Wednesday, September 22, 2021

New Article on Medicare For All

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Social Security & Medicare Trustees' Reports

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

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

Here's an excerpt from the conclusion:

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Monday, August 30, 2021

Medicare Dental Coverage a Possibility?

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

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

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

Hidden Costs of Caregiving

Vox recently published The staggering, exhausting, invisible costs of caring for America’s elderly. "As someone ages, their health appears to gradually deteriorate in a way that doesn’t seem alarming. Most of the time, though, they’re inching toward a cliff — and when they fall off, they find themselves on another health cliff, and another, and another. With each cliff, it gets more difficult for a family member to catch them."  Lack of long term care insurance and a lack of understanding of what Medicare covers leaves many unprepared when the need for caregiving arises.  Nursing homes remain expensive and concerns arising as a result of COVID remain relevant today, the article notes. The impact on caregivers is highlighted in the article. Here are some excerpts:

[M]ost of this care work — both paid and unpaid — remains invisible. According to the most recent data from the AARP, an estimated 41.8 million people, or 16.8 percent of the population, currently provides care for an adult over 50. That’s up from 34.2 million (14.3 percent) in 2015.

Of those caregivers, 28 percent have stopped saving, 23 percent have taken on more debt, 22 percent have used up their personal short-term savings, and 11 percent reported being unable to cover basic needs, including food. The average age of someone providing care for an adult is 49, but 23 percent are millennials and 6 percent are Gen Z. Sixty-one percent are women, and 40 percent provide that care within their own homes, up from 34 percent in 2015.

A lot of these caregivers are really, really struggling. What’s required of them is more complex and time-consuming than just 10 years ago, as caregivers deal with overlapping diagnoses related to physical health, mental health, and memory loss as the elderly live longer. The work is much more than just clearing out the guest room or setting another place at the dinner table.

I find the article thoughtful and thought-provoking. It's worth reading and I'll use it in my class.  Consider this excerpt:

t’s only recently that we’ve settled on the understanding that care for elders is natural, moral, and ideal, even when the people providing this care are suffering or lacking the skills to provide the quality of care the recipient requires, or both. Crucially, by locating responsibility for care squarely on the family unit, it also continues to limit or excuse greater society — which is to say, the government — from the responsibility of providing care to the most vulnerable members of society. Our belief that the family is always the best and preferred care provider makes it much harder to advocate for the sort of larger, taxpayer-funded systems that would make all care, regardless of whether it’s provided by a family member, far easier.

There are other consequences to this naturalization of family responsibility. When labor is continually framed as something done out of love or instinct, it loses its connotation as labor and, by extension, its value. When women (and white middle-class women in particular) began moving into the workforce en masse in the second half of the 20th century, they didn’t quit their domestic work. They just did two jobs, one layered on top of the other; they would put in a full day in a traditional workplace for pay, then went home and kept working, unpaid.

Many women could only juggle these two separate jobs with the help of other women, both paid and unpaid. Poor working women had been doing this for some time, relying on “kith and kin” for child care in particular. Some middle-class women increasingly began to do the same, relying on friends but mostly family, while some began paying other women to do the work. This domestic labor, whether in the form of child-rearing, laundering, cleaning, or cooking, was essential, but because it had been so thoroughly normalized as unpaid work, it was also easy to normalize incredibly low wages for those who do it, even if that person had no relation to the family.

The article discusses the stresses of, and costs from caregiving and concludes with a sense of urgency regarding a looming crisis, if action isn't taken

Right now, several experts told me, the public alarm around the state of elder care is about where it was with child care 10, 15 years ago. We didn’t act on the alarm bells when it came to child care, and now the system is in a pandemic-accelerated crisis, with rippling effects across the economy. The question, then, is whether we want to wait the 10, 15 years for that implosion, right as even more Gen X-ers, millennials, and older Gen Z-ers age into caregiving roles and, shortly thereafter, need their own care. Or do we want to address the problem now, before it risks collapsing us, and our families, entirely.

Thanks to Morris Klein for sending me the link to this article.

August 30, 2021 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Biden Administration to Mandate COVID Vaccinations for Nursing Home Employees

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 13, 2021

Paying for Old Age

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

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

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Why Doesn't Medicare Cover More?

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

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

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

More News on the SNF Front

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Friday, August 6, 2021

Penalties for SNF Deficiencies Reinstated After Roll Back

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

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

Thursday, July 15, 2021

New Report on Nursing Home Industry

The Center for Medicare Advocacy   recently released a new report,  Nursing Home Industry is Heavily Taxpayer-Subsidized.

I offer you this opening paragraph as a teaser to the 6 page report:

It is well-known that Government health care programs, Medicare and Medicaid, are the primary payers for nursing home care. The two federal programs paid facilities tens of billions of dollars for providing care to residents and were the primary payer for nearly 80% of residents.  Far less known is that, in addition to receiving these direct payments, the nursing home industry also benefits from the extensive subsidies, through income-related public benefit programs – Medicaid, food assistance, housing assistance, heating assistance, cash payments, tax credits, and more – that help support its underpaid staff. The Government subsidizes the nursing home industry by billions of dollars each year by providing needs-based public benefits and earned income tax credits to its many low-wage nursing home workers. (citations omitted in this quote).

The article discusses the facilities, the employees, salaries and public benefit programs, and issues this call to action: "Change is beginning to happen in wages for low-wage workers, but until all nursing home workers’ wages are raised to (at least) living wages and until all workers receive health benefits and paid time off, the Government will continue to subsidize nursing homes by billions of dollars by providing needs-based public benefits and earned income tax credits to the nursing home industry’s low-paid workers. ..." (citations omitted in this quote).

In the interest of full disclosure, I am on the board for the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

July 15, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Caregivers & Home Care Funding

You may recall that the President proposed an increase in home care funding. But, Biden's pledge to boost home caregiver funding excluded from infrastructure deal.

Because the federal government does not require states to provide these benefits for all those who qualify, nearly 820,000 older or disabled Americans were on state waitlists for Medicaid’s home- and community-based services in 2018, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study published last year. Many rely on family members for their most basic needs, including bathing, getting dressed and taking medication. Without outside help, their family members often struggle to balance caregiving with work and face the enormous challenge of keeping their loved ones safe.

Amid the growing need, President Joe Biden vowed to eliminate these waiting lists during his campaign and originally proposed to inject $400 billion into these programs through the massive infrastructure bill currently under debate in Congress. Republicans, however, have blasted the effort to include “human infrastructure” in the bill, and Democratic leaders excluded the funding from the deal that the White House struck on Thursday with a bipartisan group of senators. Biden has pledged to pursue money for caregiving in a separate, far larger bill that could potentially pass with Democratic votes alone, but that is far from guaranteed.

The need is great and the wait is long, according to the article.

Without greater support, the number of vulnerable Americans who can’t access paid care at home will continue to rise, experts and advocates say, given the aging population, pandemic-fueled fears of nursing homes, and a growing shortage of workers, deterred by Medicaid’s low pay rates and tough working conditions. That means more families could be left scrambling to patch together care for their loved ones at home, not knowing if their number on the waiting list will come up or if they will be able to receive care when it does.

Add into the mix worker shortages and we are facing a critical situation.  Although not included in the infrastructure bill,   Democrats on Thursday introduced a bill "to expand eligibility and access to Medicaid home- and community-based services, helping states reduce waitlists and increasing pay and benefits for home health workers. Democrats can pass certain spending bills without Republican votes, but would need support from every member of their razor-thin Senate majority, and 10 Democratic senators have yet to sign on to the new home care bill."

Stay tuned.

July 1, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

HHS Inspector General Report on Medicare Beneficiaries' Deaths in SNFs

We all have heard the stories about the number of SNF residents dying during the pandemic. The Inspector General for HHS recently issued a report looking at the number of Medicare beneficiaries who died in SNFs during the pandemic, COVID-19 Had a Devastating Impact on Medicare Beneficiaries in Nursing Homes During 2020.

The executive summary explains:

Nursing home residents have been particularly affected by COVID-19, as they are predominately elderly, tend to have underlying conditions, and live in close quarters. However, data on the number of nursing home residents who were diagnosed with COVID-19 or likely COVID-19 have not been readily available, particularly for early in the pandemic. Nursing homes are not required to report cases and deaths that occurred before May 8, 2020.

This data snapshot provides objective, standardized data based on Medicare claims for all Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes throughout the country. This data snapshot is the first in a three-part series. Subsequent work will address the characteristics of the hardest hit nursing homes and strategies used by nursing homes to confront the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHAT WE FOUND

  • Two in five Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes were diagnosed with either COVID-19 or likely COVID-19 in 2020.
  • Almost 1,000 more beneficiaries died per day in April 2020 than in April 2019.
  • Overall mortality in nursing homes increased to 22 percent in 2020 from 17 percent in 2019.
  • About half of Black, Hispanic, and Asian beneficiaries in nursing homes had or likely had COVID-19, and 41 percent of White beneficiaries did.
  • Understanding the pandemic's effects on nursing home residents is necessary if tragedies like this are to be averted.

Note that this is the first of 3 reports on the topic.  The full report is available here.

June 29, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Other, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

In Search of the Abracadabra for Alzheimer's Medicines

I used to follow (and regularly blog about) new drugs in the pipeline for Alzheimer's treatment.  Then I realized that the drugs weren't making it to the market place.  While attending medical programs about R & D, I learned that it was going to be tough to find any magic treatments, much less "cures."

To it was interesting to read this week that for the first time in some 18 years,  the FDA has approved use of a new drug, with the marketing name  Aduhelm and the generic name Aducanumab  (kind of sounds like abracadabra, doesn't it?), manufactured by Biogen.   

Aduhelm is described by the FDA as an "amyloid beta-directed antibody," which was approved under an "accelerated approval pathway," to give "patients suffering from a serious disease earlier access to drugs when there is an expectation of clinical benefit despite some uncertainty about the clinical benefit of the drug." 

But there is a lot of sobering news accompanying this announcement:

First, the mechanism of delivery:  monthly intravenous infusions, which means a clinical visit lasting at least an hour per infusion.

Second, Biogen's own predictions about cost:  a "list price" predicted to average  $56,000 per year per patient!  Yikes.

Third, the critical response from a range of experts in relevant research, pharmacy and health fields about the approval process to date, indicating a history of interruptions in the clinical trials when preliminary results showed little to no evidence of clinical benefit. 

Fourth:  the need for assessment before the first infusion with an MRI, plus recommended follow up MRIs prior to the 7th and 12th infusions, to assess the potential for ARIA-H, which are amyloid-related abnormalities, also potentially associated with edema in the brain.

Here are some links (and I'll try to keep this list up-to-date as new info comes in):  

Draft Evidence Report dated 5/5/2021 from the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review on "Aducanumab for Alzheimer's Disease: Effectiveness and Value." 

Letter from American Geriatrics Society dated 6/2/2021 to FDA expressing concern about "premature" approval

STAT's commentary, dated June 7, 2021 on FAQs: What You Need to Know about the Alzheimer's Drug Aduhelm

New York Times, dated June 8, 2021:  FDA Approves Alzheimer's Drug Despite Fierce Debate Over Whether it Works

June 8, 2021 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 31, 2021

Roundup on Nursing Home Articles

Starting off the month of June with another roundup of articles about nursing homes.

First, from the New York Times at the end of April, Cuomo Aides Spent Months Hiding Nursing Home Death Toll.

Then, also from late April, this article from Politico, Will the Nursing Home of the Future be an Actual Home?

Then, a recent report from the GAO, COVID-19 in Nursing Homes: Most Homes Had Multiple Outbreaks and Weeks of Sustained Transmission from May 2020 through January 2021 (the link takes you to the page with links for highlights, the full report, fast facts, and a podcast).

On another topic related to SNFs, as we approach hurricane season, this important report about facilities in Florida with emergency power backups.  See, generators by Florida county for ALFs and SNFs.

May 31, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Round up on SNF Articles

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Proposed Changes to the Provision of Long Term Care

Kaiser Health News recently provided an overview of the changes proposed by the Biden Administration to long term care.  Biden Seeks $400 Billion to Buttress Long-Term Care. A Look at What’s at Stake provides this overview:

The services in question. Home and community-based services help people who need significant assistance live at home as opposed to nursing homes or group homes.

  *  *  *  

The need. At some point, 70% of older adults will require help with dressing, hygiene, moving around, managing finances, taking medications, cooking, housekeeping and other daily needs, usually for two to four years. 

*  *  *

Medicare limitations. Many people assume that Medicare — the nation’s health program for 61 million older adults and people with severe disabilities — will pay for long-term care, including home-based services. But Medicare coverage is extremely limited.

  *  *  *  

Medicaid options. Medicaid — the federal-state health program for 72 million children and adults in low-income households — can be an alternative, but financial eligibility standards are strict and only people with meager incomes and assets qualify.

  *  *  *  

The article additionally reviews the impact on family caregivers and the workforce, questions about the Administration's proposal and some suggestions for reform.  Stay tuned; this isn't going to be a quick or easy journey.

April 20, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

State of SNFs Prior to Pandemic

WGBH, a PBS station, ran this story a bit ago.   New Studies Show Dire State Of Nursing Homes Even Before The Pandemic opens with a focus on staff turnovers and highlights recent studies:

The pandemic has shined a harsh spotlight on nursing homes. Despite less than 1% of the population living in nursing homes and longterm care facilities, they account for about a third of all COVID-19 deaths. Now, two new national studies show that, even before the pandemic, the nursing home industry was in a dire situation. The studies paint a picture of places where it is unappealing to work and risky to stay.

[T]he first national study of staff turnover in nursing homes before the pandemic, published this month in Health Affairs. The study found an extraordinarily high rate of staff turnover, with an average of over 100%.

“That means the average nursing home in the U.S. has their entire nursing home staff change over the course of the calendar year,” [said one study author]. “And we found that some nursing homes had turnover as high as 300%, suggesting the staff is turning over every four months.”

That doesn't necessarily mean that all employees leave during a year. A facility with 10 staff members could have 100% turnover if everyone leaves and is replaced by a new person or if one job is filled 10 different times because the new hires keep leaving.

The article also discusses private equity involvement in the long term care industry.

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

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Help for Unpaid Caregivers?

Will the administration provide support for family caregivers?  This was the subject of an opinion published in the New York Times. 50 Million Americans Are Unpaid Caregivers. We Need Help. focuses on the author's personal experiences as a family caregiver. Consider this: "It’s often noted that the United States is alone among rich nations in not providing maternity leave; support for child care is likewise abysmal. Similarly — but often more invisibly — we leave millions of caregivers with little or no support in managing the financial, logistical and emotional difficulties of helping ailing parents, spouses and children."  Referencing the pledge made during the campaign, the author notices the benefits:

The changes would help not just caregivers like me; what’s good for caregivers also benefits those who need assistance. Expanding home care can keep frail elderly people out of nursing homes, the drawbacks of which have been painfully exposed by the pandemic. Easing financial strains and burnout for caregivers can mean better, more compassionate treatment, which in turn can improve quality of life and outcomes for our most vulnerable citizens.

March 3, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Other | Permalink

Monday, January 25, 2021

SNFS and Vaccination for COVID

Since it's been a few weeks since the vaccine rollout, and with residents of SNFs in the top priority for vaccination, how successful has it been? I have posted a few articles previously, and I wanted to pass on a few more.

In my geographic area, The Tampa Bay Times reported, Tampa Bay nursing homes have all offered coronavirus vaccines to residents and staff. Note here in the headline "offered."  Some folks may refuse to get the vaccine, whether residents or staff. Which brings me to two more articles.

Inside a Nursing Home as Vaccine Arrives: ‘I Hope Everybody Takes It’ is an interesting look at a day inside a SNF when folks from Walgreens were onsite to vaccinate folks.

The approval of Pfizer’s novel coronavirus vaccine in December brought hope to the residents and staff members at Staten Island’s Clove Lakes Health Care and Rehabilitation Center. The facility was hit hard: It lost more than 40 residents to the virus last year and struggled financially as the number of new residents plummeted, along with their income.

The employees and residents had counted on the vaccine to help them return to some semblance of their old routine — including family visits — and were determined not to waste any time. Weeks before a single person got the vaccine staff had been preparing for the rollout, contacting residents and families by mail, email, robocalls and social service workers to reassure everyone about its safety and effectiveness.

And although the Tampa Bay Times reported the successes of vaccine availability in our area, that is not the case elsewhere.  The New York Times also reported a few days ago, Frustrations Boil at Pace of Vaccinations at Long-Term Care Facilities

CVS and Walgreens, which are largely responsible for vaccinating residents and workers in long-term care facilities, are on track to make at least initial vaccination visits to nearly all nursing homes they are working with by Jan. 25. The two pharmacy chains have already given out more than 1.7 million vaccine doses at long-term care facilities.

But the progress is uneven across the country and not nearly as comprehensive for different types of long-term care. For example, thousands of assisted living facilities — for older people who need less care than those in nursing homes — do not yet even have an appointment for their first visit from the pharmacy teams, in large part because states have given such facilities lower priority in their vaccine-distribution plans.

The length of time it is taking is causing some states to come up with alternate plans. The article stresses the critical nature of the situation. 

[T]he rapidly spreading virus continues to decimate nursing homes and similar facilities. The virus’s surge since November has killed about 30,000 long-term care staff and residents, raising the total of virus-related deaths in these facilities to at least 136,000, according to a New York Times tracker. Since the pandemic began, long-term care facilities have accounted for just 5 percent of coronavirus cases but 36 percent of virus-related deaths.

Also noted in the Times article, there are "other things are slowing the campaign. A significant number of long-term care workers have balked at receiving the vaccine. The virus’s spread is also delaying the process. People should not be vaccinated while they still have Covid-19 symptoms or are isolating, according to the C.D.C."

 

January 25, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Other | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 18, 2021

COVID, Vaccination Confusion & More

There are so many stories being published about COVID and the impact on elders, I'm just going to include a few in this post.

I had mentioned a few weeks back that some states were circumventing the CDC recommendation on the second priority tier for vaccination. Florida is among those states, choosing to vaccinate those 65 and older. In case you weren't aware, Florida has a lot of folks 65 and older. And not enough vaccine doses for everyone. When the second batch of vaccines arrived, stories appeared regarding confusion and inefficiencies regarding signing up to receive the vaccine. (I and several of my friends can tell you first-hand accounts of this). As the New York Times described it,  ‘It Became Sort of Lawless’: Florida Vaccine Rollout Turns Into a Free-for-All.  It's not just Florida having this problem, as noted in  Online Sign-Ups Complicate COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout For Older People.

We need to remember that not everyone has access to a computer or reliable internet-so are we leaving out an entire group in that 65 and over category eligible for the vaccine?  With states left to administer the programs,  Vaccination Disarray Leaves Seniors Confused About When They Can Get a Shot.

It seems to me that COVID news has been pushed off the news as the #1 story, replaced by the insurgency (rightfully so) but we shouldn't lose focus on the increasing spread of the pandemic. So we know things are going to get worse, before they get better---we haven't seen the surge from the Christmas holidays, but it's coming and very soon.  Just look at what happened at Thanksgiving:  COVID Kills Over 12,000 Nursing Home Residents in Weeks Surrounding Thanksgiving.

Finally, if you don't read any of these articles, read this one. COVID-19 And Congress Have Left The Senior Citizen Safety Net In Tatters explains the impact the pandemic and the economy is having on senior centers.

Whew.

January 18, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (2)