Thursday, September 22, 2022

Some Critical Access Hospitals Overpaid by Medicare?

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

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

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

The full report with comments and recommendations is available here.

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

Certain SNF non-compliance on infection control and more?

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

Here is a summary of their findings

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

The full report with recommendations is available here.

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

Monday, September 12, 2022

Saving an Arm & a Leg on Drug Costs

Kaiser Health News released a podcast yesterday about the new law for CMS to negotiate drug prices under Medicare. ‘An Arm and a Leg’: The New Cap on Medicare Drug Costs explains "[t]he U.S. Senate was voting on the Inflation Reduction Act, which among other things is designed to ensure that people on Medicare pay less for expensive drugs....It’s a big deal. Lots of seniors pay $10,000 a year or more for drugs or do without lifesaving treatment; once the new law kicks in, it sets an out-of-pocket limit of $2,000 a year. "

The link to the 26 minute podcast is available here.  A transcript of the podcast is available here.

September 12, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 8, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

When Private Equity Owns Nursing Homes

Last week the New Yorker newsletter ran this article, When Private Equity Takes Over a Nursing Home. Focusing on the sale of one nursing home, the article discusses the facility before the sale and after.

Nearly a quarter of the hundred-person staff had been with the home for more than fifteen years; the activities director was in her forty-fifth year. But the ownership change precipitated a mass exodus. Within two weeks, management laid out plans to significantly cut back nurse staffing. Some mornings, there were only two nursing aides working at the seventy-two-bed facility. A nurse at the home, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, told me, “It takes two people just to take some residents to the bathroom.” ,

Consider the prevalence of private equity's ownership of nursing homes. According to the article, "Since the turn of the century, private-equity investment in nursing homes has grown from five billion to a hundred billion dollars. The purpose of such investments—their so-called value proposition—is to increase efficiency. Management and administrative services can be centralized, and excess costs and staffing trimmed."  Further, "Private-equity firms currently own only eleven per cent of facilities, as a federal report found. But about seventy per cent of the industry is now run for profit."

This is an important article. 

August 30, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Hearing Loss, Cataracts, and Dementia

There seem to be a lot of articles in the media currently discussing the statistical relationship between hearing loss and dementia.  Of course, we need to remember the axiom that "correlation does not necessarily mean causation."  Still, recent studies and informed observations are intriguing.  For example one study underway is looking at whether treating hearing loss can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.  

Johns Hopkins is leading a large National Institute on Aging study to see if hearing aids can safeguard seniors’ mental processes. The study has multiple locations and has recruited nearly 1,000 people ages 70–84 with hearing loss. One group is provided hearing aids, while another group receives aging education. By early 2023, the study should provide definitive results on whether treating hearing loss will reduce the risk of cognitive decline. In essence, we’ll know whether the use of hearing aids can potentially reduce brain aging and the risk of dementia.

Some of this research is going beyond examining the potential for common causes for the two processes (such as poor diet and inadequate exercise, as well as uncontrolled blood pressure or weight).  Researchers are asking whether a failure to hear clearly can actually damage the brain's function.  NPR's Sunday Edition (8.21.2022) includes  a five minute interview with Dr. Frank Lin, at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who addresses three "major brain mechanisms" that may be affected by untreated hearing impairments: (1) the potential impact of the load on a brain from having to work harder; (2) the potential for hearing loss to actually affect the integrity of the brain's structure  because of atrophy of an essential function, and (3) the potential for loss of hearing to contribute to social isolation, further reducing engagement that keeps people (and their brains) interacting with the world around them. 

Dr. Lin is also pleased about the FDA finally opening access for Americans to purchase over-the-counter hearing aids, a change he's worked on and supported for some eight years.  He points out that currently only some 15 to 20% of Americans who could benefit from hearing assistance are getting the help they need, probably because of high costs and reluctance to see doctors. Dr. Lin says that any theoretical risks from over-the-counter sales (such as over- or under-amplification) is significantly outweighed by the benefits. 

Oh, and while I'm at this, the research suggesting that older people who have cataracts removed may be "nearly 30% less likely to develop dementia" is also interesting.

August 21, 2022 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hearing Loss, Cataracts, and Dementia

There seem to be a lot of articles in the media currently discussing the statistical relationship between hearing loss and dementia.  Of course, we need to remember the axiom that "correlation does not necessarily mean causation."  Still, recent studies and informed observations are intriguing.  For example one study underway is looking at whether treating hearing loss can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.  

Johns Hopkins is leading a large National Institute on Aging study to see if hearing aids can safeguard seniors’ mental processes. The study has multiple locations and has recruited nearly 1,000 people ages 70–84 with hearing loss. One group is provided hearing aids, while another group receives aging education. By early 2023, the study should provide definitive results on whether treating hearing loss will reduce the risk of cognitive decline. In essence, we’ll know whether the use of hearing aids can potentially reduce brain aging and the risk of dementia.

Some of this research is going beyond examining the potential for common causes for the two processes (such as poor diet and inadequate exercise, as well as uncontrolled blood pressure or weight).  Researchers are asking whether a failure to hear clearly can actually damage the brain's function.  NPR's Sunday Edition (8.21.2022) includes  a five minute interview with Dr. Frank Lin, at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who addresses three "major brain mechanisms" that may be affected by untreated hearing impairments: (1) the potential impact of the load on a brain from having to work harder; (2) the potential for hearing loss to actually affect the integrity of the brain's structure  because of atrophy of an essential function, and (3) the potential for loss of hearing to contribute to social isolation, further reducing engagement that keeps people (and their brains) interacting with the world around them. 

Dr. Lin is also pleased about the FDA finally opening access for Americans to purchase over-the-counter hearing aids, a change he's worked on and supported for some eight years.  He points out that currently only some 15 to 20% of Americans who could benefit from hearing assistance are getting the help they need, probably because of high costs and reluctance to see doctors. Dr. Lin says that any theoretical risks from over-the-counter sales (such as over- or under-amplification) is significantly outweighed by the benefits. 

Oh, and while I'm at this, the research suggesting that older people who have cataracts removed may be "nearly 30% less likely to develop dementia" is also interesting.

August 21, 2022 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 14, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Update on Medicare Observation Status-Appeals Process Announced

The Center for Medicare Advocacy announced in their newsletter a few weeks ago that Medicare has announced the development of an appeals process for certain patients on observation status.

As the result of a court case, the Medicare.gov website now alerts a nationwide class of Medicare beneficiaries that they “have appeal rights” when a hospital changes their status from inpatient to outpatient observation, and that the appeal process is currently under development. View the information here (click on “Appeals in Original Medicare” and scroll to “Coming Soon: Appeal when a hospital changes your status from an inpatient to an outpatient with observation services.”).

The “observation” designation can have severe ramifications for beneficiaries. Many will face no coverage for post-hospital nursing home care, which requires a prior “inpatient” hospitalization of at least three days. Time spent in observation status does not count towards the required inpatient stay, even though observation stays can last several days and the care can be indistinguishable from inpatient care.

The full article is available here. Information about observation status appeals can be found here (click on appeals in original Medicare).

August 9, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink

Monday, August 8, 2022

Private Equity in the Business of Hospice?

Kaiser Health News a couple of weeks ago ran an article, Hospices Have Become Big Business for Private Equity Firms, Raising Concerns About End-of-Life Care.  "Hospice care, once provided primarily by nonprofit agencies, has seen a remarkable shift over the past decade, with more than two-thirds of hospices nationwide now operating as for-profit entities. The ability to turn a quick profit in caring for people in their last days of life is attracting a new breed of hospice owners: private equity firms."  Check this out: "According to a 2021 analysis, the number of hospice agencies owned by private equity firms soared from 106 of a total of 3,162 hospices in 2011 to 409 of the 5,615 hospices operating in 2019. Over that time, 72% of hospices acquired by private equity were nonprofits. And those trends have only accelerated into 2022."  

The article explores concerns expressed regarding private equity firms owning hospices, including quality of care and profit margins. It also discusses for-profit vs. non-profit hospices.  Check it out!

August 8, 2022 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink

Friday, July 29, 2022

CMS Actions to Improve SNF Resident Quality of Life and Care

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Tampa Bay Area SNF Closes After Medicare Loss

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

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

Friday, July 22, 2022

New Article on Needed Medigap Protections

 

Center for Medicare Advocacy Senior Policy Attorney Kata Kertesz had her article, “Expansions of Medigap Consumer Protections are Necessary to Promote Health Equity in the Medicare Program,” published last week in the Stetson University College of Law Journal of Aging Law & Policy.   The article starts on page 39.  Check out all the other articles in the volume while you are dowloanding the Medigap article.

Check it out!

July 22, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Did You Catch the SSA and Medicare Trustees' Reports?

 Early last month, the SSA Trustees released their annual report. Here's the bottom line:

 The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASI and DI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2035, one year later than projected last year, with 80 percent of benefits payable at that time.

The OASI Trust Fund is projected to become depleted in 2034, one year later than last year’s estimate, with 77 percent of benefits payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund asset reserves are not projected to become depleted during the 75-year projection period.

The full report is available here.

The Medicare Trustees also released their 2022 annual report, which is available here. Here's the bottom line for Medicare:

  • The Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund, or Medicare Part A, which helps pay for services such as inpatient hospital care, will be able to pay scheduled benefits until 2028, two years later than reported last year. At that time, the fund’s reserves will become depleted and continuing total program income will be sufficient to pay 90 percent of total scheduled benefits.
  • The Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI) Trust Fund is adequately financed into the indefinite future because current law provides financing from general revenues and beneficiary premiums each year to meet the next year’s expected costs. Due to these funding provisions and the rapid growth of its costs, SMI will place steadily increasing demands on both taxpayers and beneficiaries.
  • For the sixth consecutive year, the Trustees are issuing a determination of projected excess general revenue Medicare funding, as is required by law whenever annual tax and premium revenues of the combined Medicare funds will be below 55 percent of projected combined annual outlays within the next 7 fiscal years. Under the law, two such consecutive determinations of projected excess general revenue constitute a “Medicare funding warning.”  Under current law and the Trustees’ projections, such determinations and warnings will recur every year through the 75-year projection period.   

Oh, and remember the hefty increase in the Part B premiums for 2022? It's going to be rolled back-just not this year.

[T]he Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a report that recommends cost savings from lower-than-expected Medicare Part B spending be passed along to people with Medicare Part B coverage in the calculation of the 2023 Part B premium. Earlier this year, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra instructed CMS to reassess the 2022 Part B premium amount in response to a price reduction for Aduhelm™, a monoclonal antibody directed against amyloid for use in treating Alzheimer’s disease. Given the information available today, it is expected that the 2023 premium will be lower than 2022. The final determination will be made later this fall

 

July 13, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Roundup of Articles from May

Having not blogged in a while, I have a few articles in my inbox from May that I thought at least deserved a mention.  (The titles are pretty self-explanatory). Some are more feel-good stories (which we can all use right now) and others are more serious.  Read when you have time.

1.   During the Omicron Wave, Death Rates Soared for Older People.

2.   ‘Grandfluencers’ Are Sharing a New Vision of Old Age. On TikTok, the over-65 set is thriving.

3. These 90-Year-Old Runners Have Some Advice for You

4. CMS Unveils More User-Friendly Medicare Website

5. Government watchdog: 1 in 4 older Americans on Medicare harmed during hospital stay

6. V.R. ‘Reminiscence Therapy’ Lets Seniors Relive the Past

7. States with the Most Improved Outlook for Older Adults (apologies to Morris Klein who sent me the link back in May).

July 12, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Will Congress Pass Medicare Drug Negotiated Pricing?

Last week Roll Call reported that the "Senate draft[ed] [a] last-ditch drug pricing plan ahead of midterms." This would allow "Medicare [to] negotiate prices directly with manufacturers for some prescription drugs ahead of the midterm elections, according to a summary of the plan obtained by CQ Roll Call."  This was an integral part "of Democrats’ sweeping social spending and climate bill after intra-party divisions killed the original legislation" the article reports. The article describes the proposal.  Since there's only about 3 weeks before the August recess, we'll know the outcome soon.

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

Podcast on Quality SNF Care

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

 

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

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Billing Issues with Some Medicare Advantage Plans?

The Washington Post ran an article recently,  Beat cancer? Your Medicare Advantage plan might still be billing for it.

According to the article, the U.S. filed a false claims lawsuit in California against a health system, which is just one of others filed by the Government "on abusive billing practices in Medicare Advantage ...  [by] pursuing civil lawsuits against multiple companies that participate in the privatized system, from huge insurers to prestigious nonprofit hospital systems, alleging they have cheated the system for unfair profit."  The article notes that the industry's position is that the "firms adhere to Medicare’s rules and follow the system’s guidance on regulations that are not always clear. Moreover, the industry says that listing all health issues on medical records is a crucial part of Medicare Advantage’s promise to anticipate health problems, proactively manage disease and reduce hospitalizations."  Read the full article to learn more.

June 16, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 8, 2022

HHS Inspector General Report on MA Plans

The Inspector General of HHS recently released this report,  Some Medicare Advantage Organization Denials of Prior Authorization Requests Raise Concerns About Beneficiary Access to Medically Necessary Care.

Here's the OIG explanation why they did the study:

A central concern about the capitated payment model used in Medicare Advantage is the potential incentive for Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) to deny beneficiary access to services and deny payments to providers in an attempt to increase profits. Although MAOs approve the vast majority of requests for services and payment, they issue millions of denials each year, and CMS annual audits of MAOs have highlighted widespread and persistent problems related to inappropriate denials of services and payment. As Medicare Advantage enrollment continues to grow, MAOs play an increasingly critical role in ensuring that Medicare beneficiaries have access to medically necessary covered services and that providers are reimbursed appropriately.

What the OIG found shows that "MAOs sometimes delayed or denied Medicare Advantage beneficiaries' access to services, even though the requests met Medicare coverage rules. MAOs also denied payments to providers for some services that met both Medicare coverage rules and MAO billing rules." They also found that 13% of denied prior authorizations met the coverage rules and that additionally some denials were made based on lack of documentation but OIG found sufficient documentation had been provided. 18% of payment request denials met the Medicare coverage rules.

Here are their recommendations

Our findings about the causes and circumstances under which MAOs denied prior authorization or payment for requests that met Medicare coverage and MAO billing rules provide an opportunity for improvement to ensure that Medicare Advantage beneficiaries have timely access to all necessary health care services, and that providers are paid appropriately. Therefore, we recommend that CMS:

  • issue new guidance on the appropriate use of MAO clinical criteria in medical necessity reviews;
  • update its audit protocols to address the issues identified in this report, such as MAO use of clinical criteria and/or examining particular service types; and
  • direct MAOs to take additional steps to identify and address vulnerabilities that can lead to manual review errors and system errors.

The full report is available here.

May 8, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 29, 2022

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The governor's veto statement explains:

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

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

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

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

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