Thursday, September 8, 2022

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and CMS Jointly Caution Nursing Homes and Their Debt Collectors on Their Practices

Today, my Conflict of Laws class and I watched a live-streamed hearing involving "choice of law": "state" (about contracts) versus "federal law" (prohibiting practices affecting contracts)  The context is a bit dramatic and definitely overdue for action. Dickinson Law Class Observes Federal Hearing on Propriety of Nursing Home Debt Collection Practices

On the same day as the public hearing, which was hosted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for panelists to identify concerns about certain debt collection practices used by nursing homes against the family members and others, CFPB and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a "notification letter."  The letter, dated September 8, 2022 and addressed to "Nursing Facilities and Debt Collectors," details improper practices under federal law, such as asking "third parties" to sign documents that, in effect, serve as  personal guarantees of payment of nursing homes.  Without those guarantees, the nursing home may deny admission or continued care.  However, the third parties are often family members or even mere "friends," who may be trying to help get care, but who have little knowledge of the resident's personal finances or eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid, and who may not understand the risks of "agreeing" to sign the contracts.  

I began writing about this problem years ago in a series of articles.  In "The Responsible Thing to Do About Responsible Party Provisions in Nursing Home Agreements," I focused on misleading attempts to have someone agree to be a "responsible party" for purposes of the resident being admitted, without the signer's full understanding that the signature may be construed by state courts as a promise to pay if the resident cannot pay personally or does not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid payments.  See also "Traps for the Unwary in Nursing Home Agreements."

Recent studies conducted under the auspices of Kaiser Family Foundation (at KHN) provide additional examples of the hardships on families and friends. Unfortunately, the problems with attempts to hold third-parties liable for costs of nursing home care have become more intense with Covid-19 crises affecting long-term care.  Indeed, one of the pandemic-influenced contracting practices that adds to the problem is use of "on-line signing processes" for these contracts.  As family members were often not even present during the admission's process, nursing homes are increasingly turning to e-signatures. The swift moving electronic process for initials and virtual signatures all too easily flies by without any true reading, much less understanding, of the documents and with close to zero likelihood the signers will be able to ask questions (such as "Do I have to sign this?" or "What happens if I don't sign this?") and gain accurate answers.  Nursing homes deserve to be paid for their care -- but the right way to do this is to involve people who can help the families apply for benefits under Medicare or Medicaid, and who won't insist on private pay if the resident's resources are too low to support such pay.   

In my experience, thoughtfully-managed, well-run nursing homes definitely exist.  They get sound business and legal advice and know that is more cost effective to help families through the process than sue them when the documents are not understood.  Experienced elder law attorneys, including specialists in Legal Services offices, can help too.  But while reading the KHN report linked above, too often I was seeing "default judgments" involved here -- and in those instances, that usually means a lack of informed agreement on the part of signers or that the admission processes are otherwise not working properly.   

September 8, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Planning for Your Special Needs Child and Retirement

The New York Times ran this article last week. Planning for Your Retirement, and for a Child’s Special Needs, All at Onceexplains "[f]or parents of children who have serious disabilities or special needs, the challenges of growing and preserving their wealth are magnified exponentially, and the stakes are much higher. While they are trying to plan for their own retirements, these parents need to simultaneously secure the ‌ stability of a son or daughter who will be dependent on them‌ until — and even  after — their deaths." The article does a good job of framing and discussing the issues and options and provides good examples.

September 1, 2022 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Upcoming in November before USSC: Do Residents have Private Rights of Action for Violations of Federal Nursing Home Reform Act?

For those teaching Elder Law, Health Law, and Disability Law Courses this semester, there is a unique opportunity for students to hear relevant oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court.  One of the important federal laws that arguably changed -- for the better -- the standards for care in nursing homes was the Federal Nursing Home Reform Amendment of 1987 (FNHRA, adopted as part of OBRA '87).  But a long-festering central issue for the provisions known as the "Residents' Bill of Rights" is whether the law provides residents a privately enforceable right of action for alleged violations of the standards.  On November 8, 2022, the United States Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument on two key concerns:

  1. Whether in light of historical cases to the contrary, the Court should reexamine its holding that Spending Clause-related legislation confers a implied right to privately enforceable rights under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983; and
  2. Whether, assuming Spending Clause statutes ever give rise to enforceable private rights under Section 1983, there are private rights of action for alleged violations of the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act's transfer and medication rules.

The case in question is Health & Hospital Corp. v. Talevski, originally filed in the United States District Court (Northern District) of Indiana.  Mr. Talevski, who has dementia, through his wife, alleges that while living in a nursing facility, he was prescribed powerful medications despite his family's objections, which functioned as prohibited "chemical restraints imposed for purposes of discipline or convenience rather than treatment." Further, he alleges he was improperly transferred over their objections away from the local care facility to a different, more distant facility.  Federal spending laws are at issue because the state's long-term care facilities are eligible for federal dollars and the state receives federal funding, including Medicaid funding, for such nursing care.  In this case, the District Court held that there was no private right of action. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reversed, at 6 F.4th 713 on July 27, 2021, finding that in the Act, "Congress spoke of resident rights, not merely steps the facilities were required to take.  This shows an intent to benefit nursing home residents directly." (emphasis in the original).  In reaching this decision, the 7th Circuit joined rulings by the 9th (2019) and 3rd (2009) Circuits directly confirming private rights of action under FNHRA. 

The Petitioner Nursing Facility seems to be playing to the newest justices on the Court, arguing that a long line of Spending Clause cases willing to recognize a cause of action under Section 1983, including Blessing  v. Freestone, 520 U.S. 329 (1997), are incorrectly decided or too generous in their willingness to recognize or infer fact-specific, private rights of action.  The Petitioner's argument is supported by an amicus brief, including one submitted on behalf of twenty-two states, resisting the financial implications of accountability asserted by individual patients.   The United States has submitted an amicus brief that expresses general support for individual actions, but argues against such a cause of action for nursing home residents. 

But, as one legal studies student observed in 2013 about what happens when minimum standards are not adequately enforced by authorities: 

Even though conditions in nursing homes have improved since the passing of the Federal Nursing Home Reform Amendment of 1987, the existence of substandard care in nursing homes, which Congress attempted to correct with the statute, still exists today. . . . [A case such as Grammer v. John J. Kane Reg'l Ctrs-Glen Hazel, 570 F.3d 520 (3d Cir. 2009) recognizing the right of residents to bring private actions under 1983] does open the door for state-run nursing homes to be held accountable for abuse and substandard care. . . . Considering that most of us at some point in our future will live the nursing-home experience first-hand, we should keep this topic on our radar.

Susan J. Kennedy, "Conflict in the Courts: The Federal Nursing Home Reform Amendment and Section 1983 Causes of Action,"  3 Law Journal for Social Justice 195, 209 (2013).  Some ten years later, the resident's case before the Supreme Court appears to have strong amici support, with amici briefs due in mid-September, arguing that without residents' ability to enforce their legal rights, "they will lose a powerful weapon for their protection.  This puts them at risk of harm and even death, as abuse, neglect and poor care are rampant in many facilities." Id. 

August 14, 2022 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 29, 2022

CMS Actions to Improve SNF Resident Quality of Life and Care

Last month, CMS issued an advisory that it had "Issue[d] Significant Updates to Improve the Safety and Quality Care for Long-Term Care Residents and Call[ed] for Reducing Room Crowding."

[CMS] issued updates to guidance on minimum health and safety standards that Long-Term Care (LTC) facilities ... must meet to participate in Medicare and Medicaid. CMS also updated and developed new guidance in the State Operations Manual (SOM) to address issues that significantly affect residents of LTC facilities. The surveyors who use these resources to perform both routine and complaint-based inspections of nursing homes are responsible for determining whether facilities are complying with CMS’ requirements.

A fact sheet on the updated guidance, also released last month, is available here.

July 29, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Tampa Bay Area SNF Closes After Medicare Loss

My local paper, the Tampa Bay Times, reported a story, A Florida nursing home lost its Medicare benefits. Residents lost a home. The article covers the impact on residents being forced to locate, the corporate structure of the SNF, and various issues regarding resident care.  The article notes that "[the nursing home ...  became the latest in Florida formerly affiliated with Consulate Health Care to lose its federal benefits since May because of poor patient care. The federal government considers termination of Medicare and Medicaid a “last resort,” implemented only after “all other attempts” fail to resolve health and safety deficiencies."  The full article is available here.

July 27, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Will Medicaid Tie Quality Care to the Funds?

According to an article in Kaiser Health News about a month ago, Medicaid Weighs Attaching Strings to Nursing Home Payments to Improve Patient Care.

The Biden administration is considering a requirement that the nation’s 15,500 nursing homes spend most of their payments from Medicaid on direct care for residents and limit the amount that is used for operations, maintenance, and capital improvements or diverted to profits.

If adopted, it would be the first time the federal government insists that nursing homes devote the majority of Medicaid dollars to caring for residents.

The strategy, which has not yet been formally proposed, is among several steps officials are considering after the covid-19 pandemic hit vulnerable nursing home residents especially hard. During the first 12 months of the pandemic, at least 34% of the people killed by the virus lived in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities even though residents of those facilities make up fewer than 1% of the U.S. population.

CMS has asked for public comment. The article discusses the position of supporters and opponents of the proposal.

July 10, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Podcast on Quality SNF Care

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care has a podcast on Pursing Quality Long-Term Care. Here is a short description of the podcast: "Long-term care is or will be a fact of life for many of us and our loved ones as we age. We all deserve care – whether in the home or in a long-term care facility – that meets the highest of standards, enhancing quality of life and ensuring the protection of rights."  You need iTunes to listen. This is one in a series of topical podcasts, which you can access here.

 

July 6, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 2, 2022

ACL New Fact Sheet When Public Health Emergency Expires

The Administration for Community Living has released a new fact sheet on what will happen to elders and Medicaid when the public health emergency expires. This fact sheet includes 5 things 

  1. Medicaid beneficiaries should make sure their Medicaid agency has their current contact information. They should check their mail and be sure to mail back any Medicaid forms they receive.
  2. All renewal forms and notices must be accessible to people with limited English proficiency and people with disabilities.
  3. Many people who are no longer eligible for Medicaid will have other coverage options.
  4. If someone is disenrolled or their Medicaid coverage changes and they disagree with their state Medicaid agency’s decision, they can appeal.
  5. The end of the Public Health Emergency may lead to an increase in utilization of services provided by Older Americans Act programs, Centers for Independent Living, Assistive Technology Act programs, and other ACL grantees.

The fact sheet contains useful explanations and is available for download.

May 2, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 29, 2022

Filial Friday: Virginia Governor Blocks Attempt to Repeal Virginia Filial Support Law

As is true with several U.S. states, Virginia has a filial support statute that can obligate adult children to support their parents.  The key language of VA Code Ann. Section 20-88 provides:

It shall be the joint and several duty of all persons eighteen years of age or over, of sufficient earning capacity or income, after reasonably providing for his or her own immediate family, to assist in providing for the support and maintenance of his or her mother or father, he or she being then and there in necessitous circumstances. 

 

If there be more than one person bound to support the same parent or parents, the persons so bound to support shall jointly and severally share equitably in the discharge of such duty. . . .

 

This section shall not apply if there is substantial evidence of desertion, neglect, abuse or willful failure to support any such child by the father or mother, as the case may be, prior to the child's emancipation or, except as provided hereafter in this section, if a parent is otherwise eligible for and is receiving public assistance or services under a federal or state program. . . . 

There are few modern cases applying this law. In Peyton v. Peyton, an "unreported" Virginia chancery court decision from 40 years ago, the court applies the law to obligate one brother to reimburse another brother $8,000, representing half of the past out-of-pocket expenses for their mother's care in a nursing home. A careful reading of the Peyton case reveals one of the challenges of applying filial support laws when used to collect "back" expenses; here the second son was willing to pay a portion of their mother's monthly costs going forward but he was not successful in arguing a statute of limitations should apply to prevent liability for multiple years of back claims. 

As with other American states that have had forms of filial support laws, Virginia's law was enacted as an alternative to public welfare laws because the common law generally found no legal duty for adult children to support indigent parents.  But, in Virginia, again as in most American states, the filial support laws are largely dormant, misunderstood or ignored, especially after Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid laws were enacted on a federal level beginning in the 1960s.  

Virginia's  statute was amended decades ago to restrict use of the law by the state to seek reimbursement for its costs in providing public services (such as "medical assistance" a/k/a Medicaid).  However, unlike the filial laws of most states, Virginia's law permits criminal prosecution as a misdemeanor for "any person violating the provisions of an order" of support under this statute, with a fine not exceeding $500 or imprisonment in jail for up to 12 months.  I find no reported cases of criminal enforcement actions.

Recognizing that other states (including neighboring Maryland in 2017) had recently taken formal action to repeal filial support laws as outdated or impractical, Virginia Senator Adam Ebbin introduced 2022 Senate Bill 389 to repeal Virginia's law. Senator Ebbin's bill passed with no dissenting votes in the Virginia Senate.  The final vote in the Virginia House, on March 11, 2022, supported repeal with 81 voting in favor, and only 16 members voting in opposition to repeal. In other words, repeal was not a controversial measure; rather it appeared to be part of an attempt to clean-up hoary laws, and it attracted strong bipartisan support.

Nonetheless, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin (sworn into office in January 2022) vetoed the repeal on April 11, 2022.  His reasoning for preserving filial support laws is unique, at least in my 20-some years of experience researching filial support laws (see e.g., Filial Support Laws in the Modern Era: Domestic and International and International Comparison of Enforcement Practices for Laws Requiring Adult Children to Support Indigent Parents, 20 Elder Law Journal 269 (2013)).  

The governor's veto statement explains:

"Primarily, the Commonwealth's filial responsibility law supports those who care for their elderly parents.  In establishing a bankruptcy budget, the court allows for necessary and reasonable expenditures and the repeal of Section 20-88 could prevent an individual from covering these expenses within the budget of their debtor.  For those undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, there is a grave risk of unforeseeable and unintended consequences, which may harm people going through some of the most difficult times in their lives."

On the one hand, in today's torn asunder political scene, no one should be surprised that a newly elected governor of one party would be vetoing legislation sponsored by a member of the other party -- and that is true here, with a Republican governor vetoing a bill proposed by a Democrat.  

But what about the proffered reason for the veto?  Virginia's law does not "primarily" support those who care for their elderly parents.  Rather, it creates an obligation for adult children. Is there any precedent for a theory that Virginia's filial support law permits some type of sheltering of assets for a debtor in bankruptcy court, to provide a means of financial support for the (also) destitute parent?  Certainly I find no modern cases on Lexis or Westlaw suggesting such use or even a need for such use.  

There is a reported case from 1938 in Virginia.  In Mitchell-Powers Hardware Co. v. Eaton, 198 S.E. 496 (Supreme Court of Appeals, VA 1938), the court addressed a question of whether a transfer of valuable stock by a debtor to his sister was voidable as an invalid gift.  Was this an invalid attempt to defeat a legitimate creditor's lien against the asset? The court recognized that under Virginia's predecessor version of Statute 20-88, the debtor "could" have an obligation to assist his sister in the care of their elderly mother. The appellate court remanded the case for a jury determination of whether the mother was actually destitute and in need of the son's financial support. (The sister had further transferred the stock in question onward to the debtor's son).  This hardly seems a persuasive case for characterizing filial support laws as necessary "support for those who care for their elderly parents."

April 29, 2022 in Crimes, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Important Report on Nursing Homes from the National Academies

I've been a bit behind on posting and although this report was released 8 days ago, I wanted to be sure readers were aware of it. The National Imperative to Improve Nursing Home Quality: Honoring Our Commitment to Residents, Families, and Staff was released by the National Academies on Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Here is the description

Nursing homes play a unique dual role in the long-term care continuum, serving as a place where people receive needed health care and a place they call home. Ineffective responses to the complex challenges of nursing home care have resulted in a system that often fails to ensure the well-being and safety of nursing home residents. The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nursing home residents and staff has renewed attention to the long-standing weaknesses that impede the provision of high-quality nursing home care.

With support from a coalition of sponsors, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine formed the Committee on the Quality of Care in Nursing Homes to examine how the United States delivers, finances, regulates, and measures the quality of nursing home care. The National Imperative to Improve Nursing Home Quality: Honoring Our Commitment to Residents, Families, and Staff identifies seven broad goals and supporting recommendations which provide the overarching framework for a comprehensive approach to improving the quality of care in nursing homes.

You can download the report as pdf or read it online for no charge. You can buy a hard copy from this link.

Thanks to Morris Klein for alerting me to the release of this report.

April 14, 2022 in Books, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Bill Introduced to Repeal Medicaid Estate Recovery

A bill, Stop Unfair Medicaid Recoveries Act, has been introduced in Congress to repeal Medicaid Estate Recovery and to limit liens.  The bill, HR 6698 addresses the elimination of estate recovery this way:

“(6) Notwithstanding any preceding provision of this subsection, no adjustment or recovery of any medical assistance correctly paid on behalf of an individual under the State plan may be initiated, maintained, or collected on or after the date of the enactment of this paragraph. Not later than 90 days after such date, a State shall withdraw any lien in effect as of such date with respect to such medical assistance correctly paid.”

The full text is available here.  Information about the bill, including the sponsor and co-sponsors, is available here. Thanks to attorney Jim Schuster for alerting us to this legislation.

April 3, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, March 31, 2022

The Fading Possibility of Aging At Home

We have blogged several times in the past about the desire of folks to age in place, and separately, the declining availability of home care workers.  Those two issues have now merged in a recent guest essay in the New York Times,  Many of Us Want to Age at Home. But That Option Is Fading Fast. "By 2040, the population of American adults aged 65 and older will nearly double, and that of adults aged 85 and older is expected to quadruple over the same period. As our aging population grows, the need for home care is increasing. Yet in New York, as in much of the rest of the country, there are too few workers."  The article looks at various reasons for the lack of home care workers, various reports on the issue, and proposed legislative solutions.  The essay concludes with this reminder: "[w]hether we are growing older, recovering from surgery or living with a disability and need help with things like making meals, transportation to and from appointments and running errands, most Americans will need home care at some point. Let’s make sure when the time comes, the work force is ready."

Thanks to my friend and colleague, Professor Mark Bauer, for sending me the link to this essay.

March 31, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 21, 2022

No More Emergency, No More Medicaid?

Elder Law Attorney and frequent blog reader Morris Klein (thank you Morris) sent me the link to a recent article in the Washington Post, Millions of vulnerable Americans likely to fall off Medicaid once the federal public health emergency ends.

As many as 16 million low-income Americans, including millions of children, are destined to fall off Medicaid when the nation’s public health emergency ends, as states face a herculean mission to sort out who no longer belongs on rolls that have swollen to record levels during the pandemic.

The looming disruptionis a little-noticed side effect of the coronavirus crisis, and it is stoking fears among some on Medicaid and their advocates that vulnerable people who survived the pandemic will risk suddenly living without health coverage. For the Biden administration — which will make the decision on when to lift the health emergency — there is the potential political stain of presiding over a surge of poor, newly uninsured Americans, depending on how things go once states resume checking which Medicaid beneficiaries still qualify.

The full article is available here.

March 21, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 25, 2022

Adapting Family Law to Recognize Importance Of Older Members and Significance of Aging

Naomi Cahn of University of Virginia School of Law Law joins Clare Huntington, of Fordham Law  and Elizabeth Scott, Emerita Professor at Columbia Law, to propose needed changes in family law to reflect the impact of aging.  In their forthcoming article for Yale Law Journal (Vol. 132) titled Family Law for the One-Hundred Year Life, they contend family law must address the interests and needs of families across the life span, and not just those of younger people.  They point to three areas for focus: the dignity and autonomy interests of older persons, structural inequalities, and the need for legal mechanisms that are efficient and accessible.  An example of their calls for legal reform is the discussion of intrafamily personal care contracts:

The response of regulators and courts to intrafamily personal care contracts illustrates well the law’s failure to support family care, especially for low-income families. In arranging in-home care, older adults sometimes contract with service providers, but they also contract with family members. A care contract is especially helpful when an older adult wants to receive these services from a family member but the family member cannot provide care without compensation. But these agreements run into problems. If the older adult is trying to qualify for Medicaid, many states scrutinize the contracts to ensure they are not simply a means for transferring assets from the older adult to the younger relative, helping the older adult satisfy Medicaid’s means-tested eligibility requirements. Partly based on the assumption that familial care is provided altruistically, state regulators regularly find that the agreements are, indeed, fraudulent transfers. This is an example of class-based discrimination: intrafamilial contracts for care are not scrutinized by public authorities unless the care recipient seeks to qualify for public support through Medicaid.

Equally interesting is their discussion of "opt-in or opt-out" concepts for the definition of family.  All-in-all, this article looks to the future of judicial, regulatory and legislative legal systems, while also offering ways to challenge our students in the classroom now.  

 

February 25, 2022 in Current Affairs, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Has the Pandemic Made You Less Active? If So, You Are Not Alone.

The New York Times a couple of weeks ago ran an article noting that during the pandemic, many elders were less active than before. The Pandemic Has Made Many Seniors Less Active explains that some who work remotely or just cut back on outings found they experienced physical decline.  Those who had COVID in varying degrees experienced even greater physical decline..

Nearly half of those 65 and older who had contracted Covid reported less ability to engage in physical activity like walking and exercising than before the pandemic — but so did about one-quarter of those who did not become infected. Smaller proportions of those uninfected said their ability to move around the house, and to do housework like dishwashing and dusting, had also declined.

Although some of that decline might reflect normal aging, the study measured changes over only a nine-month period. In people who did not develop Covid, “the most plausible reason for the decline is public health restrictions during the pandemic....” 

But even those who did not contract COVID still suffered some physical decline. One study  "found that almost 40 percent of those over 65 reported both reduced physical activity and less daily time spent on their feet since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. In this representative national sample, those factors were associated with worsened physical conditioning and mobility."

Although I don't think we need this reminder, the article offers it to us: "Physical function is key to living independently — the future that a great majority of older people envision for themselves. A loss of mobility and function across a considerable proportion of the senior population could mean increasing disability, a greater need for eventual long-term care, and higher Medicare and Medicaid costs.'"

Now-get up and take a walk!

February 17, 2022 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Other | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 14, 2022

Roundup of Articles Part 2

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

SNF Staffing Standards-New Report

Yesterday I blogged about California's consideration of tying Medicaid funding for SNFs to certain quality of care benchmarks. Today I wanted to let you know about a new report released by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. State Nursing Home Staffing Standards SUMMARY REPORT opens noting that

"Chronic understaffing has been a serious problem in nursing homes for decades and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. While there are numerous factors contributing to this problem, one major cause is the lack of adequate minimum staffing standards at both the state and federal levels. Minimum standards ensure that staffing will not fall to a level that would be harmful to residents. Local, state, and national advocates have pushed for minimum staffing standards for years. Knowledge of the range of state staffing requirements can be very useful in these efforts. To that end, the focus of this summary report is to present staffing requirements from each state and analyze how they compare to each other and to levels recommended by research conducted for the federal government. This information can also be helpful to policymakers, researchers, and the media.

The report discusses the connection between staffing and quality care, the research on minimum staffing standards, laws and regs at both state and federal levels, an analysis of state staffing standards, recent developments, and concludes with this

Twenty years after the CMS study found that at least 4.1 hprd of direct care nursing staff time are needed just to prevent poor outcomes, state staffing requirements, with a few exceptions, are nowhere near that recommended level. Only the District of Columbia requires this overall level of staffing, and only six states mandate the presence of a registered nurse 24 hours a day regardless of facility size. Despite what is known about the relationship between staffing levels and quality care, staffing standards in almost every state remain severely low. Residents have waited decades for adequate staffing around the clock. Every day that passes without sufficient staffing jeopardizes their health, safety and welfare. Ongoing and robust advocacy is needed at both the federal and state levels to provide residents with the care to which they are entitled and that they deserve.

The full report is available here, a summary here, Appendix A (guide to state staffing standards) here, and Appendix B (state staffing standards comparison) here.

December 21, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 20, 2021

California Reconsidering Criteria for SNF Medicaid Funding

Well, as I write this, it looks at though the world is heading for another COVID surge.  Thus, this recent article from Kaiser Health News is particularly timely. After ‘Truly Appalling’ Death Toll in Nursing Homes, California Rethinks Their Funding opens with this sobering statistic: about 1 of every 8 of those California residents who died due to COVID resided in SNFs which translates to roughly 9,400, with an added  56,275 SNF residents with confirmed COVID who survived it.  As a response, the article notes, that the Governor's office is looking into a proposal that ties SNF funding to performance, with "those that meet new quality standards would get a larger share of state funding than those that don’t."

There will be several hurdles, and the industry is gearing up to oppose it while families of those who died are prepared to support it.  For example, the CEO of  California Association of Health Facilities, doesn't think the facilities should bear the blame, since "residents naturally at higher risk than the rest of the public, [and] facilities were forced to accept hospital transfer patients who had not been tested for the virus, they couldn’t get adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, and they suffered as staff members got covid in the community and then brought it into work."  The counter-point from various studies notes that SNFs "with fewer nursing staff members experienced significantly higher covid infection and death rates. That devastating outcome is bolstering a two-decades-long argument by patient advocates that nursing homes must hire more workers."

Staffing is not the only issue, and the article explores others, including the profits made by the various chains.  California is not alone in considering actions to improve quality of care.  I'm sure there will future blogs on this topic.

December 20, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

NY Times Investigation Into CMS Appeals Process for SNFs

The New York Times published the results of an investigation into SNF deficiencies in How Nursing Homes’ Worst Offenses Are Hidden From the Public opens with 3 examples of errors and notes "[s]tate inspectors determined that all three homes had endangered residents and violated federal regulations. Yet the federal government didn’t report the incidents to the public or factor them into its influential ratings system. The homes kept their glowing grades."

Describing the results of the investigation, the article notes

that at least 2,700 similarly dangerous incidents were also not factored into the rating system run by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or C.M.S., which is designed to give people reliable information to evaluate the safety and quality of thousands of nursing homes.

Many of the incidents were uncovered by state inspectors and verified by their supervisors, but quashed during a secretive appeals process, according to a review of thousands of pages of inspection reports and nursing home appeals, which The Times obtained via public-records requests. Others were omitted from the C.M.S. ratings website because of what regulators describe as a technical glitch.

Knowing the importance of the results of the inspections, the article offers that "[o]n-the-ground inspections are the most important factor in determining how many stars homes receive in Medicare’s rating system. The reports that inspectors produce give the public an unvarnished view inside facilities that house many of the country’s most vulnerable citizens."  

Despite the importance of such info, the system isn't transparent.  "On the rare occasions when inspectors issue severe citations, nursing homes can fight them through an appeals process that operates almost entirely in secret. If nursing homes don’t get the desired outcome via the informal review, they can appeal to a special federal court inside the executive branch. That process, too, is hidden from the public." Even though CMS may prevail, the results don't always end up on the compare website.  Why not?  "Jonathan Blum, the chief operating officer for C.M.S., said that citations are omitted during state-level appeals to be fair to nursing homes that are disputing inspectors’ findings. He acknowledged that even after appeals are exhausted, some citations still don’t appear on Care Compare. He said C.M.S. is 'working to correct this issue.'"

The article offers an excellent overview of the inspection requirements and process, as well as pointing out some of the limitations of the process.

This is a really important report and I plan to make it required reading for my students. You need to read it also!

Thanks to my friend and colleague, Professor Bauer, for sending me the link to the article.

December 14, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 6, 2021

Massachusetts Supreme Court Holds Conservator Entitled to Absolute Immunity for Conduct "Authorized or Approved" by Probate Court

In a case of first impression for the high court in Massachusetts and decided in August 2021, the Supreme Court concluded that where a conservator acts on behalf of an elderly woman "pursuant to judicial approval as a quasi-judicial officer," the conservator is entitled to "absolute immunity for conduct that is authorized or approved by the probate court."  

In Hornibrook v. Richard,  the plaintiff is one of two sons of a woman in her "mid-eighties and suffering from progressive dementia due to Alzheimer's Disease." He was appointed by a Massachusetts probate court to serve as guardian for his mother, but when his allegedly neglectful brother objected to his appointment as a permanent guardian for their mother, the probate court appointed a Massachusetts licensed attorney, selected from a list of qualified attorneys, to serve separately as the conservator.  The dual appointments occurred in the context of a serious, ongoing dispute between the woman's two sons.  It seems clear the court appointed the nonfamily-member conservator in an effort to diffuse the family dynamics.

Instead, attempts by the conservator to evict or negotiate with the resident-son from the mother's home appear to have dragged on for months, and the mother was never able to return to home.  The guardian-son eventually sued the conservator, alleging (1) breach of fiduciary duty, (2) malpractice, (3) conversion, and (4) fraud.   

The Supreme Court used Massachusetts' "functional analysis" for determining whether an individual performs a quasi-judicial function that entitles the officer to "absolute immunity."  The court compared the case to prior Massachusetts immunity decisions involving a court-appointed psychiatrist, court clerks, guardian ad litem in family court, and a personal representative in an estate, concluding that where individuals are appointed to perform "essential judicial functions" they are entitled to absolute immunity. 

Facts that appeared to be key to this ruling included the conservator's formal request for court authority to take specific, disputed actions, such as renovating the house and placing it on the market for sale. 

The court issued a de-facto caution, however, that immunity may not be granted for all actions taken by a conservator:

"Because the plaintiff here does not allege that the defendant was acting outside the express authorization of the probate court, we do not address the extent to which the conservator may be liable personally when acting within his or her statutory authority but without express authorization or approval of the probate court."

One can anticipate more motions and probate hearings being sought by guardians -- at least the cautious guardians -- as a result of this ruling.  But one can also expect that family members resentful of slow-moving protective-probate proceedings will not be reassured by this ruling.  

September 6, 2021 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Medicaid, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)