Medical Aid-in-Dying Act signed by Governor Murphy

On April 12th, New Jersey joined seven other States which have enacted laws authorizing a terminally patient to self-ingest a drug that would end their life. Oregon was the first State to allow this, in 1997. The New Jersey bill was A1504/S1072. It will go into effect on August 1, 2018. Over two dozen other States are actively considering such legislation.

The Act specifies criteria for who is eligible to take advantage of its protections: The individual must be an adult over 18 and able to self-ingest the medication. They must have a terminal diagnosis with a prognosis of six months of less, and they must be determined to have full mental capacity. The Act allows such an individual to make and carry out an “informed decision” to ingest a fatal drug. Informed decision is defined as:

   “a decision by a qualified terminally ill patient to request and obtain a prescription for medication that the patient may choose to self-administer to end the patient’s life in a humane and dignified manner, which is based on an appreciation of the relevant facts and after being fully informed by the attending physician of:

(1)   the patient’s medical diagnosis;

(2)   the patient’s prognosis;

(3)   the potential risks associated with taking the medication to be prescribed;

(4)   the probable result of taking the medication to be prescribed; and

(5)   the feasible alternatives to taking the medication, including, but not limited to, concurrent or additional treatment opportunities, palliative care, comfort care, hospice care, and pain control.

 

There are many steps in the procedure protocol. First, the individual must originate the request by making two spoken (oral) requests to the physician, with a 15 day waiting period in between; the doctor must bring in a consulting specialist to confirm capacity; the doctors may refer the individual for psychological or psychiatrist for further capacity evaluation if capacity is not clear; the doctor must offer the patient the option to rescind his or her request. The individual also must complete a specific form and submit it to their doctor; the form will be titled “REQUEST FOR MEDICATION TO END MY LIFE IN A HUMANE AND DIGNIFIED MANNER.”

The written request must be witnessed in a manner similar to other legal documents, in which two witnesses attest to the individual’s capacity (competence) and willful voluntary act. One of the witnesses must be “disinterested” — not standing to benefit in any way from this death. The physician must also refer the individual to an appropriate health care professional for a discussion about other treatments or palliative care at the end of life. Ultimately, the doctor can then prescribe the medication.

The law contains requirements related to patient record-keeping so that every step of the process is well documented. Persons who participate in good faith with the process, or to decline to participate, are given immunity against criminal and civil liability, and are protected against professional disciplinary action related to their licenses. There are also protections that prevent life insurance and other contracts from restricting an individual’s rights under the Act, and each step of the way must be carried out by the individual and not by a proxy.  For example, neither a legal guardian, agent under power of attorney, or health care representative could act in the place of the individual.

For individuals facing harrowing end of life decisions, the new Act will provide important and welcome relief from suffering. A plan can be put in place to assure that the transition for the individuals, and the safety and security of those left behind, can be as peaceful as possible.

Talk to us about life care planning and elder care planning… 732-382-6070

Hearing Monday in Trenton on Social Isolation and Age-Friendly communities

New Jersey is working on efforts to encourage municipalities to become “age-friendly communities.” Age Friendly is spreading across the country, with interesting initiatives in many places. Take a look at South Orange-Maplewood, Chatham, and Elizabeth for starters. Looking for volunteer opportunities? Contact your Mayor — you may be able to get involved with those initiatives or help to jump-start a new process. Age-friendly is an approach to community development that looks at the impact on seniors of a community’s physical space, transportation, recreation opportunities, public building access, access to municipal government and services, housing, etc. etc. and what might be done to improve those systems to make it more feasible for people to “age in place.”

Two new bills will be introduced to the NJ legislature which addressing key issues concerning older adults.  Click here to read the text

https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/AR/246_I1.PDF

 https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/A9999/5314_I1.PDF

 A-246 is a Resolution co-sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conway and Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo that urges New Jersey counties and municipalities to take the steps necessary to be accepted into the AARP network of age-friendly communities as defined by the World health organization.

A-5314 requires the Commissioner of the Human Senior Services “within 180 days and biennially thereafter” to assess and report to the Legislature on the state of social isolation in New Jersey as if affects individuals who are over 65, have disabilities, are suffering with mental illness, or are otherwise vulnerable. The bill marks a recognition that extreme social isolation is a problem in the State which adversely affects many citizens and might be alleviated if better understood and tackled. The report must also include recommendations for strategies to counter this problem. 

The Committee hearing will take place Monday morning May 19th at 10 am in the Committee Room 11, 4th Floor, State House Annex, Trenton.

If these issues are of interest to you, contact your Legislators, and read more here.

 

Planning for a good old age involves looking at a wide array of issues, and each person’s situation is unique. Call us for individualized elder care legal planning …. 732-382-6070

Notice of Medicaid Ineligibility violates Due Process if it doesn’t specify the Reason

The Superior Court of Massachusetts recently addressed the question of whether a state Medicaid agency had given adequate notice to the Medicaid applicant of the reason for denial of eligibility. What’s useful for New Jersey purposes is the exended discussion of the federal regulations pertaining to Notices of denial, and the explanation given by the Court as to why the Notices in question were deficient.

The case concerned assets that were held in a Trust. An applicant cannot be eligible for Medicaid if his or her non-excluded “countable” resources exceed a certain limit. In this case, each Notice merely stated  that the applicant was ineligible due to having excess resources, but gave no explanation as to why the assets of the Trust were being counted as the applicant’s resources. The Court held that the Notice was deficient; stayed (enjoined) the denial of benefits pending the outcome of the lawsuit, and certified the case to move forward as a class action because the practice had adversely affected all the individuals in the lawsuit class in a similar manner.

Maas vs Sudders et al and Hirvi vs Sudders et al. (Mass Superior Court, 2018)

Federal regulations require that a Medicaid agency give explicit written notice of reasons for an adverse action and of the opportunities for appeal. The notice must be served on the affected individual. The law provides as follows:

§ 431.210 Content of notice.

A notice required under § 431.206 (c)(2), (c)(3), or (c)(4) of this subpart must contain –

(a) A statement of what action the agency, skilled nursing facility, or nursing facility intends to take and the effective date of such action;

(b) A clear statement of the specific reasons supporting the intended action;

(c) The specific regulations that support, or the change in Federal or State law that requires, the action;

(d) An explanation of –

(1) The individual‘s right to request a local evidentiary hearing if one is available, or a State agency hearing; or

(2) In cases of an action based on a change in law, the circumstances under which a hearing will be granted; and

(e) An explanation of the circumstances under which Medicaid is continued if a hearing is requested.”

We have seen situations over the years in which no reason was given for an adverse conclusion by the county Medicaid Agency. For example, the denial of benefits notice might just say “applicant has excess resources” without specifying which resources are allegedly in excess of the limits. There are times that there can be a bona fide legal and factual dispute over whether certain resources are countable or excludable. Or the denial notice might say that “there were transfers of assets in violation of N.J.A.C. 10:71-4.10″ without specifying what is being treated as a “transfer.” In some circumstances, a check that was payable to cash is treated as a gift to a third party (transfer of assets) for no reason other than it was a check payable to “cash.” An applicant needs to know just what the issue is, so that s/he can prepare for an appeal. This is a matter of Due Process, a principal established by the US Supreme Court in 1970 in the landmark case of Goldberg vs. Kelly.

Medicaid applications are a landmine of potential legal problems. Applicants can benefit by legal advice which protects their rights in this process.

For individual senior care advice on protecting your rights, interests and resources, call us at …. 732-382-6070

Guidebook available regarding common nursing home problems

Justice in Aging is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to fighting for the rights and interests of poor elderly people in the United States. The organization has just released a free guidebook called “25 Common Nursing Home Problems and How to Resolve them.” Click here to find out how to get this publication.

Readers of this blog are aware that skilled nursing facilities/ long-term care facilities are regulated by both federal law and state law. There are numerous protections for the residents of such facilities, but vigilance and vigorous advocacy are often required.

Senior care planning often involves looking at a variety of choices for long-term care and developing both a clinical care plan and a financial plan. The process can be distressing and difficult. Understanding the legal protections for residents and the obligations of the facilities will make you better equipped to help your loved one. Individualized legal advice coupled with publications like this one can be helpful as you navigate this process. Forewarned is forearmed.

For individualized legal advice on the elder care plan that’s right for you, call us at …. 732-382-6070

 

Recorded Life Estate given priority over later-recorded mortgage

Here’s a situation that came up after parents transferred their home to their daughter and reserved a life estate. The value of the life estate vis-à-vis the whole property is a pro rata percentage based on the age of the life estate holder at the time of the transaction in question. The case is called Ocwen Loan Services, LLC vs. Quinn.

The transfer took place in 2004. A year later, the Quinns and their daughter mortgaged the property and received $260,000. The market was hot and two years later, the daughter alone refinanced that mortgage loan and obtained $380,000, paying off the 2005 mortgage in the process. For some reason, when this new lender (IndyMac)  did its title search, it failed to discover the recorded life estates that were held by the parents, so it didn’t ask the Quinns to co-sign its mortgage documents. The daughter defaulted on the IndyMac mortgage, and IndyMac started foreclosure proceedings against the parents as well as the daughter.

The parents argued that since they had no knowledge of the daughter’s refinance of the mortgage which they had originally co-signed, their life estate should not be subject to the new mortgage. However, the court applied a legal doctrine that is called “equitable subrogation,” and found that it would be inequitable and would unjustly enrich the parents if they were totally relieved of any responsibility for the mortgage, yet at the same time, it would be inequitable for the lender to be able to hold the life tenant liable for the full amount due. The Judge stated: “[Defendants] signed a mortgage in the amount of $260,000 as possessors of a life estate. While [defendants] may have signed the mortgage as an act of kindness and love to their daughter, the fact remains [defendants] were parties to the 2005 mortgage and thus subjected their life estate to this foreclosure action. This [c]ourt sees no procedural or substantive defect which would challenge the validity of the 2005 mortgage.”

Bottom line? The life estates are subject to the IndyMac mortgage up to the $260,000, but the IndyMac mortgage is subordinate to the rights of the life tenants for any excess above that.

Call us for advice about elder care planning including real estate transfer issues …. 732-382-6070