Kaiser Health News reported that one of the main reasons for the high cost of healthcare is the practice of rewarding doctors and hospitals for volume rather than efficiency of care according to a report out Thursday from the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank in Washington. 

"The report highlighted more than a dozen issues which are helping to drive up the U.S. health care bill. None will surprise policy wonks: expensive new technology, an aging population beset by chronic illness and high prices for medical services.   The center did not rank the cost drivers in terms of which are the biggest problems, except to say that the aging population adds half a percentage point of cost annually to overall medical spending.

 

The Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA) is pleased to see the inclusion of eldercare workforce provisions within a bill to reauthorize the Older Americans Act, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, and fourteen other cosponsors.

 

OAA reauthorization offers an important opportunity to modernize the aging services network and its programs in order to build an eldercare workforce with the skills and training to meet the “whole person” needs of older adults for health care and long-term services and supports (LTSS).

 

The Alliance is especially pleased by the inclusion of efforts to address the shortage of workers specially trained to care for older adults. Provisions within the bill that call on cross-agency communication to identify and address workforce shortages are crucial to meeting the needs of an aging America. Furthermore, the bill codifies into law the eligibility of professionals trained in geriatrics and gerontology within the National Health Service Corps. This provision is based on language from the Caring for an Aging America (CAA), a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Barbara Boxer, Susan Collins, Herb Kohl, and Bernie Sanders. The inclusion of the CAA within OAA reauthorization capitalizes on an essential opportunity to strengthen the eldercare workforce. Without a well-trained workforce, the delivery of vital services provided through the Older Americans Act will suffer.

 

EWA also supports efforts to invest in better and more meaningful supports for family caregivers and direct-care workers. EWA strongly supports the information and services provided by the National Family Caregiver Support Program, such as the individual counseling, caregiver training and respite which are so essential to family members and other informal caregivers. We support strengthening services for family and informal caregivers by authorizing and providing grants to states to conduct assessments of family or informal caregivers’ own needs for services and supports. We support the testing of new innovative models of person and family-centered care that encourage well-coordinated, interdisciplinary team care, in which each team member works to the full extent of his or her knowledge, training, and skills. Finally, we support models which provide direct-care workers with additional training and utilize them in new roles to improve efficiency and quality of care for frail elders.

 

The child of a deceased long-term care resident is not bound to an arbitration agreement because she signed it on behalf of her mother — not herself — an Illinois court ruled.

Following the death of her mother, Joyce Gott, at Odin Healthcare Center, Sue Carter filed a wrongful death claim and sought damages for negligent care against the parent company, SSC Odin Operating Company, LLC. Odin countered that Carter and Gott had signed binding arbitration agreements in 2005 and 2006.  The court, however, agreed with lower courts that Carter “cannot be compelled to arbitrate the wrongful-death claim against defendant.”

Plaintiff, as Gott’s personal representative in the wrongful-death action, is merely a nominal party, effectively filing suit as a statutory trustee on behalf of the next of kin,” Judge Mary Jane Theis wrote. “Plaintiff is not prosecuting the wrongful-death claim on behalf of Gott, and thus plaintiff is not bound by Gott’s agreement to arbitrate for purposes of this cause of action.”

 

The Money Section in USA Today has a column called Ask Matt [Krantz].  The question is below with excerpts from Matt’s Answer.

Q: Are there ways for my father to protect his portfolio and real estate assets from being devoured by nursing home costs in the future by planning now?

A:   There are ways to get assets out of the estate, legally, to prevent nursing home costs from draining them away, says Michael Gilfix, an estate planning attorney at Gilfix & La Poll.

The key is to start making gifts at least five years before the need for nursing home care presents itself. To make the move more palpable, a set of parents might make a major gift to their kids at least five years before they will need nursing home care. The kids, then, on their own and not part of any quid pro quo, set up a special needs trust for the benefit of the mom and dad, Gilfix says.

Investors might also consider creating a so-called dynasty trust for the benefit of the child. The dynasty trust protects assets in case the child is divorced or sued, for instance, as the funds are kept separate. "It’s why the rich get richer," Gilfix says.

 

Ken Myers from http://www.gonannies.com/ was kind enough to send us the below article.

Creating a healthy and positive atmosphere in your nursing home will help your residents feel more comfortable and happy. Your residents will appreciate even the smallest touches you provide for their comfort. Consider a few of the following tips to improve the environment of your nursing home.

1. Invite Community Members – Many members of your local community would love to regularly visit your residents. However, some community members may not know how to reach out to you. You can network with local schools and other community organizations to encourage visits from these groups. Consider setting up regular evening events with willing community members. The local citizens will gain a new appreciation of your residents, and your residents will enjoy having new people to interact with.

2. Video Games – Today, video game popularity is growing among older adults. Some of these new games let players pretend to sing in a rock band, play a game of tennis or ski down a mountain. Many of these games encourage players to stand up and move as they play. Creating a game room just for these adult-oriented video games can give your residents something new to try.

3. Allow Customization – Allowing your residents to freely decorate their rooms can make a huge difference in their mood. Every resident should feel free to bring and hang as many pictures of their family as they want. Personal belongings can also help to create a cozy atmosphere in a room. Your residents should also have the freedom to bring their own furniture. Some nursing homes also allow a resident’s family members to paint the room’s interior.

4. Outdoor Activities – Creating a pleasant outdoor area for your residents will give them a place to go when they need some fresh air. This area can include enough space for residents to do some simple gardening tasks. This could even involve growing vegetables for the cooks to use in the nursing home meals. Additionally, you can add a few benches and a water fountain to create a relaxing destination for reading and knitting. This small space is perfect for residents who can’t leave the nursing home for extended periods of time due to health concerns or other issues.

5. Community Activities – If possible, arrange transportation so that your residents can regularly attend community events. These events may include museum visits, plays, local art festivals and other fun events. These activities give your residents a reason to leave the nursing home for an entertaining and interesting excursion.

Your careful efforts can help your nursing home become a cozy and comfortable place for your residents. Even just a few simple additions, such as new entertainment options, can help boost the mood of your residents.

Author Byline:
Ken Myers as an Expert Advisor on multiple household help issues to many Organizations and groups, and is a mentor for other “Mom-preneurs” seeking guidance. He is a regular contributor of www.gonannies.com/. You can get in touch with him at kmyers.ceo@gmail.com.
 

 

USA Today reported on DHHS’s statement that since the beginning of 2011, Medicare beneficiaries have saved $4.5 billion on prescription because of provisions of the 2010 health care law.   "We’re seeing consistent, steady savings for seniors thanks to the health care law," said Jon Blum, director of the Center for Medicare. "In just 21/2 half years, seniors have seen billions in savings, and those savings will continue to grow as the doughnut hole is fully closed."

Drugmakers participating in Medicare agreed to give the government a 50% discount on premium drugs and 14% on generic drugs as part of the law, and the government passed those savings on to seniors. In 2012, the coverage gap – or "doughnut hole" – is $2,930. The law eliminates that gap by 2020.

The increased number of patients on medications could also be the result of seniors using the provision of the law that eliminates out-of-pocket expenses for annual and preventive exams.

Jena Ellis asked us to share an article that they just posted on her own blog called “7 Myths About Medicare”.

1.  Medicare is an unearned entitlement:   American employees “earn” the entitlement of Medicare by paying in to social security during their working years. Interestingly, this form of so-called “socialized” health care works exactly like private insurance: some customers pay more than they receive back, others get back more than they pay in.

2.  Medicare’s budget is out of control:   Medicare’s spending growth rate through 2019 is projected at 3.1%, more or less matching the growth of the U.S. economy, while spending by private insurers will increase 4.9%. In addition to being run more efficiently than private plans, Medicare spends much less on administrative overhead, including fighting fraud and abuse.

3.  Medicare costs are out of control: Medicare has always and is projected to continue to cost significantly less per beneficiary than private insurance. While it is true that Medicare spending will increase as the number of senior citizens in the U.S. continues to grow, the program is expected to remain remarkably cost-friendly.

 4.  Market competition brings down the cost of private plans administering Medicare: Medicare Advantage is offered by private providers who are paid by Medicare as well as premiums and co-payments. It was believed that market competition among Medicare Advantage’s participating insurance providers would bring down the costs of health care plans, but anyone 65 or older will tell you that definitely did not happen.

5.  Medicare is government healthcare:   A socialized health care system would mean the government paid for all health care, employed all health care providers, and ran all of the country’s health care facilities. But the health care providers, pharmacies, and nursing homes that fall under Medicare’s coverage are all privately owned.

6.  Medicare is going to be broke in 2024:   While insolvency has been predicted for the Medicare nearly every year since 1972, various acts of congress and revisions to the program have managed to keep it solvent including the Affordable Care Act which keeps Medicare financially stable through 2024, and funding sources are in no danger of suddenly disappearing.

7.  Repealing the Affordable Care Act will save Medicare:  The Affordable Care Act greatly expands health coverage for Medicare beneficiaries.  Repealing the Affordable Care Act will only send Medicare back to square one and take the latest life-saving benefits away from millions of Americans.

 

NBC News had a great article from Kaiser Health News on the unfair and unconscionable practice of requiring nursing home residents to waive their constutional right to a jury trial in lieu of arbitration where an arbitrator decides the fate of the case.  Most residents don’t realize that admission documents include an agreement that required disputes to be decided by a professional arbitrator rather than to court.

"A mandatory arbitration agreement is an often overlooked document in the package of admissions papers at many nursing homes these days. It can have an outsize impact if something goes wrong. But anxious seniors or their caregivers often sign every document that’s put in front of them, perhaps only glancing at the content."

"Agreeing to arbitrate is generally not in families’ best interests, say consumer advocates.  For one thing, it can be pricey. In addition to hiring a lawyer, the patient or family generally has to pay its share of the arbitrator’s fee, which may come to hundreds of dollars an hour, says Paul Bland, a senior attorney at Public Justice, a public interest law firm based in Washington. Court proceedings are also conducted in a public courtroom and leave a detailed public record that can inform industry practice and help develop case law, say experts.  Not so with arbitration hearings, which are conducted in private and whose proceedings and materials are often protected by confidentiality rules. The amount awarded — if any — may also be less if an arbitrator hears the case than it would be if a case went to trial, say experts."

Aon Global Risk Consulting analyzed 1,449 closed claims involving long-term-care providers between 2003 and 2011 and found that there was no money awarded in 30 percent of claims where a valid arbitration agreement was in place, compared with 19 percent of claims in which there was no arbitration agreement or the agreement was determined to be unenforceable.

Likewise, nearly 12 percent of claims without arbitration agreements resulted in awards of $250,000 or more, compared with 8.5 percent of claims with arbitration agreements.

There’s a simple way to avoid being forced into arbitration, say experts: Don’t sign the arbitration agreement. It’s not a condition of admission to the facility.

 

 

Finding a stellar nursing home for a loved one in their golden years is a task that no one takes lightly. It’s a monumental task to find proper care, and the main obstacle (in this writer’s opinion) is the fact that the average person doesn’t really know what to look out for when it comes to selecting a quality facility. Aside from aesthetics and a general “feeling” about a nursing home, I’d say that it’s hard for most people to identify key features that should make one place more promising than another.

Not to sound crass, but it’s not like you can look up reviews for a nursing home like you can for a quality restaurant or a product sold in retail.  There are so many factors at play in a nursing home that it’s impossible for a person to consider them all before making that critical choice.  Just one example of an unknown that might change a person’s mind about a nursing home: hand hygiene. A recent piece in the Journal of Applied Gerontology explains that the number of incidents of improper hand hygiene at nursing homes is on the rise in a plurality of US states, up from levels previously reported on a few years ago.  It seems that many nursing home staff isn’t doing their due diligence when it comes to keeping a sanitary working environment.  This is just one issue that someone looking at nursing homes might never be aware of had they not heard about it.
So the question is, how can a person be certain about any nursing home they choose to house their loved ones?

Luckily now there are tools available online to help people work through the process of selecting a quality nursing home. As was recently reported in The New York Times, there is now a service that allows people to locate and compare nursing homes all across the country. This relatively new service is called Nursing Home Inspect, and it houses thorough reviews and official documentation on over 25,000 nursing homes.

You can search through the service’s extensive database for reports of deficiencies and general problems at play in nursing homes throughout the country. Nursing Home Inspect ranks nursing homes based on the level of deficiencies reported at each facility, information which they’ve obtained either through government-backed sources such as the “Nursing Home Compare” service found on Medicare’s official site or through other legitimate means. Think about the practical implications of such a service: nursing homes that ostensibly look great on the outside might have actually high number of deficiencies reported in their facilities that you don’t know about. Its services like those provided by Nursing Home Inspect that will inform consumers so that they make smarter choices on one of the biggest decisions of their lives.

Leslie Johnson is a freelance health and lifestyle blogger writing for mastersinhealthcare.com. Leslie is keenly interested in the way that today’s mobile technology plays into the healthcare field, and she makes it her mission to inform her readers about new and helpful innovations whenever she can. Feel free send some comments her way!