Monday, April 6, 2020

Two Upcoming Webinars: COVID-19 & SSA and Medicare

Justice in Aging  has announced two upcoming webinars  on important topics. First up is a free webinar on April 10, 2020 on New Policies Related to COVID-19 at SSA  that covers the following:

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has made many changes to its policies and procedures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes impact all areas of the agency – the local offices, each state’s Disability Determination Service, and the hearing offices. This webinar will provide an overview of these changes, and offer suggestions for how advocates can interact with SSA during this unusual time.

Registration info is available here,

The second webinar, on April 14, 2020 covers Medicare and COVID-19.  Scheduled for 2 p.m. edt, this webinar will cover "The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and new legislation have changed many of the rules in Medicare to respond to COVID-19. This webinar will focus on the changes to Medicare that most impact low-income older adults."

To register for this webinar, click here. 

 

April 6, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Social Security, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

ACTEC Journal Call for Papers

ACTEC (American College of Trusts & Estate Counsel) is devoting a volume of its Journal to Elder Law!  Here's the info about the call for papers.

The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel announces a Call For Papers on the following topic:

With an aging generation of Boomers and increasing estate tax exemptions, the practice and study of trusts and estates may be driven less by tax planning and more by a host of other issues confronting an older population. Those issues may be broadly grouped under the term "Elder Law."

A special issue of the ACTEC Law Journal will be devoted to a discussion of the intersection of Trusts and Estates and Elder Law and will be comprised of brief articles (2,000 word maximum). The conception of Elder Law is broad and intended to encompass all matters of legal concern that a trusts and estates lawyer might address for an aging client – or a client who is concerned about aging. Suggested topics include retirement planning, financial planning and wealth management, guardianship, disability and medical care, end-of-life planning, incapacity, powers of attorney, health care proxies, nursing homes and long-term care planning, special needs trusts, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, elder abuse (physical or financial), age discrimination, family succession planning, grandparent visitation rights, and classic core trusts and estates topics like wills, trusts, intestacy, probate administration, and nonprobate transfers.

Procedure for proposals: Authors wishing to contribute to this special volume should send a brief proposal to Professor Alyssa A. DiRusso, Editor, ACTEC Law Journal, at aadiruss@samford.edu. Please include “ACTEC Elder Law” in the subject line of your e-mail.

Proposals are due by April 1, 2020. Early submissions are encouraged as proposals will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Given the brevity of each article, articles that delve into one or two topics in detail will normally be preferred over more general articles. We encourage submissions by authors from a variety of backgrounds, including those actively involved in fiduciary administration or the practice of law.

Final articles will be due by August 1, 2020 and will be published in the ACTEC Law Journal, Volume 46 Issue 1.

March 10, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Other, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Harder to Get Home Health Care?

We already know about the family caregiver shortage. Now Kaiser Health News tells us it's harder for Medicare beneficiaries to get home health care. Why Home Health Care Is Suddenly Harder To Come By For Medicare Patients explains the why, "home health agencies across the country are grappling with a significant change as of Jan. 1 in how Medicare pays for services. (Managed-care-style Medicare Advantage plans have their own rules and are not affected.)"

The article reports the results of this change, and how it's affecting beneficiaries: "[a]gencies are responding aggressively, according to multiple interviews. They are cutting physical, occupational and speech therapy for patients. They are firing therapists. And they are suggesting that Medicare no longer covers certain services and terminating services altogether for some longtime, severely ill patients."

This next section explains the before and after of payments:

Previously, Medicare’s home health rates reflected the amount of therapy delivered: More visits meant higher payments. Now, therapy isn’t explicitly factored into Medicare’s reimbursement system, known as the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM).

Instead, payments are based on a patient’s underlying diagnosis, the presence of other complicating medical conditions, the extent to which the patient is impaired, whether he or she is referred for services after a hospitalization or a stay in a rehabilitation center (payments are higher for people discharged from institutions) and the timing of services (payments are higher for the first 30 days and lower thereafter).

CMS is keeping an eye on the impact of this change, so pay attention to this issue.  It's important!

February 20, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Limits of Hospice Home Care?

Kaiser Health News ran a story about hospice for individuals dying at home and the role of families. Patients Want A ‘Good Death’ At Home, But Hospice Care Can Badly Strain Families explains how Hospice home care works:

Hospice allows a patient deemed to have fewer than six months to live to change the focus of their medical care — from the goal of curing disease to a new goal of using treatments and medicines to maintain comfort and quality of life. It is a form of palliative care, which also focuses on pain management, but can be provided while a patient continues to seek a cure or receive treatments to prolong life.

But the Hospice folks don't do all of the caregiving, with "many family caregivers [responsible for] most of the physical work to [the family, with one daughter noting] that during the final weeks of her mother’s life, she felt more like a tired nurse than a devoted daughter."

Acknowledging that more and more folks want to die at home, the article notes the tasks that fall to family members caring for the person in the final days of life.  "Hospice agencies primarily serve in an advisory role and from a distance, even in the final, intense days when family caregivers, or home nurses they’ve hired, must continually adjust morphine doses or deal with typical end-of-life symptoms, such as bleeding or breathing trouble. Those decisive moments can be scary for the family... "said one expert.  From personal experience, I can confirm that this happens and it is scary. We were lucky-one of our family  was a nurse. I'm not sure how we would have gotten through the process without her. But not everyone has their own family medical professional.

Here's the thing.  The person needs 24 hours care but that may not be something Hospice will provide because "hands-on help is scarce. According to Medicare, hospice benefits can include home health aides and homemaker services. But in practice, that in-person help is often limited to a couple of baths a week. Medicare data reveals that, on average, a nurse or aide is only in the patient’s home 30 minutes, or so, per day."

The article looks at the costs and Medicare coverage rates, Hospice residences and nursing home care.  There's something of a Catch-22 happening.  "As researchers in the field look to the future, they are calling for more palliative care, not less — and, at the same time, they are advocating for more support for the spouses, family members and friends tasked with caring for the patient."  As one expert noted, there's a real need "to expand — in general — our approach to supporting caregivers, [pointing out] that some countries outside the U.S. pay for a wider range and longer duration of home health services."

 

 

January 23, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Medicare Part D Donut Hole-Gone or Not?

The New York Times an an article scrutinizing the status of the Part D coverage gap (a/k/a the Donut Hole), in Medicare’s Part D Doughnut Hole Has Closed! Mostly. Sorta.

The donut hole  was weird and unlike other types of insurance and as the article explains, "“designed that way because Congress had a self-imposed budget target,” said Tricia Neuman, who directs the Medicare policy program at the Kaiser Family Foundation.... In order to afford a low deductible, catastrophic coverage and protection for those with low incomes, lawmakers agreed to the doughnut hole. But what other kind of insurance works like that?"

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) contained a provision that gradually closed  the donut hole. "The final reduction, for generic drugs, slid into place on Jan. 1. Now, supposedly, there is no coverage gap. Federal regulations require that your plan (most Medicare beneficiaries can choose from nearly 30) average 25 percent cost-sharing for any drug."  But remember closing the donut hole is not the same as reducing the cost of prescription drugs.

There's still remaining weirdness with the Part D program, as the article highlights:

  • This year, after meeting the $435 deductible, you generally pay a flat price for each covered drug during the so-called initial coverage period. Different plans assign drugs to different tiers for which you pay specified amounts.

But once your total drug expenditures hit $4,020, you’re responsible for 25 percent of the plan’s negotiated cost per drug — not a gap, exactly, but a shift.

If you were paying $45 for a prescription that costs $200, your share is now $50 — not a major change. But for a $500 drug, you’ll owe $125 until you reach the catastrophic threshold.

 . .
  • It will now take longer to climb out of the not-exactly-a-hole.

Last year, you qualified for catastrophic coverage when your out-of-pocket expenditures reached $5,100.

This year, you don’t qualify until they hit $6,350, a big jump. The Affordable Care Act had maintained a lower threshold; this year, that provision ended.

Once there, your co-payment is a flat $3.60 to $8.95, or 5 percent of the drug’s cost, whichever is higher. (Not lower.)

  • Part D has never capped out-of-pocket costs, even when you reach the supposedly safe shore of catastrophic coverage. Your 5 percent co-payment lasts the rest of the year.

. . .

All of this takes place against the backdrop of rising drug prices generally. From 2015 to 2017, more than a million Medicare beneficiaries each year passed the threshold for catastrophic coverage — more than twice the number when Part D began, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.

Oh and choosing the right Part D program is complicated.  The article notes that Congressional action is needed to reduce the drug prices. And what if the ACA is repealed??

January 21, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink

Friday, January 10, 2020

PACE Program and Adult Day Care

Kaiser Health News (KHN) recently published a story about a PACE program, Government-Funded Day Care Helps Keep Seniors Out Of Nursing Homes And Hospitals.

The services provided by PACE, a national program primarily funded by Medicaid and Medicare, are intended to keep people 55 and older who need nursing home levels of care at home as long as possible and out of the hospital.

The program is more important than ever as baby boomers age, its proponents say.

“The rapidly growing senior population in California and across the country will put enormous strain on our current fragmented, and often inefficient, health care delivery system,” said Tim Lash, president of Gary and Mary West PACE. California officials consider PACE an integral part of the state’s strategy to upgrade care for aging residents.

Consider the cost-savings to states with PACE programs, as well as the number of folks, typically dual eligibles, who participate. According to the story,

The National PACE Association said data it collected for 2019 shows seniors enrolled in PACE cost states 13% less on average than the cost of caring for them through other Medicaid-funded services, including nursing homes.

. . .

PACE participants who do not receive government medical benefits can pay out of their own pockets. At Gary and Mary West, the tab ranges from $7,000 to $10,000 a month, depending on the level of care.

Nationally, 50,000 enrollees participate in PACE programs at over 260 centers in 31 states. In California, PACE serves nearly 9,000 vulnerable seniors at 47 locations.

PACE provides the same services as under Medicare and Medicaid, and use of team from various disciplines to provide care. Patients often have chronic conditions and  almost 2/3 of them have some level of cognitive difficulty.

Check it out.

 PACE enrollees commonly have conditions such as vascular disease, diabetes, congestive heart failure, depression and bipolar disorder.

January 10, 2020 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Other | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 9, 2019

Medicare Mistakes Need Do-Over?

Last week Kaiser Health News reported on mistakes on the Medicare website, which may have causes probelms for beneficiaries chosing their plans during open enrollment. Website Errors Raise Calls For Medicare To Be Flexible With Seniors’ Enrollment explains the extent of the problem.

The overhauled Plan Finder debuted at the end of August, and 2020 plan information was added in October. Over the past three months, Plan Finder problems reported to CMS by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the National Association of Health Underwriters, and state and national consumer advocates included inaccurate details about prices, covered drugs and dosages, and difficulty sorting and saving search results, among other things.

CMS made almost daily corrections and fixes to the website, which is the only tool that can compare dozens of private drug and medical plans ― each with different pharmacy networks, covered drugs and drug prices. The website provides information for more than 60 million people with Medicare and their families, as well as state Medicare counselors and the representatives who answer the 800-MEDICARE help line.

Unsurprisingly, the article notes that some folks signed up before corrections were made, which may not become apparent to them until they use the plan in 2020.  Which leads me to my next point.

Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, the senior Democrat on [the Senate Special Committee on Aging], also said Medicare needs to reach out so people know they can request a “special enrollment period” if they discover next year they made a wrong choice due to inaccurate Plan Finder information.

“People with Medicare must be aware that this reprieve exists and should not have to jump through hoops to qualify,” he said. The administration should “use all means necessary” to let beneficiaries know about their options for a special enrollment period.

Fifteen Senate Democrats, led by Casey, sent a letter  Thursday to Medicare Administrator Seema Verma asking the agency to “widely publicize the existing SEP for people who were misled by information” in the Medicare Plan Finder and to make switching plans easy.

The Associated Press reported on that at the end of last week. Senators urge Medicare to allow seniors a drug plan do-over:

 

In its statement Friday, Medicare said it wants to ensure that seniors “are confident in their decisions and happy in the coverage they choose.”

Medicare said it’s always had the ability to grant do-overs, “but this year we’re doubling down on ensuring that choosing their Medicare coverage is a simple and painless experience for beneficiaries.”

Medicare officials told AP that if seniors had problems with the plan finder and were unhappy with the outcome, they could call 1-800-MEDICARE and request to make a switch.

Agency officials said beneficiaries don’t need to use any technical language, only explain what their issue is to the call center representative. No documentation or screen shots will be required.

Stay tuned. This may not be over.

December 9, 2019 in Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Stories About Alzheimer's

Two recent stories about Alzheimer's caught my eye, and I wanted to share them with you here.  The day after Thanksgiving, the Today Show ran a story, Caregiver for Alzheimer's Patient Shares Family's Struggles. The caregiver wife tells the story of their lives and the financial impact when her husband, a lawyer, was diagnosed at age 61 with early onset Alzheimer's. The summary describes the story, "Millions of Americans selflessly care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and one family is opening up about their struggles on TODAY. Many people are calling for a nationwide program for caregivers, reports special anchor Maria Shriver." Senator Amy Klobuchar appears in the story, as her dad has Alzheimer's. The story mentions pending bills in Congress, including the Alzheimer's Caregivers Support Act. The link to the 3:22 minute video is available here.

The second story, an opinion piece in the New York Times, The Unending Indignities of Alzheimer’s   aired December 1, 2020. It highlights the obstacles family members face in trying to find the necessary care for the individual with Alzheimer's....

But while his family, and his physician, agree on the need for more advanced care, his health insurers do not. Medicare does not generally cover long-term nursing home care. Medicaid does, but only when it deems those services “medically necessary” — and that determination is made by insurance agents, not by the patient’s doctors. The state of New Jersey, where my parents live, recently switched to a managed care system for its elderly Medicaid recipients. Instead of paying directly for the care that this patient population needs, the state pays a fixed per-person amount to a string of private companies, who in turn manage the needs of patients like my father. On paper, these companies cover the full range of required offerings: nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and a suite of in-home support services. In practice, they do what most insurance companies seem to do: obfuscate and evade and force you to beg.

The author writes how the family is piecing together the care the best they can.  She writes "[t]he real problem is not my father’s level of functionality; it’s the lack of available Medicaid beds and the absurdly high cost of any meaningful alternative. For example, there’s a lovely assisted-living facility just two miles from my parents’ apartment. But it costs $8,000 a month, on average, and does not accept my father’s insurance."

BTW, know someone who is a caregiver? Even though National Caregivers' Month (November) is behind us, thank a caregiver.

December 3, 2019 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 24, 2019

2020 Medicare Premiums Released by CMS

In case you missed this, a couple of weeks ago CMS released the Medicare premium and deductibles amounts for 2020.

Here are some of the more important numbers for 2020  from the CMS notice:

The Medicare Part A inpatient hospital deductible that beneficiaries will pay when admitted to the hospital will be $1,408 in 2020, an increase of $44 from $1,364 in 2019. ...  In 2020, beneficiaries must pay a coinsurance amount of $352 per day for the 61st through 90th day of a hospitalization ($341 in 2019) in a benefit period and $704 per day for lifetime reserve days ($682 in 2019). For beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities, the daily coinsurance for days 21 through 100 of extended care services in a benefit period will be $176.00 in 2020 ($170.50 in 2019).

As for Part B, "[t]he standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B enrollees will be $144.60 for 2020, an increase of $9.10 from $135.50 in 2019. The annual deductible for all Medicare Part B beneficiaries is $198 in 2020, an increase of $13 from the annual deductible of $185 in 2019."

The release also includes the 2020 Part B monthly premium adjusted amounts for higher-income beneficiaries.

 

November 24, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Issue Brief on Medicare Part D

The Kaiser Family Foundation has released its November, 2019 issue brief, focused on the costs of Medicare Part D.  Medicare Part D: A First Look at Prescription Drug Plans in 2020 offers these key findings

  • The average Medicare beneficiary will have a choice of 28 PDPs in 2020, one more PDP option than in 2019, and six more than in 2017, a 29% increase.A total of 948 PDPs will be offered in the 34 PDP regions in 2020(plus another 11 PDPs in the territories),an increase of 202 PDPs since 2017.
  • PDP premiums will vary widely across plans in2020, as in previous years(Figure 1). Among the 20 PDPs available nationwide, average premiums will range sixfold from a low of $13 per month for Humana Walmart Value Rx Plan to a high of $83 per month for Express Scripts Medicare Choice
  • Two-thirds of Part D enrollees without low-income subsidies (9.0 million enrollees) will see their monthly premium increase in 2020 if they stay in their same plan, while one-third (4.3 million) face premium decreases. As an example, the 1.9million enrollees without low-income subsidies in the Humana Walmart Rx Plan, the third most popular PDP in 2019,will see their monthly premium double in 2020, from $28 to $57, unless they switch plans.This is due to plan changes and consolidations, with Humana consolidating two of its DPs (Humana Walmart Rx and Humana Enhanced) into one PDP or 2020 and renaming it Humana Premier Rx, with a $57 monthly premium.
  • The estimated national average monthly PDP premium for 2020 is projected to increase by 7% to $42.05, weighted by September 2019enrollment. The actual average premium in 2020 may be lower if current enrollees switch to, and new enrollees choose, lower-premium plans during open enrollment.
  • In 2020, all PDPs will have a benefit design with five or six tiers for covered generic, brand-name, and specialty drugs,and cost sharing other than the standard 25% coinsurance, similar to 2019. More than eight in 10 PDPs (86%) will charge a deductible, with most PDPs charging the standard deductible of $435 in 2020.
  • Among all PDPs, median cost sharing is $0 for preferred generics and just $3 for generics, but$42 for preferred brands and 38% coinsurance for non-preferred drugs(the maximum allowed is 50%), plus 25% for specialty drugs (the maximum allowed is 33%).
  • Medicare beneficiaries receiving the Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) will have a choice of seven premium-free PDPs in 2020, on average, one more than in 2019. In 2020, nearly 20% of all LIS PDP enrollees who are eligible for premium-free Part D coverage(1.3 million LIS enrollees) will pay Part D premiums averaging $18 per month unless they switch or are reassigned by CMS to premium-free plans.

The full issue brief is available here.

November 19, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 4, 2019

Medicare Simplified?

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Free Webinar:Advanced Training on Medicare Part B

Sign up now for this upcoming November 20, 2019 webinar from the National Center of Law & Elder Rights.  The webinar is on Advanced Training on Medicare Part B, and is scheduled for 2 p.m. eastern.  Click here to register.  According to the announcement,

Advanced Training on Medicare Part B

When: Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. PT/2:00 p.m. ET.

Beneficiaries and advocates face challenges navigating the benefits covered under Medicare Part B and understanding the basics of accessing these benefits.

This webcast will look at three areas that can often cause confusion and will provide advice on how to address common problems:

·         Advance Beneficiary Notice (ABN): What is it and what options do clients have when faced with an unexpected bill after signing an ABN?

·         Part B Drugs: What drugs are covered by Part B and what payments are required?

·         Durable Medical Equipment: For 2019 and 2020, competitive bidding has been suspended for all DME except insulin supplies. What does this mean for your client’s access to suppliers?

Presenter: Georgia Burke, Directing Attorney, Justice in Aging

NOTE: This is an advanced training and assumes participants have a general understanding of Medicare benefits. Please see NCLER's Health Training curriculum for more information on the Legal Basics of Medicare Parts A, B, and C

 

October 31, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 7, 2019

Hospitals in the Housing Business?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 23, 2019

GAO Report on Elder Abuse & Oversight

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

reports

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

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

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

The full report is available here.

 

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Faith Based Colorado Hospital Fires Dr. Who Planned to Help With MAD

Although it's been a bit of time since Colorado 's medical aid-in-dying (MAD) law went into effect, but recent events suggest the topic has not been settled. According to Kaiser Health News, Firing Doctor, Christian Hospital Sets Off National Challenge To Aid-In-Dying Laws

A Christian-run health system in Colorado has fired a veteran doctor who went to court to fight for the right of her patient to use the state’s medical aid-in-dying law, citing religious doctrine that describes “assisted suicide” as “intrinsically evil... [the doctor] had planned to help her patient...   end his life at his home [the patient] is eligible to use the state’s law, overwhelmingly approved by Colorado voters in 2016."

This illustrates the clash between faith-based hospitals and state laws. "As hospitals across the country have consolidated, five of the top 10 hospital systems by net patient revenue are associated with the Roman Catholic Church ...  [t]hat includes hospitals that did not previously have any religious affiliation. Meanwhile, there are 10 U.S. jurisdictions where aid-in-dying has been approved and public support for the option is increasing."

Stay tuned-this is going to take a while to be resolved through the courts.

September 17, 2019 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 16, 2019

Long-Term Care Hospitals

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

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

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

 

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Two Upcoming Webinars on Important Topics

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

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

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

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

To register, click here.

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

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

Presenters will share:

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

To register, click here.

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

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Medicare Observation Status: Post-Trial Report

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 23, 2019

UBER and LYFT as the Answer to Elder Transportation Needs?

The New York Times was considering that question in a recent article,Older People Need Rides. Why Aren’t They Using Uber and Lyft?

More than half of adults over 65 own smartphones, the Pew Research Center has reported. Yet among adults 50 and older, only about a quarter used ride-hailing services in 2018 (a leap, however, from 7 percent in 2015). By comparison, half of those aged 18 to 29 had used them.

In a survey by AARP last year, only 29 percent of those over 50 had used ride-hailing apps. Two-thirds said they weren’t likely to do so in the coming year, citing in part concerns about safety and privacy. (Given data breaches at Uber, that’s no baseless fear.)

So wouldn't these options help people remain more independent, especially while we wait for self-driving cars to become widely available for all of us? One expert quoted in the article said absolutely! "One reason for such optimism: evidence that with personalized instruction, older adults can master the mobile apps and take “networked transportation” to medical appointments, entertainment and leisure activities, social visits and fitness classes."

A recent study from U.S.C. covered in the article noted when the researchers "offered three free months of unlimited Lyft rides to 150 older people in and around Los Angeles (average age: 72) who had chronic diseases and reported transportation problems... [w]ith training, nearly all used Lyft, most through the mobile app (a few used a call-in service), for an average of 69 trips. On follow-up questionnaires, almost all riders reported improved quality of life."

That's great news but the companies are seeing an opportunity here. 

Lyft and Uber and others are contracting with third parties, bypassing the need for older riders to use apps or to have smartphones at all.

They’re joining forces with health care systems, for instance. In the past 18 months, more than 1,000 — including MedStar, in the Washington area, and the Boston Medical Center — have signed on with Uber Health for “nonemergency medical transportation,” the company said.

Case managers and social workers can use Uber or Lyft to ferry patients to or from clinics and offices, reducing missed appointments.

In addition, they are working with various senior communities and exploring other programs for those who have mobility issues, including the ability to order accessible transportation and training drivers of how to assist riders with mobility issues!  There are other smaller companies carving out a part of the market, whether portal-to-portal service or the ability to call for a ride by phone. The article also explores the potential costs in using ride-hailing services.

In the U.S.C. study, the typical trip cost $22; the cost per month, had users actually paid it, averaged $500. After the study, about a fifth of riders said they wouldn’t continue using ride-hailing, mostly because of cost.

Some Medicare Advantage programs now cover rides to medical appointments and pharmacies; Lyft expects to partner with most Advantage plans by next year....But most older Americans still use traditional Medicare, which doesn’t cover such transportation.

 

August 23, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Other, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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