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IN THE NEWS

Minnesota Victims of Nursing Home Abuse Challenge Arbitration Clauses

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Minneapolis Star Tribune: Minnesota Victims of Nursing Home Abuse Challenge Arbitration Clauses (1/29/2017) Arbitration agreements are proliferating in the senior care industry. Many times potential residents are required to sign them as a condition of admission. The clauses require residents to forfeit their right to a court hearing in cases of neglect, abuse, wrongful eviction, and even death. The nursing home industry uses these agreements to block residents and their families from pursuing lawsuits. A new federal rule that is part of new nursing home regulations implemented last fall bars long-term care facilities that receive federal funding from requiring residents enter into arbitration before a dispute arises. “More and more people are waking up to the essential unfairness and lack of transparency of these clauses,” said Eric Carlson, directing attorney of Justice in Aging.” The rule has been blocked in court, but the government’s case is being cited as evidence that many such clauses are invalid and that victims of maltreatment have a right to their day in court.

How Seniors Crushed by Old Student Loans Can Get Relief

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Consumer Reports: How Seniors Crushed by Old Student Loans Can Get Relief (12/21/2016) Many seniors are being pushed into poverty due to old student loans. An increasing amount of seniors are having their Social Security income garnished by the government to pay off student debt. Justice in Aging’s Kate Lang says that “this is something that was not common till recently. The rising cost of higher education means that the debt itself is much larger and it’s much more difficult to pay it off over time. What’s really troubling is that there will be more and more people in this situation.” The number of seniors affected is expected to rise as baby boomers retire.

No Rest at Rest Home: Fighting Bias Against Gays and Lesbians

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The New York Times: No Rest at Rest Home: Fighting Bias Against Gays and Lesbians (11/19/2016) As aging baby boomers increase demands for community living options, research has shown continued housing discrimination faced by older gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adults. A report conducted by Justice in Aging highlighted the discrimination and barriers faced by the L.G.B.T. community. One survey revealed that a majority believed that being open about their sexual orientation would result in discrimination from housing staff. Justice in Aging’s Eric Carlson is quoted adding, “You’re in a communal living setting that puts a lot of pressure on people. Imagine how oppressive it is to have to be guarded about who you are or your family and friends.”

CMS halts auto-enrollment proposals from Medicare Advantage plans

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Modern Healthcare: CMS halts auto-enrollment proposals from Medicare Advantage plans (10/24/2016) The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has temporarily ceased accepting new proposals from health insurance companies seeking automatic patient enrollment into their Medicare Advantage plans. The process, known as seamless conversions, allows health insurance companies to automatically enroll patients from a regular plan into a private Medicare Advantage plan once the patient has turned 65 years old. The process has been criticized for lacking consumer protections. Justice in Aging’s Directing Attorney Georgia Burke said,“We are very pleased with the moratorium and the plans to review the policy, because we really think they need to have additional attention on protecting and encouraging consumer choice.”

Hopes for Improved Care in Nursing Homes as New Rule Allows Lawsuits

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Epoch Times: Hopes for Improved Care in Nursing Homes as New Rule Allows Lawsuits (10/04/2016) Consumers can now sue nursing home facilities under a new rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. Part of a larger update on consumer protections by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the new rule “prevents nursing facilities from taking advantage of people on the front end and having them sign things when they’re thinking about everything other than arbitration,” said Justice in Aging’s Eric Carlson. Disputes between residents and nursing home facilities go through arbitration, which have been criticized for favoring nursing home facilities in the past. The new rules go into affect November 28, 2016.

Settlement will restore benefits denied by discredited doctor

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San Francisco Chronicle: Settlement will restore benefits denied by discredited doctor (9/25/2016) A class action settlement has been reached with the Social Security Administration regarding their continued use of a doctor’s, Dr. Frank Chen, evaluations to determine disability benefit eligibility, months after that doctor had been removed. The Social Security Administration also failed to notify the doctor’s patients that he had been removed and continued to use his examination reports. Justice in Aging’s Trinh Phan said that, “Instead of telling people about it, and warning them (that Chen had been dropped), they let those reports sit in the system, and adjudicators continued to rely on the reports to deny people benefits.” The settlement would grant 6,500 applicants new disability claim evaluations.

Failing the Frail

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PennLive: Failing the Frail (8/4/2016) A PennLive investigation regarding nursing home violations that contributed to residents’ deaths revealed that the Pennsylvania Department of Health failed to properly classify violations and penalize culpable nursing homes. Though states are supposed to cite nursing home violations that result in death or significant harm to residents with the highest severity level, known as “immediate jeopardy,” Pennsylvania’s Department of Health has issued the citation at one of the lowest rates in the nation. From 2013 to 2015, only one out of 46 care-related deaths was categorized at this level. Justice in Aging’s Eric Carlson said that the state’s definition and explanation of the term is inconsistent with that of the federal government. Experts and senior care advocates agree, along with several studies, that one of the most effective ways the department could prevent avoidable deaths is to penalize nursing homes where they occur.

Doctors Are Improperly Billing Some on Medicare, U.S. Says

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The New York Times: Doctors Are Improperly Billing Some on Medicare, U.S. Says (7/31/2016) Healthcare providers are illegally billing qualified Medicare beneficiaries, also enrolled in Medicaid, for deductibles, co-payments and other costs. The practice, known as “balance billing,” is illegal. Federal law requires doctors to accept the amount paid by Medicare and Medicaid as payment in full for qualified Medicare beneficiaries. Many beneficiaries do not know the practice is illegal and pay the fees. Part of the problem is due to low state Medicaid reimbursement rates. Justice in Aging’s Denny Chan is quoted saying in the piece, “Because of this gap in payment, many doctors and other health care providers try to bill the beneficiaries or refuse to provide services to them.”

Fighting poor nutrition among California seniors – with a food truck

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The Sacramento Bee: Fighting poor nutrition among California seniors – with a food truck (7/17/2016) California is a leading state of senior poverty, wherein 1 in 5 adults older than 65 cannot afford basic needs. As food insecurity rises among low-income California older adults, a food truck is providing some relief to seniors in San Diego county. The food truck provides healthy, affordable meals and fresh produce. Justice in Aging’s Executive Director Kevin Prindiville says that “what’s different about being old and poor versus young and poor is you have fewer options.”

Some states flout HCBS Medicaid rules by requiring unpaid family caregiving

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Association of Health Care Journalists: Some states flout HCBS Medicaid rules by requiring unpaid family caregiving (7/5/2016) Justice in Aging’s recent report, Voluntary Means Voluntary: Coordinating Medicaid HCBS with Family Assistance, reveals several cases in Florida where Medicaid programs required family caregivers to provide unpaid assistance to elders. The hours of unpaid assistance provided by family caregivers were then used to refuse or reduce Medicaid-funded personal care services to their loved ones.