Thursday, March 7, 2019
The New York Times ran a story that notes that nursing homes are closing in rural America, leaving residents with few options. Nursing Homes are Closing Across Rural American, Scattering Residents highlights the dilemma for many in rural areas when the local nursing home closes. "More than 440 rural nursing homes have closed or merged over the last decade ... and each closure scattered patients like seeds in the wind. Instead of finding new care in their homes and communities, many end up at different nursing homes far from their families. ... In remote communities ... there are few choices for an aging population. Home health aides can be scarce and unaffordable to hire around the clock. The few senior-citizen apartments have waiting lists. Adult children have long since moved away to bigger cities." Think about the implications when the facility closes and there isn't another one near by. Not only might the resident suffer from transfer trauma, there are other implications. As the article notes, with distance comes the lack of ability for frequent visits, the time spent traveling to the new SNF, the inability to get to the new SNF quickly if a need arises and the vagaries of Mother Nature who may heap bad weather on the area, making it unsafe to travel. There are various reasons why nursing homes in rural communities are closing, including financial instability, Medicaid reimbursement rates, failure to meet the minimum health and safety standards and even the inability to hire staff.
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Health & Human Services has posted information on their blog about how they are implementing the new hiring process for ALJs. Establishing a New Merit-Based Process for Appointing Administrative Law Judges at HHS explains the new process, the reasons for it, and when it became effective.
HHS is announcing how the department will implement a new ALJ selection and appointment process. The department’s ALJs work for the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals (101) and the Departmental Appeals Board (13). The DAB also has seven administrative appeals judges and five Departmental Appeals Board members, and the new ALJ selection and appointment process will apply to these “comparable officials” as well.
The new HHS ALJ selection and appointment process - PDF is effective immediately and is described on the websites of the OMHA and the DAB.
This process is described in the post as merit-based and does not require consultation with anyone outside of the process. The process is described in detail in a 4 page document from November, 2018, available here.
To understand the significance of this change, read my blog post from October 26, 2018 here.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Recently I had a chat with a lawyer I've known for years who does a very good job representing large nursing home chains. We found ourselves shaking our heads about a series of news stories reported by central Pennsylvania's Patriot News focusing on care facilities formerly operating as part of the Golden Living chain. See the investigatory report, Still Failing the Frail.
Apparently, even after pressured transfers of the facilities to different companies, presumably companies with better management and better financial resources, many of them "continue to rack up citations with the state Health Department" for substandard practices. I asked the lawyer whether he knew of any nursing home chain that has been able to pull out of death spiral? He couldn't remember one.
There is very little margin when low-income residents depend on Medicaid for payments. Once a facility is affected by fines and pressures to increase staffing, the margin becomes even tighter. Few states want to assume the roles of trustee or receivers for such properties. The article concludes that one necessary step is to increase Medicaid funding.
Although researchers recommend that nursing homes provide at least 4.1 hours of care per resident per day, it remains an open question whether all nursing homes can afford to do that.
State and federal governments are the primary payers for the vast majority of nursing home residents. Residents receiving short-term rehabilitation are generally covered by Medicare, administered by the federal government. Long-term residents are generally covered by Medicaid, administered by state governments.
The problem is that state Medicaid programs, as in Pennsylvania, pay nursing homes far less than federal Medicare – sometimes as much as a third.
Although nursing home advocates and some researchers believe for-profit nursing homes routinely skimp on care in order to paid their profits, there are also genuine concerns about whether Pennsylvania’s Medicaid funding is adequate.
Researchers recommend how much of existing Medicaid and Medicare dollars are going to profit and administrative costs in homes. That would help determine whether Medicaid rates need to be raised and, if staffing standards are also raised, how much additional funding they need to provide those levels.
For some states, such as Pennsylvania, the Medicaid funding formula is part of the challenge. As discussed in the series, other states have been able to create direct payment models to assure better accountability for patient care.
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
The Dallas Morning News ran a story about the largest SNF chain in Texas filing bankruptcy. Texas' largest nursing home operator files for bankruptcy, sparking concerns about patients, jobs explains that "Senior Care Centers, which operates more than 100 facilities in Texas, filed for reorganization in U.S. bankruptcy court for the Northern District of Texas on Tuesday, reporting more than $100 million in debt. It's at least the second troubled nursing care giant in the Dallas area to file for bankruptcy since late last year." What's happening? According to the chain's press release, "high rents and 'burdensome debts'" are to blame. The chain puts as positive a spin as possible on their situation but others see cause for concern. A Texas advocacy organization for the long-term care facilities points to the low Medicaid reimbursements. Two facilities owned by the chain were hit last year with violations stemming from Hurricane Harvey. The article notes that the bankruptcy judge has the ability to name a "patient-care ombudsmen to monitor care" as the bankruptcy moves forward, but one has not yet been appointed.
One interesting point in the article-in discussing steps taken by the chain to improve its bottom line, it sought a reduction in rent and now is in debt to one landlord for more than $31 million.
Wednesday, December 5, 2018
I have collected four items regarding nursing homes, that I thought I'd summarize in one post.
Regular readers will recall that Florida now requires SNFs to have generators (after last year's hurricane). Last month's Health News Florida reported that many nursing hones are seeking extensions of time on the requirement to have generators. Nursing Homes Seek More Time On Generator Requirements notes that "[m]ore than 40 percent of Florida nursing homes are asking health-care regulators for more time to meet backup-power requirements pushed by Gov. Rick Scott after Hurricane Irma last year... But ... the state’s top health-care regulator, said his agency won’t approve waiver requests for deadbeat facilities that haven’t worked over the past several months to carry out emergency backup-power plans." Slightly more than 25% of the facilities are in compliance and over half of ALFs are. Some ALFs not in compliance are the focus of penalties, "the state has moved ahead with penalizing a handful of ALFs that aren’t in compliance. In November, the state has entered into settlement agreements with more than a dozen ALF providers across the state to settle allegations that they failed to meet the requirements, according to a review of information on a state website."
The Washington Post ran an article last month, Overdoses, bedsores, broken bones: What happened when a private-equity firm sought to care for society’s most vulnerable. The article focused on the ownership of of a chain owned by "the Carlyle Group, one of the richest private-equity firms in the world [where], the ManorCare nursing-home chain struggled financially until it filed for bankruptcy in March. During the five years preceding the bankruptcy, the second-largest nursing-home chain in the United States exposed its roughly 25,000 patients to increasing health risks, according to inspection records analyzed by The Washington Post." The article includes a response from the chain as well as the private equity group:
Carlyle and HCR ManorCare representatives said care at the nursing homes was never compromised by financial considerations. The cost-cutting trimmed administrative expenses, not nursing costs, they said. The number of nursing hours provided per patient stayed fairly constant in the years leading up to the bankruptcy, according to the figures that the company reported to the government.
HCR ManorCare officials also disputed the idea that quality at the homes had suffered in recent years. They said their nursing homes offered excellent service based on the ratings issued by Medicare, the federal government’s insurance program for older Americans. ManorCare homes averaged 3.2 stars in the years before bankruptcy, which was slightly below the U.S. average. Some watchdog groups, such as the Center for Medicare Advocacy, are critical of the five-star rating system, however, because it relies on unaudited data reported by nursing homes.
The article examined complaints in several states, reported on the views expressed by the private euity firm, including the role of Medicare reimbursements and reported that "[a]fter the bankruptcy, the nursing home chain was bought by Promedica Health, a nonprofit group."
Bloomberg Law reported last week that payroll data is being used to examine staffing. Sparse Nursing Home Staffing to Be Sniffed Out in Payroll Data explains that "[t]he payroll data will be used to identify nursing homes that have a significant drop in staff on weekends or have several days in a quarter without a registered nurse on site, the federal Medicare agency said Nov. 30. Nursing homes must have a registered nurse on site every day for eight hours, the agency said on its website."
In that same vein, Kaiser Health News reported Feds Order More Weekend Inspections Of Nursing Homes To Catch Understaffing. The payroll data mentioned in item #3 plays a role. "The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it will identify nursing homes for which payroll records indicate low weekend staffing or that they operate without a registered nurse. Medicare will instruct state inspectors to focus on those potential violations during visits." Does this mean there will be a flurry of inspections? No. As the article explains, "[t]he new directive instructs inspectors to more thoroughly evaluate staffing at facilities Medicare flags. The edict does not mean a flurry of sudden inspections. Instead, Medicare wants heightened focus on those nursing homes when inspectors come for their standard reviews, which take place roughly once a year for most facilities."
Friday, November 16, 2018
We all know that caregiving can be a 24/7/365 job. And many caregivers are working full time and caregiving part-time, while others leave their jobs to caregive. In those situations, it is no less important for caregivers to save for their own retirement, no matter how hard that may seem to be. US News ran a story, Caregivers Should Save for Retirement which focuses on caregiving for someone with special needs. The article highlights the issues
ADVANCES IN MEDICINE and technology are allowing Americans – including those with special needs and disabilities – to enjoy longer, fuller lives. Still, as a caregiver, the emotional, physical and financial toll can be draining and could potentially prevent you from being able to plan for your own future. Research shows 30 percent of caregivers are not saving and investing for their own retirement because of the time and cost required for caring for those with special needs.
The article suggests the following for the caregiver: check out the available programs and benefits, continue savings and don't forget to invest, consider the implications of your financial situation on the individual with special needs who is applying for means-tested assistance, be aware of the impact of well-meaning relatives making a testamentary gift for the individual, and housing options and their various levels of care to name a few. The article also discusses special needs trusts and ends with this:
The key takeaway is that planning for your financial future, while at the same time ensuring continuity of care for a loved one, can be extremely complex, but you don't have to do this alone. Leveraging professional resources and revisiting your plan periodically can help keep you on track as your needs, and the needs of your family, continue to evolve.
Monday, October 15, 2018
The New York Times ran an article on the demand for nursing home beds. In the Nursing Home, Empty Beds and Quiet Halls opens by explaining that a once vibrant facility now stands closed due to a drop in demand. According to the article, "[t]he most recent quarterly survey from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care reported that nearly one nursing home bed in five now goes unused. ... Occupancy has reached 81.7 percent, the lowest level since the research organization began tracking this data in 2011, when it was nearly 87 percent." The occupancy rate has been trending downward; concomitantly facilities close, and according to the article, somewhere between 200-300 annually close. The article points out what you are likely thinking-with the number of baby boomers wouldn't the demand be increasing rather than decreasing?
The article hypothesizes as to why this may be occurring and suggests:
Increased regulations and more financial belt-tightening
Hospitals' use of observation status,which thus affects Medicare coverage for subsequent SNF care.
More surgeries on an out-patient basis
Increasing number of Medicare Advantage plans.
- Increased competition through other housing options
- The shift to Medicaid covering care in the community, with "Money Follows the Person [having] moved more than 75,000 residents out of nursing homes and back into community settings."
The article speculates whether this trend will reverse itself once the boomers start reaching 80 and beyond. The article also discusses whether the lower demand provides more options for those in need of nursing home care.
Friday, October 5, 2018
Dwindling Numbers in Traditional Skilled Care Facilities Have Implications for Other Forms of Senior Living
The New York Times tracks more demographic information about occupancy in skilled care facilities:
For more than 40 years, Morningside Ministries operated a nursing home in San Antonio, caring for as many as 113 elderly residents. The facility, called Chandler Estate, added a small independent living building in the 1980s and an even smaller assisted living center in the 90s, all on the same four-acre campus.
The whole complex stands empty now. Like many skilled nursing facilities in recent years, Chandler Estate had seen its occupancy rate drop.
“Every year, it seemed a little worse,” said Patrick Crump, chief executive of the nonprofit organization, supported by several Protestant groups. “We were running at about 80 percent.”
Staff at the Chandler Estate took pride in its five-star rating on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website. But by the time the board of directors decided it had to close the property, only 80 of its beds were occupied, about 70 percent.
Revenue from independent and assisted living couldn’t compensate for the losses incurred by the nursing home.
As seniors elect to stay "at home" and as families struggle to make that happen, we are seeing ever evolving concepts in how to provide appropriate care and companionship. For more read, In the Nursing Home, Empty Beds and Quiet Halls.
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Registration is open for Stetson Law's 20th annual Special Needs Planning Conference. The agenda is here . There are three pre-conferences on October 17: a full day program on Tax, a full day program on Pooled SNTs, and a half-day program on Veterans benefits. The National Conference is two days long and runs October 18-19, 2018. Registration info is available here. Can't attend in person? The National Conference is being webcast. Early bird registration ends September 21, 2018 so don't delay!
Disclaimer: I'm the conference chair. Hope to see you there!
I've been reading articles for several weeks about a "troubled" nursing home in Connecticut where staff members were reportedly being paid late, and not receiving payments on related benefit claims (including health care and pensions).
The reports sound unusually mysterious, with indications of an executive's "loan" to a related charity from operating reserves. Suddenly more than $4 million was apparently restored to a key pension account:
As News 12 has reported, federal agents raided the center back in May. When the raid happened, that account was down to $800. For years, workers have complained about missing retirement money. In a lawsuit, the Labor Department claims the facility's owner illegally funneled their money into his own private charity.
Now, according to new court documents, the $4 million was unexpectedly deposited into the pension account last week. It's unclear where the money came from, and even the bankruptcy trustee running the facility was unsure.
"I don't truly know the source, but I do know that there's $4.1 million in this bank," bankruptcy trustee Jon Newton said at a court hearing yesterday.
But in a recent court hearing, owner Chaim Stern's lawyer said the money "was meant to represent the $3.6 million transferred from the (retirement) plan to Em Kol Chai." That's the charity authorities say Stern controls.
Workers may not get as much of that money as they think. Bridgeport Health Care has a long list of creditors, and they could potentially get a share.
News 12 reported back in July that part of the facility, called Bridgeport Manor, is shutting down. Lawyers say they hope to wrap that process up within a month.
September 11, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, September 6, 2018
A recent post on The Motley Fool provided several key statistics regarding Long-Term Care Insurance, including the fact that the number of companies still writing traditional LTCI policies in the U.S. has fallen dramatically:
According to a report by the NAIC, the number of insurers offering stand-alone long-term care policies (as opposed to ones bundled with some other product(s) such as annuities) dropped from 125 to 15 between 2000 and 2014. That will only surprise those who haven't been keeping up with the industry, which has been struggling.
What's the problem? Well, as noted in the previous statistic, long-term care is simply very costly, and healthcare costs in general are quite steep -- they have been increasing at rapid rates, too. Some insurers have had to hike the premiums they charge their policy holders, while others have just stopped offering long-term care policies. Genworth Financial, for example, recently announced a 58% rate hike, while Mass Mutual requested a 77% rate hike.
This information shouldn't necessarily stop you from seeking coverage, but do know that the industry has been in some turmoil, and approach it with your eyes open.
For additional statistics (and resources) read Five Long-Term Care Stats that Will Blow You Away,
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Register now for a free webinar from the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care. The webinar is scheduled for September 5, 2018 at 2 edt. Here is some info about the webinar
Join this webinar to learn about sexual abuse in nursing homes. Presenters will discuss a variety of topics to help you recognize the signs of sexual abuse and immediately respond to it.
We will examine the full scope of sexual abuse in nursing homes, including: (1) its prevalence, (2) the physical and social signs of sexual abuse, (3) who is most at risk, and (4) who the perpetrators are. In addition, you will learn the protections the federal nursing home rule provides for nursing home residents against this abuse and how to respond to the needs of victims. Finally, we will equip you with concrete knowledge on how ombudsmen can advocate for nursing home residents who are victims of this type of abuse, including hearing from a special presenter on the ombudsman role in the Washington Alliance to End Sexual Violence in Long-Term Care.
To register, click here
August 14, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Webinars | Permalink
Friday, August 10, 2018
Filial Friday: N.D. Nursing Home's Claim Against Adult Children for Father's Unpaid Bills Set for September Trial
According to news reports, here and here, three siblings are facing a September 2018 trial date after being sued by a North Dakota nursing home for more than $43,000 in unpaid costs of care for their father, incurred during a seven month stay at the facility. The children maintain they have no contractual obligation with the nursing home, and were not involved in their father's application for Medicaid, nor did they receive disqualifying gifts from their father. A denial of a Medicaid application can arise if there is an uncompensated transfer of assets within a five year look back period, or because of certain other unexplained failures to use the father's "available" resources to pay for his care.
A North Dakota's statute, N.D.C.C. Section 14-09-10, with language that can be traced back to filial support laws of Elizabethan England, provides:
It is the duty of the father, the mother, and every child of any person who is unable to support oneself, to maintain that person to the extent of the ability of each. This liability may be enforced by any person furnishing necessaries to the person. The promise of an adult child to pay for necessaries furnished to the child's parent is binding.
One news report quotes the executive director of the North Dakota Long Term Care Association, Shelly Peterson, as saying nursing homes use the law to go after adult children in only one circumstance: "When parents transfer income or assets to their children, and then the parents don't qualify for Medicaid." The director is reported as further contending that "facilities are 'legally obligated' under Medicaid to pursue every avenue possible to collect that debt, including suing, before they can get reimbursed from the state Department of Human Services for a debt that cannot be recovered."
According to some sources, local legislators, aroused by this suit, are looking at whether North Dakota should continue to permit nursing home collections under North Dakota's indigent support law. Such laws have been blocked or repealed in most other U.S. states. North Dakota and my own state, Pennsylvania, are the two most notable exceptions.
My reaction to the news articles on this case is "something doesn't add up here" and some key facts seem to be missing.
- First, if the father was in the nursing home for 7 months, who did the children think was paying for his care? I can't imagine no one in the family asked that question for that period of time (although certainly Medicaid applications can take time to process and perhaps the denial came in after the father's death).
- What was the basis for any denial for Medicaid? I've seen Medicaid denied for inability of the applicant (or applicant agent) to track down some old resource, such as a demutualized life insurance policy. Also, what is the source of the contention that Medicaid law "requires the facility to sue" to collect the debt? I'm not aware of any such rule at the federal level.
- Is there another member of the family involved in the application -- someone other than the three target children -- or is there another family member involved in any "transfers" causing an alleged ineligibility period? In the U.S., filial support laws don't prioritize collection, nor require recovery from so-called "bad" children, rather than more "innocent" children.
- Finally, why weren't there care planning meetings with the family that included discussions of costs of care? It always raises a red flag for me when the "first" alleged notice of such a claim arises after the death or discharge of a resident.
Perhaps we will hear the results of the trial or any settlement, and thus hear a more complete picture of how these bills came to accumulate.
August 10, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Medicaid, Medicare, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)
Monday, August 6, 2018
Professor Reid Weisbord, who serves as vice dean and the Judge Norma L. Shapiro Scholar at Rutgers Law School in Newark, has a new and very timely essay posted on Stanford Law Review Online. The provocative premise should certainly spark responses!
From the abstract:
This Essay proposes a novel policy of "postmortem austerity" to address the unsustainable, rapidly escalating cost of federal entitlement programs following the 2017 tax reforms. If Social Security and Medicare continue on their current path to insolvency, then they will eventually require austerity reforms absent a politically unpopular tax increase.
This Essay argues that, if austerity becomes necessary, federal entitlement reforms should be implemented progressively in a manner that minimizes displacement of benefits on which individuals relied when saving for old age. A policy of postmortem austerity would establish new eligibility criteria for Social Security and Medicare that postpone the effective date and economic consequences of benefit ineligibility until after death.
All individuals would continue to collect federal entitlements during life, but at death, wealthy decedents would be deemed retroactively disqualified from part or all of Social Security and Medicare benefits received during life. The estates of such decedents would then be liable for repayment of disqualified benefits.
For the full essay, read Postmortem Austerity and Entitlement Reform, published July 16, 2018.
Monday, July 30, 2018
On July 26, 2018, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that a trial judge was wrong in refusing to fund a severely injured adult's special needs trust with $6.75 million in funds from settlement of tort suit.
The trial judge had resisted, saying he disagreed with the legislative policy for special needs trusts, calling it a "legal fiction of impoverishment" that unfairly shifted costs of care to taxpayers. The trial judge would allow only $1 million in settlement funds to be placed in trust.
In the final paragraphs of In re Matter of Guardianship of Robbins, the appellate court concluded:
The trial court may well have a genuine disagreement with the policy decisions of our state and federal legislators, but it is still bound to abide by them. . . .
Here, there are no constitutional concerns preventing the legislature's policy choices from being enforced. Both our federal and state legislators have made an express policy decision to allow for a “legal fiction of impoverishment” by placing assets in a special needs trust, knowing full well that it has the potential to shift expenses to the taxpayer, but trying to ameliorate that cost by requiring that any remaining trust proceeds be repaid to the State upon the disabled person's death. While the trial court is free to disagree as to the wisdom of the legislature's policy choices, the trial court exceeded the bounds of its authority by refusing to enforce this policy choice based on that disagreement.
The trial court also refused to place the full amount of the settlement proceeds into the special needs trust because it concluded that the trust was solely for the benefit of the Guardian and Timothy's descendants. This is a mistake of law. As a matter of law, a special needs trust must contain a provision declaring that, upon the death of the disabled trust beneficiary, the total amount of Medicaid benefits must be paid back first, before any distributions to heirs are made. 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(d)(4)(A); I.C. § 12-15-2-17(f). Additionally, the special needs trust must be administered for the exclusive benefit of the disabled individual beneficiary for his or her lifetime. . . . Consequently, it is a legal impossibility that Timothy's special needs trust is designed to “benefit” either the Guardian or Timothy's descendants, and the trial court's conclusion in this regard was erroneous.
The trial court's ruling on the special needs trust was reversed and the case was remanded "with instructions to direct that the full, available amount of settlement proceeds be placed in Timothy's special needs trust."
July 30, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Property Management, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, June 29, 2018
A newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania, Nicole Brambila, has another interesting article related to law and aging. She is examining what happens when struggling nursing home operations require intervention to protect existing residents. Following the collapse of Skyline Healthcare facilities, which had been operating nine nursing homes in Pennsylvania, state authorities found it necessary to step in, and to hire a temporary manager. Ms. Brambila begins:
The collapse of the nursing home operator caring for about 800 residents in nine Pennsylvania facilities, including one in Berks County, that required the state step in with a temporary manager will cost $475,000, the contract shows.
In April, the Pennsylvania Department of Health stepped in with a temporary manager at nine properties operated by Skyline Healthcare LLC over concerns the New Jersey-based company's finances may have put residents at risk.
State officials tapped Complete HealthCare Resources, which manages Berks Heim Nursing and Rehab, to step in as temporary managers until buyers could be found. The contract, obtained by the Reading Eagle under Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law, ended June 9. New owners purchased the Skyline homes last month, but Complete HealthCare stayed on through the transition.
The management fee is paid by fines collected from nursing home facilities.
Over the past five years, the state has stepped in more than a dozen times with temporary managers for poor performing nursing homes, at a cost of more than $4.2 million, according to health data provided to the newspaper.
The average cost for managing these troubled homes exceeded $335,000.
There is a lot to unpack here, including exactly how a state collects fines from financially defaulting providers. Other states facing related issues in Skyline operations include Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. According to the article Skyline recently purchased the some of the properties from Golden Living Centers, also the center of controversies, but then turned around and sold its interest 14 months later.
For the full story, read "Pennsylvania to pay $475,000 for temporary nursing home manager." Ms. Brambila seems to be carving out an important niche for her investigatory reporting, by focusing on senior issues. She recently wrote an important series on guardians in the Pennsylvania courts, also for the Reading Eagle, as we described here.
June 29, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Karen Vaughn, a woman living with quadriplegia in her own apartment for some 4o years, was held against her will in a care facility after hospitalization for a temporary illness. She wanted to go home. The state argued it could no longer find a home care agency that could provide the level of services Ms. Vaughn needed following a tracheostomy in 2012.
Ms. Vaughn's case gave a federal district judge in Indiana the opportunity to revisit the Supreme Court's landmark Olmstead decision from 1999. In ruling on cross motions for summary judgment, the court rejected the state's arguments as based on complexity in reimbursement rates, not availability of appropriate care providers. Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson observed, in ruling in favor of Ms. Vaughn, that
The undisputed medical evidence establishes that at or near the time of the filing of this Complaint, Ms. Vaughn’s physicians believed that she could and should be cared for at home—both because home healthcare is medically safer and socially preferable for her, and because Ms. Vaughn desires to be at home. . . . That support has continued throughout the pendency of this litigation, through at least April of 2018 when Dr. Trambaugh was deposed. Based on the evidence before this Court, it concludes as a matter of law that Ms. Vaughn has established that treatment professionals have determined that the treatment she requests—home healthcare—is appropriate.
[State] Defendants' own administrative choices—namely, the restrictions they have imposed on Ms. Vaughn’s home healthcare provision pursuant to their Medicaid Policy Manual—have resulted in their inability to find a caregiver, or combination of caregivers, who can provide Ms. Vaughn’s care in a home-based setting. It may be the case that other factors, such as the nursing shortage or inadequate reimbursement rates, contribute to or exacerbate the difficulty in finding a provider. But, at a minimum, Ms. Vaughn has established that Defendants' administrative choices, in addition to their denials of her reasonable accommodation requests, have resulted in her remaining institutionalized.
June 28, 2018 in Current Affairs, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
How Far Can Courts Go in Reassigning Income to a Community Spouse When it Affects Medicaid Payments?
It is a while since I've had a chance to report on an interesting Medicaid planning case. Perhaps that alone is a sign of the times?
Last month in Michigan, however, an appellate court weighed in on an interesting question about the power of courts to reallocate income, from the institutionalized spouse to the community spouse, where such a decision would impact payment sources for the nursing home. In a per curiam decision, the court considered a pair of similar cases, where the state probate courts had entered protective orders that directed "all income" received by an institutionalized spouse (IS) be paid to the community spouse for maintenance purposes. The State Department of Health and Human Services objected, as clearly the state winds up paying more for the IS's care if the community spouse gets all the IS's income.
Does the probate court have authority -- jurisdiction? -- to make such a ruling? What criteria are relevant to the allocation of income? In other words, is the probate court the right place to avoid inadequate safeguards against impoverishment of the community spouse? Interestingly, the Court, at footnote 13, distinguished the two cases from past attempts to make gifts or use protective proceedings for planning purposes before an initial determination of Medicaid eligibility. The court summarized its ultimate decision:
For the reasons explained in this opinion, we conclude that the probate courts have the authority to enter protective orders providing support for a community spouse whose institutionalized spouse is receiving Medicaid benefits. However, we also conclude that the probate courts’ authority to enter such support orders under the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC), MCL 700.1101 et seq, does not include the power to enter an order preserving the community spouse’s standard of living without consideration of the institutionalized spouse’s needs and patient-pay obligations under Medicaid. Given that the orders in this case were entered without consideration of Joseph’s and Jerome’s needs and patient-pay obligations under Medicaid, we find that the probate courts abused their discretion by entering the orders at issue in this case. We therefore vacate both support orders and remand for a reconsideration of Beverly’s and Ramona’s need for support under the proper framework.
For more, read the full decision in In re Estate of Vansach, Michigan Court of Appeals, May 22, 2018.
Counsel representing the community spouse has posted his own take on the decision, describing it as a win, in a post titled BRMM Wins Significant Elder Law Case in Michigan Court of Appeals.
No success in finding a mirror image article from the DHHS lawyers. With the split decision, I suppose they could have written DHHS Wins Significant Elder Law Case in Michigan Court of Appeals.
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Eric Carlson, Nancy Stone and Lori Smetanka have joined forces to write an important new guideline for advocacy under the revisions issued by CMS in 2016 for nursing facility care, with an eye towards additional changes likely to occur under the Trump administration.
After surveying the most important reforms, they advise:
The revised regulations contain both positives and negatives for nursing facility residents and their advocates. The positives include expanded requirements for person-centered care, care planning, and resident choice and participation in health care services. The revised regulations also strengthen the NHRA’s prohibitions against facilities requiring a third-party guarantee of payment or a waiver of legal rights, and protections for residents from improper transfer/discharge. In addition, the regulations have added requirements for a facility grievance official and procedures.
It is disappointing, however, that the revised regulations do not require a registered nurse around the clock or a minimum staffing standard. Even though unnecessary restraints are included in the definition of “abuse” and the requirements for drug regimen reviews and reporting of unnecessary drugs were expanded, the revised regulations compromise the focus on ending the misuse of antipsychotic medications.
In addition, the Trump administration has proposed a repeal of the ban on predispute arbitration agreements and delayed enforcement remedies for certain Phase 2 requirements. The administration is also considering the repeal or further modification of other revised regulations (e.g., regulations on grievance procedures, quality assurance, and ombudsman discharge notices).
The authors explain the importance of advocacy in this time of change:
Even though CMS and the states are responsible for implementing these regulations, regulation implementation, if left solely to government agencies and providers, is usually scattershot and inadequate. For the revised regulations to truly become the national standard of care, nursing facility residents and their advocates must be prepared to assert resident rights over and over again. Another unfortunate reality is that nursing facilities may be hostile or apathetic toward the revised regulations and the survey agencies can only do so much, given that federal law requires surveys only once a year. For these reasons, it is up to residents, families, and advocates to be knowledgeable about the federal law and make nursing facilities accountable when they fall short.
For the full picture, read Advocating for Nursing Facility Residents Under the Revised Federal Requirements, published April 2018 in the NAELA Journal, and available online as a PDF.
June 20, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, June 11, 2018
My good friend and colleague, Pennsylvania Elder Law Attorney Linda Anderson, has a thoughtful essay about her personal journey in elder law in a recent issue of GPSolo, the ABA journal for solo, small firm, and general practitioners. Her closing paragraphs address several core issues, comparing her elder law focus with traditional tax and estate planning concerns. I enjoyed her use of classic lines from the movie Jaws.
My early work with elder clients or their adult children across a variety of asset levels certainly involved tax and estate planning. But it became clear that serving and protecting these clients demanded more than just good lawyering, that good planning needed “a bigger boat.” It entailed comprehensive knowledge of the Social Security, Medicaid, and VA benefits bureaucracies, close engagement with insurance providers, geriatric care managers, social workers, and other professionals, as well as close monitoring of state and federal regulatory and policy changes and housing and age discrimination laws, among others. The eventual next step for me was completing the requirements to become a certified elder law attorney (CELA).
Solo or general practice attorneys do not have to become dedicated elder law experts when taking on clients seeking long-term care and funding planning. Take those clients, but be prepared to augment tax and estate planning expertise with a deep dive into areas of elder and special needs law and funding mechanisms. All this is doable, of course, but the biggest difference is in mindset. Attorneys often approach estate and long-term care planning as transactional or episodic--needs arise, documents are drafted or revised, and we and the clients move on. But the nature of the legal work I've touched on above demands a continuing, flexible outlook and a lot of homework. When in doubt, consult with or refer your client to a CELA-qualified attorney. These attorneys are listed in the website for the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF, nelf.org). Another resource for lawyers (who may or may not be CELA-qualified) is the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA, naela.org). Both organizations are excellent sources for information and referrals.
Finally, as we all learn in time, everything that we've covered here will become very personal for each of us. This may first happen through our parents or siblings as they transition and age, but it's necessarily part of our own futures as well. That's true whether you're a Baby Boomer looking at 70, a Gen Xer thinking that 40 is “old,” or any age in between.
Aging is the one shark we cannot escape. But as attorneys, we know how to plan and can build our clients' (and our own) “boats” to manage aging as well as possible.
June 11, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Medicaid, Medicare, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)