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How Will the New Tax Law Affect You?

estate planning bucks pa

Signed into law late in 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Proponents of the law say it will stimulate the economy and create jobs, but how does it actually affect you? We should also note that everything we describe below will end after 2025, assuming legislators don’t vote to extend the cuts.

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Medicare Launches Hospice Compare Website

Nurse consoling patient

Medicare launched its new Hospice Compare website last year in an effort to help patients find and evaluate hospice providers.

The only problem, medical experts say, is that the site may not be all that helpful.

Medicare covers any reasonable care that helps ease the course of a terminal illness through its comprehensive hospice benefit. In August, the agency launched the new website, aimed at improving transparency and giving patients more access to care.

The site provides information on how hospices handle treatment preferences and patient beliefs and values. It also tells patients how facilities assess and treat things like pain, shortness of breath.

But Hospice Compare, run by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) may not be that useful, argue a group of medical professionals in a recent paper published in Health Affairs.

“Little room” to measure quality

As Kaiser Health News put it, the quality measurements described above are self-reported and may have “limited utility” according to some experts.

“Over three-quarters of hospices scored at least 91 percent out of 100 on six of the seven categories,” Kaiser Health News’ Melissa Bailey wrote. “Because so many hospices reported high marks, there is ‘little room’ for using these metrics to measure hospice quality, argued the authors, led by Dr. Joan Teno at the University of Washington.”

And while some aspects of the website may be helpful, patients need different information when searching for hospice care, Dr. Joanne Lynn of the non-profit Altarum Institute.

This information includes things such as how much time the hospice spends on at-home care compared to nursing home care, and the hospice staff’s average caseload.

“Flagged as wrong”

Worse still, the site is apparently providing consumers with wrong information, according to a story in the December 2017 edition of trade publication Modern Healthcare.

“Almost immediately providers noticed that it had incorrect addresses. Phone numbers and profit status have also been flagged as wrong by industry,” Modern Healthcare’s Virgil Dickson reported. “For months the trade group has been working with the CMS to fix the issue only for the problem to remain.”

In the meantime, the CMS is telling patients to call to confirm that hospice providers listed on the website serve their area.

Oversight in the hospice industry is critical. A Kaiser Health investigation published last year in TIME found that neglect and missed visits are common for patients receiving home hospice care, leading families and caregivers to file more than 3,200 complaints since 2012.

Those complaints helped inspectors uncover problems at more than 750 hospices, more than half of which had missed visits or other services they pledged to provide.

Are you or a loved one struggling to navigate the Medicare/Medicaid system as you plan for hospice care? The attorneys at Gummer Elder Law can help.

It’s a complicated playing field, but our attorneys have spent years understanding its rules. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

 

 

 

Medicare’s Part B Premium Will Be Unchanged in 2018, But Many Will Pay More. Got That?

medicare part b premium 2018

The announcement of the 2018 Medicare premium is good news for some beneficiaries and bad news for many others.  The good news is that the standard monthly Part B premium, which about 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries pay, will again be $134 next year, unchanged from 2017.

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The Duties of the Executor of a Will

wills in Bucks CountySo, you’ve been named the executor of a will. It’s not a job to take lightly. Dealing with wills in Bucks County – or anywhere else – means managing the administration of a person’s estate after they die.

And while the amount of time you need to commit to this role can vary, administering even a small estate comes with important responsibilities.

Here are a few of the things you’ll be expected to do as the executor of a will.

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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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