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New Protections for Nursing Home Residents

nursing home residentsLaws created during the Obama administration to give nursing home residents more control of their care are gradually going into effect. The rules give residents more options regarding meals and visitation as well as making changes to discharge and grievance procedures.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid finalized the rules in November 2016.  These rules are the first comprehensive update to nursing home regulations since 1991. The first group of new rules took effect in November. The rest will be phased in over the next two years.

Some of the new rules include:

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Time is Running Out: Review Your Medicare Options

medicare open enrollmentAre you happy with your current Medicare plan or plans?

You still have time to think about whether you are in the right plan or whether a new plan could save you money.

Medicare’s open enrollment period, in which you can enroll in or switch plans, expires December 7.

During this period you may enroll in a Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan or, if you currently have a plan, you may change plans.

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What You Need to Know: Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act

elder law attorneyEvery year, America’s senior citizens lose close to $3 billion due to financial exploitation, either from scam artists or unscrupulous caregivers.

It’s this type of abuse that led lawmakers this year to pass the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, put forward by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and signed into law by President Trump in mid-October.

The law creates tougher penalties for frauds, expands information sharing rules to prevent financial fraud targeting seniors, and expands the federal criminal code to include email marketing schemes.

“Exploiting and defrauding seniors is cowardly, and these crimes should be addressed as the reprehensible acts they are,” Grassley, himself a senior citizen, said earlier this year.

When you work as an elder law attorney, you see people who have fallen victim to these sorts of crimes all too often. And while stronger penalties are no doubt a good thing, there are things you can do to prevent your loved ones from falling victim to financial elder abuse:

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Nursing Home Costs Rise Sharply in 2017

Nursing Home Costs in 2017

The median cost of a private nursing home room in the United States has increased to $97,455 a year, up 5.5 percent from 2016, according to Genworth’s 2017 Cost of Care survey, which the insurer conducts annually. Genworth reports that the median cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home is $85,775, up 4.44 percent from 2016. The rise in prices is much larger than the 1.24 percent and 2.27 percent gains, respectively, in 2016.

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Long-Term Care Benefits for Veterans and Surviving Spouses

Veteran's Benefits in Bucks County

Long-term care costs can add up quickly. But for veterans and the surviving spouses of veterans who need in-home care or are in a nursing home, help may be available. The Veterans Administration (VA) has an underused pension benefit called Aid and Attendance that provides money to those who need assistance performing everyday tasks. Even veterans whose income is above the legal limit for a VA pension may qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit if they have large medical expenses for which they do not receive reimbursement.

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Using a Prepaid Funeral Contract to Spend Down Assets for Medicaid

Meeting with an elder law attorney

No one wants to think about his or her death, but a little preparation in the form of a prepaid funeral contract can be useful. In addition to helping your family after your death, a prepaid funeral contract can be a good way to spend down assets in order to qualify for Medicaid.

A prepaid or pre-need funeral contract allows you to purchase funeral goods and services before you die. The contract can be entered into with a funeral home or cemetery. Prepaid funeral contracts can include payments for: embalming and restoration, room for the funeral service, casket, vault or grave liner, cremation, transportation, permits, headstones, death certificates, and obituaries, among other things.

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Hospitals Now Must Provide Notice About Observation Status

Seniors Hospital Medicaid

All hospitals must now give Medicare recipients notice when they are in the hospital under “observation.”  The notice requirement is part of a law enacted in 2015 that just took effect.

Signed by President Barack Obama in August 2015, the law was intended to prevent surprises after a Medicare beneficiary spends days in a hospital under “observation” and is then admitted to a nursing home. This is important because Medicare covers nursing home stays entirely for the first 20 days, but only if the patient was first admitted to a hospital as an inpatient for at least three days.  Many beneficiaries are being transferred to nursing homes only to find that because they were only under observation and were therefore hospital outpatients all along, they must pick up the tab for the subsequent nursing home stay — Medicare will pay none of it.

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Why You Should Use a Lawyer for Medicaid Planning

Senior couple talking with financial advisor

Many seniors and their families don’t use a lawyer to plan for long-term care or Medicaid, often because they’re afraid of the cost. But an attorney can help you save money in the long run as well as make sure you are getting the best care for your loved one.

Instead of taking steps based on what you’ve heard from others, doing nothing, or enlisting a non-lawyer referred by a nursing home, you can hire an elder law attorney in Bucks County. Here are a few reasons why you should at least consider this option:

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Short-Term Care Insurance: An Alternative to the Long-Term Care Variety

Short-Term Care Insurance: Elder Law Attorney

A little-known insurance option can be an answer for some people who might need care but are unable to buy long-term care insurance. Short-term care insurance provides coverage for nursing home or home care for one year or less.

As long-term care premiums rise, short-term care insurance is gaining in popularity. This type of insurance is generally cheaper than its long-term care counterpart because it covers less time. Purchasers can choose the length of coverage they want, up to one year. According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, a typical premium for a 65-year-old is $105 a month.

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