be getting closer to a possible trial date in the Southern District of New York.  A dismissal of the 2017 law suit filed jointly by the FTC and the New York Attorney General was overturned in 2019 by the Second Circuit in a summary order, concluding that the "FTC and New York have made plausible allegations that Defendants] marketing campaign for Prevagen contained deceptive representations."  For more on this and other Prevagen-related suits, see the Washington Post's recent article Does the Supplement Prevagen Improve Memory? A Court Case is Asking that Question.

Plus, there are significant questions arising in the wake of the FDA's June 7, 2021  announcement of its "accelerated" approval of aducanumab for treatment of Alzheimer's Disease.  See e.g., Recently Approved Alzheimer Drug Raises Questions that May Never Be Answered (JAMA Network, July 21, 2021).

As noted in Dr. Jason Karlawish's important new book, The Problem of Alzheimer's: How Science, Culture, and Politics Turned a Rare Disease into a Crisis and What We Can Do About It, the number of Alzheimer's patients in the U.S. will rise to an estimated 13.8 million by 2025.  The caregiver market alone is searching desperately for answers, and it can be very hard to make individual decisions about risks and benefits without trustworthy information.  This is a tough time for what we might call a pandemic crisis about "trust."   

September 15, 2021 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Social Security & Medicare Trustees' Reports

We know they come out every year. This year is no exception. They are out! What do we learn from them? I'll give you the highlights here (those of you who have looked at the reports before know they are long and detailed....)

The Medicare Trustees' Report, released August 31, 2021, is available here.  The introduction explains the impact of COVID, and COVID vaccines, on Medicare, but not "Aduhelm, the Alzheimer’s disease drug that has been recently approved."  The introduction also references potential future scientific advances and how that would be factored into projections.  The one thing everyone wants to know from the Trustees Annual Report is what is the fiscal health of Medicare?  "The estimated depletion date for the HI trust fund is 2026, the same as in last year’s report. As in past years, the Trustees have determined that the fund is not adequately financed over the next 10 years. HI income is projected to be lower than last year’s estimates due to lower payroll taxes."  If you don't have time to peruse the entire report, read the introduction. It's very interesting!

Here's an excerpt from the conclusion:

The Trustees project that HI tax income and other dedicated revenues will fall short of HI expenditures in all future years. The HI trust fund does not meet either the Trustees’ test of short-range financial adequacy or their test of long-range close actuarial balance.


The Part B and Part D accounts in the SMI trust fund are expected to be adequately financed because income from premiums and general revenue are reset each year to cover expected costs. Such financing, however, would have to increase faster than the economy to cover expected expenditure growth.


The financial projections in this report indicate a need for substantial changes to address Medicare’s financial challenges. The sooner solutions are enacted, the more flexible and gradual they can be. The early introduction of reforms increases the time available for affected individuals and organizations—including health care providers, beneficiaries, and taxpayers—to adjust their expectations and behavior. The Trustees recommend that Congress and the executive branch work closely together with a sense of urgency to address these challenges.

The 2021 Social Security Trustees' Report is available through this page.

According to a summary provided by the SSA & Medicare Trustees, "Based on our best estimates, the 2021 reports show:"

• The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund, which pays retirement and survivors benefits, will be able to pay scheduled benefits on a timely basis until 2033, one year earlier than reported last year. At that time, the fund's reserves will become depleted and continuing tax income will be sufficient to pay 76 percent of scheduled benefits.

• The Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund, which pays disability benefits, will be able to pay scheduled benefits until 2057, 8 years earlier than in last year's report. At that time, the fund's reserves will become depleted and continuing tax income will be sufficient to pay 91 percent of scheduled benefits.

 

September 15, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Retirement, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Front Page on the Sunday NY Times: "Phony Diagnoses" Used in Drugging at Nursing Homes

In a front-page Sunday article, Phony Diagnoses Hide High Rates of Drugging at Nursing Homes, The New York Times adds a subtle but important focus in providing its latest reports of a well known issue, the use of chemical restraints, including antipsychotic medications, to control behavior for people in long-term care settings.  The patients have been getting "new" diagnoses of schizophrenia, thus attempting to justify the sedation associated with major antipsychotic medications, such as Haldol, despite the fact that such medications are contraindicated for dementia patients. From the article:

In 2005, the Food and Drug Administration required manufacturers to put a label on the drugs warning that they increased the risk of death for patients with dementia.

 

Seven years later, with antipsychotics still widely used, nursing homes were required to report to Medicare how many residents were getting the drugs. That data is posted online and becomes part of a facility’s “quality of resident care” score, one of three major categories that contribute to a home’s star rating.

 

The only catch: Antipsychotic prescriptions for residents with any of three uncommon conditions — schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome and Huntington’s disease — would not be included in a facility’s public tally. The theory was that since the drugs were approved to treat patients with those conditions, nursing homes shouldn’t be penalized.

 

The loophole was opened. Since 2012, the share of residents classified as having schizophrenia has gone up to 11 percent from less than 7 percent, records show.

 

The diagnoses rose even as nursing homes reported a decline in behaviors associated with the disorder. The number of residents experiencing delusions, for example, fell to 4 percent from 6 percent.

As the news article reports, the challenges of caring for individuals with dementia are enormous, and lack of adequate staffing is certainly a reason why families and facilities use and misuse drugs to control -- restrain -- them.  But, at the same time, as I have written about on this Blog several times (see here, for example), the problem is not "just" about staffing ratios.    

Special thanks to Laurel Terry, Dickinson Law Professor Emerita, for ensuring I saw this latest article.  

September 12, 2021 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Examining Use and Misuse of Tax-Exempt or Deferred Financial Retirement Savings Plans As Increasing Economic Disparity

Check out "America is Spending A Fortune to Help Rich People Retire in Luxury," authored by Michael Mechanic. Published this week in Mother Jones, the article examines how "America's most affluent" use Roth IRAs and similar "federally subsidized retirement accounts meant for middle-class savers" to maximize their wealth.  

But it turns out IRAs are only the tip of the iceberg. The bigger problem, according to Steve Rosenthal, a tax attorney and senior fellow at Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, is that, thanks to a series of bipartisan bills Congress has passed over the past quarter-century, the government spends a fortune subsidizing a whole range of retirement plans whose benefits flow overwhelmingly to America’s most affluent. “It’s unbelievable the amounts of dollars at stake, and how tilted they are to the high end,” Rosenthal told me. “It’s just staggering.”

 

Indeed, such subsidies are the federal government’s single biggest tax-related expense, costing hundreds of billions of dollars per year. From 2020 through 2024, the JCT estimates, tax breaks and deferrals for retirement contributions will cost the Treasury $1.9 trillion—far more than the cost of the child/dependent or earned income tax credits, tax deductions for charitable donations, tax exclusions on long-term capital gains, or corporate tax breaks for employer-provided health and life insurance benefits. “These retirement reform packages are exceptionally confusing and technical and long and really hard for anyone to sort out,” says Rosenthal, a former JCT staff lawyer himself. “But embedded in every one are easter eggs: big giveaways to the retirement industry and to high-net-worth individuals.”

There is a lot to unpack here, and I could certainly see a seminar course built around this topic, including the complexity of finding solutions that don't harm the more-modest investor who will need every dime in retirement.  

My thanks to University of Virginia Law Professor Naomi Cahn for sharing the article, and to her colleague at UVA, Professor Michael Doran, who is prominently cited in the article  for his critiques of so-called savings reforms that "delivered expensive and unnecessary tax subsidies," that benefited higher income families and the financial services industry.

September 2, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Discrimination, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, August 30, 2021

Medicare Dental Coverage a Possibility?

Here's an interesting (I don't want to say hopeful) idea.  According to the New York Times article,  Five Decades Later, Medicare Might Cover Dental Care it's a possibility that could become a reality if the odds can be overcome. "Tens of millions of older Americans who cannot afford dental care — with severe consequences for their overall health, what they eat and even when they smile — may soon get help as Democrats maneuver to add dental benefits to Medicare for the first time in its history....The proposal, part of the large budget bill moving through Congress, would be among the largest changes to Medicare since its creation in 1965 but would require overcoming resistance from dentists themselves, who are worried that it would pay them too little."

We know the implications on overall health that come from dental issues.  The article cites the statistic that 20% of older Americans have lost their teeth and dental issues can exacerbate health issues that are covered by Medicare.  Given that Medicare covers many preventive services, is it such a stretch to see the value of adding dental coverage?  But with all things political, passage is an uphill battle.  "On Capitol Hill, the proposal to add a Medicare dental benefit has near-universal support among Democrats, and many health industry and consumer groups back it, too... With the Democrats’ large policy ambitions but narrow majority, its passage is not assured."  

August 30, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Biden Administration to Mandate COVID Vaccinations for Nursing Home Employees

The Biden Administration announced today that it will push for federal regulations to mandate employee vaccinations for COVID-19 for employees of "nursing homes," making the vaccinations a condition for nursing homes to continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding.  It will be interesting -- or perhaps frustrating -- to see how long that rulemaking process will take!  The new regulations "would apply to over 15,000 nursing home facilities, which employ approximately 1.3 million workers and serve approximately 16 million nursing home residents."  

Some sources suggest to date that "only about one-quarter of nursing homes had at least 75 percent of staff vaccinated." 

The announcement about nursing homes was combined with other announcements related to COVID-17 protections.  

My motto for the last 18 months has been "nothing is simple."  

August 18, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Discrimination, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 16, 2021

Playing Cards About Resident Rights

Now here's a clever idea. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care is selling playing cards that contain the rights of a resident of a SNF. The playing cards sell for $8.  It's not just the idea that's clever. The design is as well. "Each card highlights a different residents' right.  The back of the cards features colorful artwork created by rolling wheelchairs through paint in order to represent how residents move through their facility, designed by residents in Lanai City, Hawaii."  How's that for clever!  The deck comes in a box--and wouldn't this be a thoughtful gift for an attorney to give a client who has just finished planning for long-term care?

 

August 16, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Games, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Other | Permalink

Friday, August 13, 2021

Paying for Old Age

The New York Times recently published an opinion piece, Getting Old Is a Crisis More and More Americans Can’t Afford.  The article has some good statistics in it. Focusing on long-term care needs, the article compares demand and supply and costs. "[M]ost seniors will require long-term care. Almost 70 percent of Americans turning 65 today are expected to need extended services and supports at some point. About 20 percent will need care for more than five years. Despite this, the majority of those age 40 and over have done no planning for their long-term care, according to a 2021 survey by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research."  The article notes the scope and limitations of Medicare, Medicaid and long-term care insurance and examines the work of  "a broad cross-section of policy experts, consumer advocates and industry representatives [who] formed the Long-Term Care Financing Collaborative to explore more sustainable funding models. The central recommendation of the group’s final report, issued in 2016, was the creation of a universal public insurance program." Noting challenges of making this a reality, the author  suggests that "[t]he outlook may be more promising at the state level. In 2019, Washington State passed the nation’s first state-run long-term-care insurance program. The WA Cares Fund is to be funded by a 0.58 percent payroll tax on employees. Starting in 2025, eligible residents can receive benefits of $100 per day, with a lifetime cap of $36,500."

August 13, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Other, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Why Doesn't Medicare Cover More?

Kaiser Health News published a story,  Why Doesn’t Medicare Cover Services So Many Seniors Need?  Noting that eye glasses, dentures, and hearing aids aren't covered under original Medicare, the story reports that "On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer released an outline of a coming budget bill that includes a directive to the Senate Finance Committee to expand Medicare “to include dental, vision, hearing benefits.” The catch — all the Democrats in the Senate and almost all in the House will have to agree on the entire budget bill for it to become law."  But why haven't those been added to Medicare before now? "[I]n the 56 years since Medicare became law, only a few benefits have been added to the package, which was created to emulate a 1965 Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan. During the 1980s and ’90s some preventive care was added, like pneumonia vaccines and mammograms. Republicans spearheaded the addition of prescription drug coverage in 2003, when they controlled both Congress and the White House. But they decided to make that coverage separate from the program’s traditional benefit package."  The article details the hurdles in expanding coverage and asks, why now and why these items are proposed to be added.  The article suggests a couple of reasons, both of which involve politics to some degree. Hopefully the winner here will be the Medicare beneficiaries.

August 12, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

More News on the SNF Front

Two recent developments worth mentioning.  First, at the ABA annual meeting, the ABA passed resolution #800 from the Commission on Law & Aging, the Section on Civil Rights and Social Justice, and the Senior Lawyers Division, concerning density and size for nursing homes.  The report, proposed resolution and final resolution are available here.  The direct link to the final resolution can be found here.  Here are the 3 resolutions:

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges the U.S. Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services to institute a review of the advisability and feasibility of phasing in size and design standards for nursing homes that would require small, household model facilities with single rooms and private baths, given their safety and infection control advantages in public health emergencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic;

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges Congress and the executive branch to provide financial incentives for the development and operation of nursing homes meeting  size and design standards developed pursuant to this review through means such as, but not limited to, restructuring the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), tax incentives under the Internal Revenue Service, or actions by other executive branch agencies to provide or encourage low cost financing for the redesign, remodeling, building and rebuilding of nursing homes meeting these standards; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to change Medicare and Medicaid regulations and payment policies to pay for single private rooms and bathrooms for all residents, with reasonable reimbursement rates for such rooms.

Second, Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and others introduced a Senate bill, the Nursing Home Improvement and Accountability Act of 2021.  The bill has 3 parts,  (1) transparency and accountability, (2) staffing improvements, and (3) "building modification and staff investment demonstration program." The full bill is available here. A summary is available here. And a section analysis is available here.  Here are some key points of the bill, from the AP story about it:

— Raise salaries and benefits for nursing home staff by giving states the option of an increase in federal Medicaid matching funds, available over six years. Low wages in the nursing home industry make for constant turnover, a critical problem even before the pandemic. The bill also starts a process for setting minimum staffing thresholds.

— Require nursing homes to have an infection prevention and control specialist.

— Require nursing homes to have a registered nurse available 24 hours a day, instead of the current eight hours.

— Bolster state inspections of nursing homes, and add more low-performing facilities to a “special focus” program that helps them improve quality.

— Forbid nursing homes from requiring residents and families to agree in advance to arbitration, thereby waiving their rights to go to court over disputes involving care.

 

August 11, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 6, 2021

Penalties for SNF Deficiencies Reinstated After Roll Back

I'm closing out the week with another post regarding SNFs.  This one came from a recent article from The National Consumer Voice on Quality Long Term Care,  which reported on the actions of CMS to roll back the prior administration's loosening of penalties for SNF deficiencies. CMS Reinstitutes Tougher Penalties for Past Nursing Home Deficiencies explains that subsequent to a lawsuit filed by them and others, CMS changed positions on penalties for deficiencies. The article notes that about 15 days ago, CMS rescinded the change in policy, "reinstituting stronger penalties for nursing home violations."  The notice of rescission is available here. The notice to State Survey Directors about the change is available here,  which notes CMS is returning to the position of having discretion to enter per-day penalties.

August 6, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)