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Legislation

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Legislative Change Helps Protect Vulnerable Adults


Changes recently adopted by the Florida Legislature and recently approved by the governor will enhance protection for seniors and other adults considered vulnerable by state standards.

The most significant change to the Adult Protective Services Act, originally adopted in 1977, focuses on financial exploitation, as well as abuse and neglect. It creates the ability to more easily petition for temporary injunctions blocking any exploitation attempts. Additionally, it makes it easier for the court to grant relief on final injunctions for a person being financially exploited.

Florida law defines a vulnerable person as anyone 18 years or older who struggles with caring for themselves because of mental, emotional, sensory, long-term physical, developmental disability or dysfunction, brain damage or the infirmities of aging.


Read more . . .


Monday, March 12, 2018

Budget Adopted in February Increases Funding for Most Health Programs


A two-year budget deal agreed upon last month by Congress, and later signed by the President, increased federal spending for defense, as expected. What came as a bit of a surprise though was the increased funding for a number of health-related programs including those that help seniors and those with special needs.

Included in the increased funding was $6 million in treatment of mental health issues and opioid addiction, a $2 billion addition to the National Institutes of Health and a four-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). That is over and above the six years approved by Congress earlier.

Seniors fared well, too, with an acceleration of the closing of the doughnut hole in Medicare drug coverage.
Read more . . .


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Cremated Remains are Not Property


It took the Florida Legislature to determine this but the cremated remains of a loved one are not property and cannot be split amongst heirs like the revenue from an estate sale or other assets. The determination from the Legislature was part of wider legislation governing Florida’s funeral-home industry.

The Legislature may have stepped in because of a 2014 decision by the 4th District Court of Appeal, which ruled a son’s ashes should not be split 50-50 between two divorced parents. The father hoped to divide the ashes with his ex-wife. He argued that they were assets from his son’s probate estate and should be divided.
Read more . . .


Saturday, August 15, 2015

New Law Protects Hospital Patient Finances

The Notice of Observation Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility (NOTICE) Act became law when it was signed by President Obama earlier this month. 

The law, which does not go into effect until Aug. 6, 2016, helps prevent patients from having to pay for a nursing home stay because they were classified as outpatients during their stay in a hospital. The law is designed to prevent Medicare beneficiaries from spending days in a hospital under an outpatient status, only to discover at discharge that because they were never admitted, any follow-up stay in a nursing home is not covered under Medicare.

The new law requires that hospitals inform patients under observation or outpatient status for more than 24 hours be informed of that within 36 hours. While that does not totally solve the problem, it does let patients know of the situation so, if they anticipate a nursing home stay, they can talk to the hospital about their status. The text of the law can be seen here.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

New Rules Have Been Proposed Regarding Nursing Home Safety

Right now, Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries make up more than 50 percent of the residents in the United States in long-term nursing home and care facilities. The Obama administration has decided to modernize the rules pertaining to the safety of the residents in order to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid payments. The plan is said to change aspects such as staffing, infection control, training, meal times and usage of certain drugs.

Examples of such changes include making rooming arrangements for same-sex couples, siblings, relatives and friends. There will also be also be alternative meal times for residents who eat at different times than normally scheduled.

As far as training goes, nurses will need to be trained in dementia care as well as in the prevention of abuse on the elderly. It is often reported that patients with dementia are often treated with dangerous antipsychotic drugs. The addition of the training will eliminate this danger and promote safety to the residents.

Once the plan is implemented, enforcement ideas will follow to ensure that the safety and needs of nursing home residents is always a priority.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Supreme Court Ruling Reinforces the Affordable Care Act

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently that Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), is constitutional. The court decision about the law, which was initially passed in March 2010 and fully implemented in January 2014, assures ACA's ability to provide effective and affordable health care to all. This has great significance to you, elder Americans and the disabled.

The court’s decision affirms that health insurance can no longer have annual or lifetime limits. Before ACA, your insurance would cut off completely and suddenly once you reached its limit. Generally that only happened to people who have had serious illness or catastrophic injury. For millions of people, that often meant the real prospect of losing all coverage in the midst of cancer treatments or other expensive and essential care – often leading to unnecessary death or financial ruin. That’s no longer the case.

Prior to ACA, if you had been diagnosed with an illness or any disability, the insurers could deny enrollment to you. Today, you cannot be denied based on disability or prior conditions.

In late June, the federal government released the latest data on the positive impact of ACA on the percentage of Americans having health insurance. The most significant of the data is that 12.6 million Americans went from being uninsured to insured in just 2014, the first year of ACA's full implementation. That’s great news.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Healthcare Surrogates

A change in Florida law that goes into effect October 1 will have a significant impact on the concept and designation of healthcare surrogates in the state.

Prior to this change, a determination of incapacity has to be made before the healthcare surrogate can act.  Because a person may regain capacity and in some instances, especially with the elderly, may vacillate in and out of capacity, a redetermination of incapacity is frequently necessary to provide ongoing authorization for the healthcare surrogate to act. This process can make it more challenging for a surrogate to provide effective and timely assistance. Further, some competent persons want the help of a healthcare surrogate with the sometimes complex task of understanding healthcare treatments and procedures and with making healthcare decisions.

The changes to the law allow a person to designate a healthcare surrogate, who may act at any time, including while an adult is still competent and able to make his or her own decisions. While competent, the decisions of the principal control over any contrary decision of the surrogate.

Another change to the law creates the ability to designate a healthcare surrogate for the benefit of a minor when the parents, legal custodian, or legal guardian of the minor cannot be timely contacted by a healthcare provider or are unable to provide consent for medical treatment.

 


Thursday, July 2, 2015

New Florida Guardianship Law

A new Guardianship Law that will do a better job of protecting the elderly and improving the guardianship system went into effect July 1.

The system that had been in place was designed to protect incapacitated elders from exploitation, but it was not as effective as hoped. People often found seniors forced into guardianships that took away their ability to run their own affairs and often created challenging legal expenses. As wards of the guardianship system, these elders can see their assets sold or depleted to pay for care, nursing homes, attorneys' fees and more.

The new law tightens guardianship statutes, clarifies the duties of state-appointed guardians, includes criminal penalties for exploitation or abuse of a ward, requires more notice of emergency temporary guardianship proceedings and makes it harder to suspend a family member's power of attorney during the litigation process, according to the Florida Bar.

While guardianship services are often necessary when people present a danger to themselves or others, there's a risk that less charitable motives can influence the push for guardianship. Failure to properly inform the ward, or relatives, of the legal process can hurt an individual's right to challenge a guardian's actions.

It’s too easy to exploit the elderly. This new law is a great step in eliminating, or at least limiting that exploitation.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Look-Back Penalty Period for Benefits Proposed by V.A.

Candidates (or candidates and their partners) are not eligible for V.A. Aid and Attendance benefits if they have a net worth exceeding $80,000. Currently, there is no look-back period for asset relocation, like there is for Medicaid benefits, which have a five-year look-back period.

Previously, it has seemed that a V.A. look-back period might have been looming, but after the Senate failed to pass SB 1982, which would establish a three-year look-back period, it did not seem that this would come anytime soon. However, on January 23rd, the Federal Register included a proposal by the V.A. to establish, among other regulations, a three-year look-back period for transfers and corresponding penalty periods during which V.A. pensions would be unavailable, despite whether or not the veteran qualified in all other aspects.

Follow link to read more on this:  https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/01/23/2015-00297/net-worth-asset-transfers-and-income-exclusions-for-needs-based-benefits


Monday, June 23, 2014

New Law Paves the Way for Greater Elder Abuse Prosecution

With the Governor’s signature making it official last Friday, Florida's senior citizens now have a new and effective tool to fight elder exploitation. The nationally groundbreaking legislation, which was the centerpiece of the legislative agenda this year for the Florida Bar's Elder Law Section, makes it easier for law enforcement to prosecute those who prey on our most vulnerable citizens by providing additional protections and harsher penalties.

Working with, Adult Protective Services, state law enforcement, prosecutors and State Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, the Elder Law Section constructed legislation that includes:

  • A "presumption of exploitation" when a predator takes advantage of an elderly or disabled victim in certain circumstances.
  • Deleting a requirement that the property of an elderly person or disabled adult be obtained by deception or intimidation in order to constitute exploitation.
  • Decreasing the property threshold values for exploitation.
  • Creating criminal penalties for those who exploit through joint accounts that were intended for convenience.
  • Creating a constitutionally sound hearsay exception for victims, to allow an out of court statement by an elderly person or disabled adult to be admissible in certain circumstances.

This is long-awaited and critical law that is terrific news for our elder population.


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