Will Medicare ever pay for nursing home care?

Consumers of health care in old age likely consider nursing home care to be part of the continuum of health care that a patient may require. Yet health insurance plans do not pay for nursing home care because it isn’t defined as “treatment.”  Instead, it is classified as long-term care rather than “health care,” because the care is maintaining the individual and not really treating-to-improve a chronic or permanent health condition.

The 2017 Long-Term Care trends poll of the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research Survey revealed that more than half of those polled believe that Medicare and health insurance companies should cover some or all of these costs and that the federal government should be doing more to provide financial support to those who are providing the care in the home setting. This was the survey’s finding among those who identified as Republican as well as those who identified as Democrat.

A bill to start addressing an aspect of this issue was introduced in Congress by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-UT, and is S-870.— “Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017.” So far, the bill has been approved/passed by the full Senate. The Act  is designed to give some Medicare providers additional flexibility in the way they care for people with chronic conditions. This could be a first step toward including chronic, non-improving conditions in the category of “health conditions” for which Medicare dollars could be applied.  Co-sponsors include Ron Wyden (D-OR), Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and John Warner (D-VA). Read the legislation.

If this issue is of interest to you, contact your Representatives.

For advice and representation on nursing home care planning and challenges, contact us at …… 732-382-6070

Disability Integration Act of 2015 is a pending bill with great promise

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced a bill in Congress that’s designed to ensure that Medicaid-eligible people who are aged or have disabilities can receive their necessary services out in the community through the Medicaid Home and Community Based Services program (HCBS). Aging in Place is what it’s all about. The bill is S-2427 and here it is. The bill has been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Sections 2 and 3  state the problem succinctly: “(2) While Congress expected that the [Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990] ADA’s integration mandate would be interpreted in a manner that ensures that individuals who are eligible for institutional placement are able to exercise a right to community-based long-term services and supports, that expectation has not been fulfilled.  (3) The holdings of the Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999), and companion cases, have clearly articulated that individuals with disabilities have a civil right under the ADA to participate in society as equal citizens. However, many States still do not provide sufficient community-based long-term services and supports to individuals with disabilities to end segregation in institutions.”

State Medicaid Programs to date may choose the extent to which they offer home and community-based services. While the percentage of dollars being spent on HCBS has been growing, waiting lists in some states are tremendous. In New Jersey, an eligible person often has to really fight to get sufficient hours of home health aide services. ALso, in New Jersey the MLTSS Medicaid HCBS Program will not provide 24/7 home health care.   ABD_2016_Overview

Coordinating care in the community is clearly more complicated than arranging for care in a one-stop-shopping nursing home setting. There can be a need for transportation to shopping and medical appointments, prescription delivery, grocery delivery, home health aides, meals on wheels, housekeeping, and more. Nevertheless, the federal government has been promoting aging-in-place initiatives for years, such as NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities). S-2427 confirms the proposition that individuals have a RIGHT to receive their care in the least restrictive setting available, which is what Olmstead was all about.

Call us for legal advice and representation concerning Medicaid eligibility, applications and appeals … 732-382-6070

Baby Boomers looking ahead: long term care insurance or Medicaid?

There’s no doubt about it, long-term care insurance is expensive, and the premiums can be steep if you wait until after age 70 to first buy a policy. Some companies have gotten approvals for big premium increases on old policies. The marketplace has shrunk as companies have left the business, and some companies create bureaucratic barriers to paying claims. However, there’s also no doubt that nursing home care is expensive — in New Jersey it is not uncommon for the monthly costs to hit $12,000 to $14,000 a month. Hiring a live-in to help you at your home can cost $6,000 a month.  If there’s no money and no insurance, then Medicaid is the only source of payment.

The Baby Boomers and those starting to plan their retirement years have to think way ahead, as life expectancy is lengthening and therefore the statistical risk of needing long-term care in one’s 80’s is real. The Boston College Center for Retirement Research has interesting articles and useful statustics on this subject.   http://crr.bc.edu/briefs/long-term-care-how-big-a-risk/ Their recent research shows that more people are trending towards waiting to see what happens, and then embarking on a Medicaid spend-down plan, rather than purchasing long-term care insurance. The benefit is the savings in premium dollars, of course. The downside is that the state Medicaid program may only provide a complicated or inadequate home health aide program for people residing outside of nursing homes.

As I see it, the main benefit of long-term care insurance is the way it helps people age in place at home. To remain in the home in a “naturally occurring retirement community (NORC)”, a person needs to plan out their need for hands-on assistance, transportation, medical services, grocery shopping & food preparation, and attending social & cultural events,  If you have the means, insuring for long term care costs can make a big difference in how quickly you can get your home care started and in the administrative process that’s involved after that. Policies frequently  have a 90-day waiting period. This means that once you require hands-on home health care because you’ve become dependent in two or more of the Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s), you need to cover the cost of that care during the waiting period. Depending on the circumstances, this may not be a big financial burden, because many patients are tending to their own needs at home and it isn’t until they are hospitalized due to illness or injury that they begin to have care in the home. For those patients, they may receive skilled care or “rehab” during this initial waiting period, paid for by Medicare part A or their Medicare Choice plan.

For those without such insurance, the only way to obtain in-home care is to pay for it privately or apply for Medicaid when the assets are below the required level ($2,000 in available assets; the home is not counted; there can also be a share of assets reserved for the spouse). The application is filed after the applicant’s assets reach this level, and then the long wait begins , as the application is being processed.  However, New Jersey’s MLTSS Home and Community Based Services programs  have been undergoing a massive reorganization since 2013 with an apparent shortage of staff to fully and swiftly implement the program. Everyone hopes that the snags will be worked out soon. The law requires that the county welfare agency notify the applicant within 90 days if there is a reason the application can’t be approved. This is often the opening volley in a protracted experience. So based on past experience, I think that it is still likely to take a very long time for  the county welfare agencies to process and approve the many home care applications they receive under MLTSS.

Careful planning can prevent a crisis and improve your ability to direct the course of your care plan.

Call us about planning for a good old age… 732-382-6070