Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Penn State Dickinson Law Supports the Search For Equity in Aging


On February 16, 2024, my law school, Penn State Dickinson Law, hosted its monthly session on Race and Equal Protection of the Law (REPL) and this time our focus was on the search for equity in aging. Penn State Dickinson Law Students February 2024

One of the first speakers was Sahar Takshi, whose work at Justice in Aging focuses on implementing the organization's strategic initiatives on advancing equity.   The initiative centers advocacy on issues that directly address systemic inequities faced by:

  • Older adults of color,
  • Older women,
  • LGBTQ+ older adults,
  • Older adults with disabilities, and
  • Older adults who are immigrants or who have limited English proficiency.

Sahar offered definitions of core terms, including cultural competence and cultural humility, implicit bias, and a concept that I'm hearing more and more about, "vicarious trauma." I had thought of this as an emerging concern for health and human services providers, who may be repeatedly exposed to clients' and patients' traumas, with the potential for unacknowledged negative impacts on their ability as "helpers" to cope, or to be able to provide consistent levels of service.  Sahar reminded us that lawyers may be affected in this way,  and perhaps may even be subject to greater self denial.  (P.S. I learned our law school is offering a course on this topic in the Fall of 2024!). 

Justice in Aging also has teamed with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia (CLS) on a funded out-reach initiative to older adults in the Philadelphia region.  Part of the project focused on how the concept of racial justice needs to consider the importance of Medicaid as the largest public payer for long-term services and supports.  One challenge is that receiving Medicaid may hit low income families in disproportionate ways, as the state's "recovery program" may target their only asset -- their home.  Presenter Pam Walz,  a supervising attorney at CLS in the Health and Independence unit, explained the needs for families of color to be able to access sound legal advice in order to avoid unfair Medicaid Estate Recovery impacts.  

One of the rising stars at the REPL program was Olivia Robbins who is a paralegal in the Homeownership and Consumer Rights Unit at CLS in Philadelphia.  Olivia provided a fascinating, detailed history of concerns about "tangled titles" and how there is a huge need for appropriate estate planning support to avoid this phenomenon.  My 1L students were definitely asking for more information on this concern.

New Jersey Elder Law specialist Crystal Edwards, CELA, helped to introduce the day's program for Penn State Dickinson Law, adding her words of support for stronger outreach to clients of color and the importance of attorneys of color for planning services.  Crystal reminds us that "help" for older adults and their families comes from private attorneys too; indeed, Friday's program was a holistic overview of public, private, local and national networks for equity in aging, highlighting  the significance of race, gender, immigration status, and orientation when bias factors include "growing older." 

I provided an example from recent news stories about the intersection of "bias" impacting quality of care for  older people who are also persons of color.  The publication Nature recently published a comprehensive review of how "fingertip oxygen sensors," that are a tool for catching "low" oxygen levels for people in nursing homes and which were especially during the height of the COVID pandemic, can fail to give accurate readings on dark skin. As the article reports, "Studies --some decades old -- have established that the devices . . . can overestimate the amount of oxygen in the blood of people with dark skin which could lead health professionals to delay or decide against treatment."  Penn State Dickinson Law Professor Sarah Gerke commented on the troubling history in the Nature publication.  

Visiting Professor Allison Lintal presented our students with important information to close the REPL session about restrictive housing laws or policies at a state or local level that fail to support co-housing, a potentially vital need for older people who can benefit from companionship and a team approach to financial support or care.   

My deep appreciation to all of the speakers at our program, helping to introduce our first-year law students to the "search for equity in aging." 

February 20, 2024 in Current Affairs, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 5, 2024

Washington Continuing Care (CCRC) Residents Present Specific "Asks" for Consumer Protections to State Officials

On February 5, 2024, residents of "continuing care retirement communities" (CCRCs), also known as "life plan communities" (LPCs), made a formal presentation to officials from several departments of Washington State government, specifying key regulatory priorities when considering "financial solvency" for this segment of the "senior living industries."  I was able to sit in on the meeting, as someone who has worked with Washington residents about their concerns.

CCRCs are a relatively new focus for legislators in the state of Washington, with "registration" of CCRCs becoming an option in 2017.  But examples of concerns offered by residents demonstrated their concern that a clear state system of  regulation is overdue.  The spokespeople for WACCRA, the state organizations of CCRC Residents in Washington, were organized, detailed and offered precedents from other states. They requested legislation that:

  • Provides formal "licensure" by the state
  • Provides key Resident Rights, including Ombuds' support for dispute resolution
  • Requires facilities to participate in periodic financial reviews, including actuarial reports, in order for the State to better ascertain the ongoing ability of the CCRC to meet both short- and long-term commitments
  • Mandates limitations or prohibitions on facilities' use of residents' payments for services not directly related to resident needs
  • Some method by which residents' contracts and entrance fees are prioritized in the event of a bankruptcy
  • CCRCs be required to fulfill promises of "refundable entrance fees," in a timely and fair manner, such as a system of "first out/first repaid"
  • Adopts stronger safeguards for funding of "life time care," perhaps through guarantee or surety bonds
  • Permits residents to participate as voting members of each CCRC's Board of Directors
  • Assures "meaningful and effective enforcement" of CCRC's obligations to residents, including financial solvency

Additional stakeholders in CCRCs and LPCs including LeadingAge Washington and, of course, operators of any of these enterprises.  A series of similar meetings are to take place from February through April of 2024.  The goal is a final State report to the Legislature no later than July 16, 2024.

February 5, 2024 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Organized, Thoughtful, Collaborative Advocacy: The Maturing of Resident Organizations in Senior Living

Coast-to-coast travel can be challenging -- and inspiring.  Both was true for me this last week as a result of spending hours on the road and in airplanes to attend annual meetings as an invited speaker for two resident organizations on opposite sides of the country, one in New Jersey and one in Washington state.  ORANJ was established by residents of Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) in 1991 for the purpose of "supporting, empowering, and bettering the lives of seniors" living in New Jersey.  WACCRA was incorporated in 2015  with a mission of "education, collaboration and advocacy" among residents of CCRCs,  and I had the privilege of watching its early organizational stages from 2012 to 2014.

ORANJ Annual Meeting 2023  with Barbara Trought and Rick OberEach organization has worked diligently to reach residents of Continuing Care Retirement Communities, sometimes called Life Plan Communities, in order to identify concerns that might be shared by their respective communities.  Over the years, the leaders have developed deep knowledge bases and they use media (including websites, blog posts or newsletters, flyers, topic-specific Zoom meetings, and "consumer guides" relevant to future residents) to share their knowledge and to build collaborative in-state networks and to participate with other CCRC resident organizations across the country. 

History has proven that the formats used by most CCRCs involve some form of high-dollar admission fee, plus monthly "service" fees, that generate substantial funds.  These funds are used to develop and operate communities that offer independent living units in a supportive environment, plus key opportunities as needs change for greater assistance and skilled care and/or memory care. There are now multiple formats with different types of CCRC contracts governing the relationships between individual residents and the community. 

Ongoing strength of a community has long been tied to careful management of the funds, especially the admission/entrance fees, which may put the residents in the position of unsecured creditors if serious financial problems arise.  Thus, over the years, residents in several states have sought key consumer protections through legislation.  WACCRA, for example, retains a seasoned, professional lobbyist.  Volunteers at ORANJ, including attorneys who reside in New Jersey CCRCs, lead the way in building relationships with legislators.  

The membership base for New Jersey and Washington is slightly different in approach.  In New Jersey, resident associations at 25 CCRCs are members of ORANJ and had representatives of the associations, plus interested people attending the 2023 annual meeting on October 18, 2023.  In Washington, membership includes individual residents of most of the 23 CCRCs in the state.  Family members of residents can also have memberships, a step which is important for recognizing how CCRC living can impact the family as a whole.  WACCRA's annual meeting took place on October 21 at a CCRC just outside of Seattle and the ballroom was packed, plus there were additional members who attended via a live streaming feed.   

Perhaps most impressive to me was the work underway in each states to present or respond to proposed legislation affecting relationships between the public, residents and the providers of this unique format for senior living.   In Washington, for example, WACCRA is making careful, step-by-step progress on legislation to facilitate transparency about finances, scope of operations, and fundamental consumer protections. This effort will build on key legislation enacted in 2017 whereby CCRCs must register with the state. WACCRA Annual Meeting 2023 with Presidents Laura Saunders (L) and Donna Kristaponis (R)
   

In New Jersey,  there is a bill pending that focuses on the timing of refundable fees and, if passed, would require such refunds within 12 months of a resident's death or departure.  There was important discussion about whether and why ORANJ and LeadingAge New Jersey & Delaware may be aligned in their responses to this proposed legislation.

Both annual meetings included Q and A with panels of members active in the organizations.  While I was asked to speak separately on what I see as key consumer protections for residents of CCRCs and the role of state laws, in both states it was a pleasure for me to point to the the discussions provided by the panel members who are already fully engaged in advocacy for such safeguards.

I was impressed and inspired by the work of both residents and resident organizations, and the professional approaches that are well underway, sometimes with the assistance of experienced lobbyists.  I know similar advocacy is ongoing in several other states. The common goals are clear: residents appreciate their communities and they want to see them thrive, and their experiences demonstrate that better transparency about finances and protections for residents will further the goals.

My special thanks to Barbara Trought, Rick Ober, and Ron Whalin at ORANJ and to WACCRA presidents Laura Saunders (incoming) and Donna Kristaponis (outgoing) for their leadership work, and especially to Donna for her warmth, wine, and laughter as my host at Emerald Heights.    

October 26, 2023 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Programs/CLEs, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, July 30, 2023

NYT's Ethicist: "My Friend is Trapped in a Nursing Home. What Can I Do?"

The New York Times runs a regular column called The Ethicist.  It poses intriguing problems and the most recent one is definitely relevant to families, older individuals (and potentially anyone with a disability) and elder law attorneys.  Because the analysis is behind a paywall for "subscribers only," I am reluctant to say too much here  But I can say that the question of what happens when someone with "reduced" cognitiion becomes entangled in a well-meaning but still demeaning care setting, makes the need for experienced legal assistance exceptionally clear. This particular essay would make a great problem for  a student seminar!  

See My Friend Is Trapped in a Nursing Home:   What Can I Do?  presented by columnist Kwame Anthony Appiah, in the New York Times online edition published July 28, 2023.  

July 30, 2023 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 27, 2023

What Happens When Living Isn't Easy in Senior Living?

 

L to R Katie Dang  Katherine Pearson and A.V. Powell in final preparation for the Pennsylvania Elder Law Institute July 2023More than 300  lawyers and other professionals attended the recent Pennsylvania Elder Law Institute (July 25-26, 2023) held in Harrisburg. It was good to be back among long-time friends as well as new colleagues -- our first time together in "real time" since 2019.  The programming began with a tribute to Jeffrey A Marshall, recently retired as a Williamsport, Pennsylvania attorney, who has been a guiding figure for the development of speciaized knowledge and skills for lawyers committed to helping older persons and their family members with practical concerns about care, financing, capacity, agency and more. 

This year the program once again began with a comprehensive "Year in Review" that focuses on recent and proposed legislation or rulemaking, demographic trends, and case law.  Deep appreciation to Marielle Hazen and Rebecca Hobbs for all of their hard work on this key presentation.  Important "keynote"speakers included David Lipschutz, Associate Director for the Center for Medicare Advocacy and legendary Tennessee Elder Law attorney Timothy Takacs.  

I had the pleasure of teaming with Katie Dang and A.V. Powell for a 90-minute session about "What Happens When Living Isn't Easy in Senior Living?" Central topics included concerns about contract rights and obligations in nursing homes, plus we made a deep dive into factors that can affect financial soundness of continuing care retirement communities (also known as CCRCs or life plan communities). 

Katie reported on successful efforts to avoid a one-sided contract of adhesion and help a family negotiate fair payment terms for a parent's admission to a nursing home.  She demonstrated key language to strike or modify to reduce the potential for unintended consequences of signing such agreements. Katie Dang  Esq speaking on advising clients about nursing home admission agreements for PA Elder Law Institute 2023

We also reported on a recent Ohio appellate case that rejected a nursing home's attempt to argue a family members was contractually obiligated to personally pay for care.

 

A.V. Powell  actuary  speaking on meaures of solvency in CCRCs at Pennsylvania Elder Law Instiute 2023
A.V. brought to the conversation his dry wit and 40+ years of  experience as a professional actuary.  He has analyzed the fiinancial viability of hundreds of CCRCs around the country.  He noted that Pennsylvania is the birthplace of the CCRC concept and he emphasized the significance of current residents who seek accountabiity by making requests to governing boards for timely evaluations of financial conditions.  A.V. also provided us as lawyers with ways to guide clients who are prospective residents in identifying how an enterprise can provide long-range reassurances about sound finances.   Trust is essential for a model that offers, on the one hand, a holistic approach to purpose-buldt housing, great food (and nutrition), activity and, if needed, nursing or dementia care, but, on the other hand  also expects people to pay thousands of upfront dollars in the form of admission fees plus significant monthly maintenance fees.    

Photos used here are by my summer research assistant, the great Noah Yeagley.  Thank you, Noah!  One of the fun aspects of this conference is being able to introduce current students to practitoners and getting to catch up with so many of my former Penn State Dickinson Law students, including Jared Childers, the incoming Chair of the Pennsylvania Bar's Elder Law Section, and who recently became an adjunct professor at Dickinson Law.  Congratuatlions, Jared!  

July 27, 2023 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Updates on Aid-in-Dying Legislation

I noted a couple of developments  concerning medical aid-in-dying laws that I wanted to share.

First, Vermont became the second state to eliminate the reseidency requirement for aid-in-dying.  This change was pursuant to litigation by a plaintiff in Connecticutt. See Vermont Removes Residency Requirement for Medically Assisted Deaths  and   see VT HB 190,  https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2024/H.190. The language of the bill amending the statute is available here.

And on the other side of the issue of the right to assistance-in-dying, a group in California has challenged their law. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health News reported last month that Disability Rights Groups Sue to Overturn California’s Physician-Assisted Death Law. The article notes the platinffs' argument that "that recent changes make it too easy for people with terminal diseases whose deaths aren’t imminent to kill themselves with drugs prescribed by a doctor" and that this law and its process "'steers people with terminal disabilities away from necessary mental health care, medical care, and disability supports, and towards death by suicide under the guise of ‘mercy’ and ‘dignity’ in dying,' the suit argues. The terminal disease required for assistance is, by definition, a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act...."  A story about the litigation is available on NPR here.

May 25, 2023 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Aging Issues in the News

To me, it seems recently there are more articles  in major publications about aging than in the past. For example, yesterday in the Washington Post, there were three: 

‘Granny flats’ play surprising role in easing California’s housing woes

Seniors are flooding homeless shelters that can’t care for them

and 

an opinion esssay, My neighbor lived to be 109. This is what I learned from him.

The "Granny Flats" article notes that this popular name for accesssory dwelling units is someo thing of a misnomer today as the focus of the article is on the popularity of using  ADUs to help with the housing crisis:

The numbers tell the tale: More than 23,000 ADU permits were issued in California last year, compared with fewer than 5,000 in 2017 — which was around when ADU permitting began to take off thanks to legislative and regulatory changes in the state. The state now requires faster permit approval by localities, and establishes that cities must allow ADUs of at least 850 square feet — though many are much bigger. A number of other bills are being debated in Sacramento, including one by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D) that would allow property owners to sell their ADUs separately from their main houses.

The second article, also on housing, is more troubling, noting the number of elders who are unhoused.

Nearly a quarter of a million people 55 or older are estimated by the government to have been homeless in the United States during at least part of 2019, the most recent reliable federal count available. They represent a particularly vulnerable segment of the 70 million Americans born after World War II known as the baby boom generation, the youngest of whom turn 59 this year.

Advocates for homeless people in many big cities say they have seen a spike in the number of elderly homeless, who have unique health and housing needs. Some communities, including Phoenix and Orange County in California, are racing to come up with novel solutions, including establishing senior shelters and hiring specially trained staff.

...

“It’s just a catastrophe. This is the fastest-growing group of people who are homeless,” said Margot Kushel, a professor of medicine and a vulnerable populations researcherat the University of California at San Francisco.

The opinion piece is based on a forthcoming book about the author's 109 year old neighbor.  ("This essay was adapted from “The Book of Charlie: Wisdom from the Remarkable American Life of a 109-Year-Old Man,” by David Von Drehle.")

And these articles are in addition to articles about the debt ceiling negotiations.  Off to read more.

May 23, 2023 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Other, Retirement, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink

Monday, May 22, 2023

Arizona Feature: "Arizona Seniors At Risk of Harm"

Appearing on the front page of the Sunday edition of the Arizona Republic (5.21.23),  the first paragraphs of an extended feature article point to the potential for harm to residents and the consequences of staff shortages or inattention at Arizona facilicities caring for residents with dementia. Two women in their 90s  are residents of an elegantly appointed assisted living facility-- but as the article begins they are covered in blood -- and the investigation of what happened there is hampered by the inability of anyone to give clear explanations. 

The feature, based on the newspaper's review of "thousands of pages of police and state regulatory reports," offers multiple reasons for such injuries in "senior living" facilities, including a lack of clear reporting rules and the absence of investigation by state agencies, especially for facilities licsenced for "assisted living" as opposed to "nursing home" care.  From the  feature:

In memory care units, anything can become a weapon -- toilet plungers, shoehorns, electric razors, TV remotes, metal trash grabbers and walking canes. Hundreds of vulnerable seniors, particularly those with dementia, contend with violence at the end of their lives in the very places that promise to keep them safe. 

 

Shortages of staff-- brought on by companies looking to maximize profits or stave off financial losses -- lead to more harm. Assisted living facilities can keep resident clashes underwraps [in Arizona] because regulartors don't make facilities report incidents to their state licensing agency.  Federally regulated nursing homes have to report but little attention is paid to the problem.

 

The Arizona Republic combed through thousands of pages of policce and state regulatory reports to find more than 200 clashes at senior living facilities from mid-2019 to mid-2022. Residents punched, hit, pushed, kicked, poked scratched, bit, elbowed or spat on other residents or employees.

Experts consulted by the Arizona Republic noted that one "key [to reducing problems] is tailoring a [resident's] care plan to each resident's needs, equipped with activities that bring their lives a sense of purpose."  Further, "[a]ssisted living facilities commonly get in trouble for having inadequate, delayed or out-of-date plans for residents that outline their need or for failing to follow those plans."

The article cautions that if a problem is not tracked, "it doesn't exist":

The Arizona Department of Health Services licenses facilities and is responsible for investigating complaints but assisted living centers don't have to report nonfatal injuries to the agency.  

 

That's not normal.  Most states require facilities to report to their licensing agency when residents get hurt, according to The Republic's review of state laws.

The feature suggests that "Arizona lawmakers and regulators have prioritized the needs of assisted living and nursing home companies over their residents," comparizing Arizona to  "[a]t least 17 states [that] require assisted living facilities to get inspected about once a year, with a few even requiring two inspections per year. " 

For the full Arizona Republic feature published in its print version on May 21, 2023, look for  "Arizona seniors at risk of harm: Facilities experiencing staff shortage, residents with dementia enable violence," by reporters Caitlin McGlade, Melina Walling and Sahana Jayaraman. The extended Sunday feature appears to follow several shorter articles available online in May from the same reporting team. 

May 22, 2023 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 15, 2023

Signficant Article from NY Times

This is one of the most important and comprehensive articles I've read on dementia, consent, elder abuse, and guardianship.  

The Mother Who Changed: A Story of Dementia was published on May 9, 2023.  I plan to assign it to my students.  I hope you read it.

May 15, 2023 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink

Monday, May 8, 2023

Ohio Appellate Court Confirms that Agent Not "Personally Liable" for Costs of Nursing Home Care

In one of the earliest articles I wrote on familiy member liability under nursing home contracts, I cautioned that federal law prohibits nursing homes from requiring "guarantees" of payment by family members.  Any family member who is asked to sign "on behalf" of a loved one should carefully consider the role he or she is undertaking, especially if the only role acceptable  and affordable for that family member is "agent."  See "The Responsible Thing to Do About 'Responsible Party' Provisions in Nursing Home Agreements," published in 2004 in the Unversity of Michigan Journal of Law Reform.   

On May 1, 2023, an appellate court in Ohio cited this article when concluding that in the case before it, the daughter's role as agent acting under a power of attorney prevented her from becoming personally liable for her mother's costs of care.  The daughter appears to have properly cooperated or assisted in the original Medicaid application.  Further, the daughter gave authority to the nursing home to debit the bank account where her mother's SS checks were deposited each month, in order to pay itself the "patient pay portion" of the monthly allocation for costs of care when a patient has low income but is otherwise eligible for Medicaid.  Thus the nursing home appears to have had at least the same ability as the daughter to avoid accumulation of a sum greater than $2,000, a resource limit that can trigger disruption of  Medicaid benefits.  There was still another party that could be faulted for what appears to have been an unplanned "excess resource" situation.  The court pointed to the failure of the state agency to give effective notice to interested parties about when and why it was terminaating Medicaid.   See National Church Residences First Community Village v. Kessler, 2023 WL 3162188  (Ohio Ct. App. 2023).  

Bottom line?  Family members or others attempting to help an incapacitated person get proper care are well-advised to consult with an experienced elder law attorney early in the process about how to qualify and protect eligability for Medicaid.  Further, clear, direct communications between the agent, the facility and state agencies are important when seeking to facilitate prompt, proper payments.  

Overwhelmed family members should not be scapegoats, even (especially?) when overwhelmed state agencies and facility billing offices are themselves missing opportunities to keep benefit payments flowing properly.  

May 8, 2023 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 10, 2023

Undocumented Workers in the Caregiving World

Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez has been writing recently on the financial costs of long-term care, whether in the home or a "senior living" setting.  It is part of his series of  "Golden State" columns on California's aging population.   Today, however, he has reversed the lens, and talks about the impact of the need for care on low-wage workers.  He writes: 

I’ve been in homes where the caregivers are U.S. citizens with decent wages and benefits, and I’ve been in homes where the workers are undocumented and paid less than the minimum wage  ($16.04  an hour in the city of Los Angeles)  in cash. It’s a wink-and-nod system, much like farm labor, in which cheap labor is prized over any other consideration.

 

“It’s very much a legacy of slavery and a history in this country of not valuing the work done by … people of color,” said attorney Yvonne Medrano, who heads the employee rights program at Bet Tzedek Legal Services.

 

Several weeks ago I reached out to the the Pilipino Workers Center, a Los Angeles nonprofit that has been educating domestic workers on their rights and leading a fight against a system in which labor laws are often ignored and workers — many of them old enough to be receiving elder care themselves — are cheated and exploited.

Aquilina Soriano Versoza, the center’s director, said research indicates a majority of clients appreciate the care they get and would be willing to pay more for it, but many can’t afford to.

For  a more complete picture, read They Take Care of Aging Adults, Live in Cramped Quarters, and Make Less than MInimum Wage from the Los Angeles Times.

April 10, 2023 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 27, 2023

Did You Miss These Two Items?

A dear friend of mine sent me this short video on how to make a SNF resident's room more easily identifiable to them: https://www.tiktok.com/@designsecretsss/video/7184175944666516779

Also, the latest edition of the Journal of Elder Policy has been published and is available here. The Journal is "an interdiscplinary journal about old age and policy", and prior issues can be accessed through the landing page.

February 27, 2023 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Medicare and Social Security Projections-Not Unexpected?

The news from the Congressional Budget Office underscores the reality that the SSA and Medicare Trustees have been pointing out for a while now.  According to an article yesterday in The Hill, CBO warns of sharp uptick in Social Security, Medicare spending,

Federal spending on Social Security and Medicare is projected to rise dramatically over the next decade, far outpacing revenues and the economy on the whole while putting new pressure on Congress to address accelerated threats of insolvency, according to new estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 

The increase is driven by a variety of factors, including Social Security’s new cost-of-living adjustment, the rising cost of medical services under Medicare and greater participation rates in both programs, as the last of the baby boomers become eligible for retirement benefits. 

Further, in Social Security set to run short of funds one year earlier than expected the director of the CBO explains

Social Security funds are set to start running a shortfall in 2032, one year earlier than previously expected, the director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said on Tuesday.

“The Social Security solvency date — the exhaustion date for the trust fund — is now within the budget window,” CBO Director Phillip Swagel said, referring to the 10-year period covered by the agency’s annual report.

If the Social Security funds become insolvent and there is no change to current laws, beneficiaries would see a more than 20 percent reduction in their benefits, Swagel added. 

This is the CBO’s second update to the Social Security insolvency date in the last two months, after it adjusted its projection down to 2033 in mid-December.

And finally, in Axios today, Medicare politics are on a crash course with reality

By the numbers: Medicare spending is expected to more than double by 2033 — climbing to $1.6 trillion, or over 4% of the entire U.S. economy, according to an estimate released yesterday by the Congressional Budget Office.

[T]he program's trustees have said the fund that pays for Medicare's hospital coverage will soon reach a dangerous tipping point — paying out more than it takes in. On that trajectory, it eventually wouldn't be able to pay for the coverage it's supposed to provide.

Want to read the full CBO report? It's here.  

Misquoting Bette Davis, "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy ride."

February 16, 2023 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Limited Nursing Home Beds Also Impacting Hospital Availability

On December 7, NPR had a short segment during Morning Edition describing the impact of lack of staffing -- and therefore lack of "beds" --  in nursing homes and rehabilitation care facilities, which in turn means hospitals are stuck keeping the patients. Further, Medicaid often won't pay for hospital care for individuals who "only" need nursing home care. 

Listen to the 3-minute segment that uses hospitals in Vermont as the focus:  Limited Nursing Home Beds Force Hospitals to Keep Patients Longer.

The story hints at several subtle issues, including Medicaid funding priorities, especially as Medicaid involves joint federal/state funding, and how health care handles "inability to pay" by residents.   This last semester I've taught a stand alone course on Nonprofit Organizations Law and students are often surprised to learn that the single largest -- and highest income -- segment of the nonprofit world is health care, especially hospital-based health care.   Students ask how a "charity" accounts for earnings and losses -- and we discuss the fact that no organization, nonprofit or for profit, can afford to operate very long without adequate revenues to stay solvent.    The NPR story reflects a theme that my course often raises -- what does it mean to be "charitable"?  

December 7, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 27, 2022

USA's Fastest-Growing Demographic Group? Consider the Implications of People Age 50+ Who Live Alone

The New York Times Sunday edition includes a feature article about a trend, "more older Americans living by themselves than ever before."  

Using graphs, interviews and research results, the article makes a clear argument, that "'while many people in their 50s and 60s thrive living solo, research is unequivocal that people aging alone experience worse physical and mental health outcomes and shorter life spans." 

Plus, the article implies that evidence that shows a growing share of older adults (age 55 plus) do not have children, means there is a public policy concern "about how elder care will be managed in the coming decades." 

For me, this article crystalizes two legal concepts I write about frequently:  "filial support" laws that can be used to compel adult children to care for or maintain their elders, and "continuing care retirement communities," that permit people with sufficient -- make that significantly sufficient -- financial resources to plan for how their care needs may be handled in a planned community.  

Law professors can probably use the article to stimulate waves of student projects about personal and collective responsibilities in American societies and beyond.  

For more, see  "As Gen X and Boomers Age, They Confront Living Alone," by Dana Goldstein and Robert Gebeloff. 

 

November 27, 2022 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Justice Department Expands Strike Force to Protect Older Americans from Fraud

The U.S. Justice Department issued a press release yesterday, announcing the expansion of its Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force.  The Strike Force was organized in 2019, involving the Justice Department's Consumer Protection Bureau,  U.S. Attorneys Offices, the FBI, Homeland Security, and -- I was interested to see -- the United States Postal Inspection Service

I've actually worked with the Postal Inspector on an elder fraud case.   A woman in her 90s was mailing an unusually fat envelope and asked a friend to give her a ride to a local branch of the post office.  The friend, knowing the woman was quite frail when walking unassisted, offered to get the postage, or to accompany her, but the older woman, who the friend thought seemed unsure of herself, declined.  The friend thought about this, was alerted by what struck her as unusual behavior, and called the woman's daughter and explained what had just  happened. 

The daughter had dismissed a home caregiver recently after learning the caregiver was asking her mother for -- and receiving --  two  or more "pay checks" per week, as well as asking for additional cash that seemed to disappear in mysterious ways.  The daughter went to the post office with a copy of a certified Power of Attorney, granted to her by her mother several years before she was diagnosed with multiple conditions, including cognitive issues, following a stroke.  In fact the reason the caregiver had been hired was precisely because the mother was vulnerable and sometimes confused. 

The Post Office at first seemed to be reluctant to take action, but the daughter was able to describe the envelope and also to provide the name of the former employee who had already been fully paid for his work, and had signed a receipt to that effect. The Post Office's worker agreed to search, but when the daughter departed, it seemed unlikely any action would be taken.  That is, it seemed unlikely until the next day, when a representative of the Postal Inspector set up an appointment.  Having identified and been given the daughter/agent's permission to open the envelope, the federal authorities found several hundred dollars in the envelope that was, indeed, addressed to the former worker.  The officers interviewed the mother and then went to see the suspect, who claimed it was merely an additional paycheck that was "owed."  He  claimed the mother was fully supportive of giving him cash, but he was unable to explain the receipt he'd signed, the burner phones he had used to call the woman, nor the many "payments" he'd received in the last 60 days, payments that the daughter had since documented as more than tripling his agreed wage rate during that period. 

I'm the daughter; my 90+ mother was the person defrauded.  (She has since passed away, so I feel more able to tell this story.)  I learned the Postal Service already understood such a fact pattern very well.  Even at that time, several years ago, the official investigating the facts told us that similar transactions happened all too often.  It is good to see, with this latest press release, that the U.S. Justice Department is coordinating authorities on enhanced fraud prevention and recovery efforts in support of elder justice.  

My thanks to Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Amy Gaudion at Penn State Dickinson Law, who shared the Justice Department notice with me, and whose own research focuses on national security and privacy issues.  

October 5, 2022 in Consumer Information, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

MA Plans May Not Cover All Medicare-Allowed Days for SNF Stay?

Kaiser Health News just released this story, Nursing Home Surprise: Advantage Plans May Shorten Stays to Less Time Than Medicare Covers.

Health care providers, nursing home representatives, and advocates for residents say Medicare Advantage plans are increasingly ending members’ coverage for nursing home and rehabilitation services before patients are healthy enough to go home.

Half of the nearly 65 million people with Medicare are enrolled in the private health plans called Medicare Advantage, an alternative to the traditional government program. The plans must cover — at a minimum — the same benefits as traditional Medicare, including up to 100 days of skilled nursing home care every year.

But the private plans have leeway when deciding how much nursing home care a patient needs.

One expert interviewed for the story  noted that "[a]s Medicare Advantage enrollment has spiked in recent years, ... disagreements between insurers and nursing home medical teams have increased. In addition, [the expert] said, insurers have hired companies, such as Tennessee-based naviHealth, that use data about other patients to help predict how much care an individual needs in a skilled nursing facility based on her health condition. Those calculations can conflict with what medical teams recommend...."

This is an important issue. Read this story.

October 4, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink

Friday, September 23, 2022

Another Article on the Impact of Family Caregiving

On several occassions we've pointed out issues surrounding the need for caregiving and families stepping up to fill the role.  Add this article from the New York Times to the library of articles on the topic. The Quiet Cost of Family Caregiving focuses on the impact on the individuals providing care, especially if they are working. For example, "Caregivers who are employed often reduce their work hours or leave the workplace altogether, research has shown. Several recent studies, however, reveal the impact of these decisions in more detail, not only on working caregivers but on employers and the general economy." The article looks at the data on those who reduce hours or leave the workforce and the gender differences on those leaving the work force.  This is an important article-read it!

September 23, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Some Critical Access Hospitals Overpaid by Medicare?

And another report from the HHS Office of Inspector General,  Medicare Part B Overpaid and Beneficiaries Incurred Cost-Share Overcharges of Over $1 Million for the Same Professional Services.  Here is their findings:

Not all Medicare Part B payments made to CAHs for professional services and payments made to health care practitioners complied with Federal requirements. For the 40,026 claims we audited, CAHs and health care practitioners each submitted an equal number of claims. However, for each date of service, only one of the claims complied with Federal requirements. As a result, Medicare administrative contractors (MACs) paid providers $907,438 more than they should have been paid, and beneficiaries were held responsible for $281,321 more than they should have been.

These overpayments occurred because CMS did not have claim system edits to prevent and detect duplicate professional services claims for the same date of service, beneficiary, and procedure.

The full report with comments and recommendations is available here.

September 22, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Certain SNF non-compliance on infection control and more?

The Office of the Inspector General for HHS has released a report,  Certain Life Care Nursing Homes May Not Have Complied With Federal Requirements for Infection Prevention and Control and Emergency Preparedness.

Here is a summary of their findings

Selected Life Care nursing homes may not have complied with Federal requirements for infection prevention and control and emergency preparedness. Specifically, 23 of the 24 nursing homes selected had possible deficiencies. Actual deficiencies can only be determined following a thorough investigation by trained surveyors. At 22 nursing homes, we found 35 instances of possible noncompliance with infection prevention and control requirements related to annual reviews of the Infection Prevention and Control Program, training, designation of a qualified infection preventionist, and Quality Assessment and Assurance Committee meetings. We also found at 16 nursing homes 20 instances of possible noncompliance with emergency preparedness requirements related to the annual review of emergency preparedness plans and annual emergency preparedness risk assessments. Life Care officials attributed the possible noncompliance to: (1) leadership turnover, (2) staff turnover, (3) documentation issues (i.e., information was not documented or documentation was either lost or misplaced), (4) staff members who were unfamiliar with requirements (i.e., requirements stipulating that there is no grace period for infection preventionists to complete specialized training and that emergency preparedness plans needed to be reviewed annually), (5) qualified personnel shortage, and (6) challenges related to the COVID-19 public health emergency. We also believe that many of the conditions noted in our report occurred because CMS did not provide nursing homes with communication and training related to complying with the new, phase 3 infection control requirements, or clarification about the essential components to be integrated in the nursing homes’ emergency plans. 

The full report with recommendations is available here.

September 22, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)