State News for March 2016

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Baker is optimistic her latest LTC insurance bill will pass
Baker is optimistic her latest LTC insurance bill will pass


Bill could create nation's first universal LTC insurance program, with ‘small' tax burden

HAWAII — Hawaii legislators were slated at press time to introduce a bill that would create the first universal long-term care insurance program in the country.

The proposed bill, set to be introduced as of press time by Sen. Rosalyn Baker (D), would give eligible beneficiaries $70 per day for a year to cover long-term care costs. 

Any permanent Hawaii residents would qualify for coverage, with benefits available after a 30-day waiting period or someone requiring assistance with at least two activities of daily living, or suffering from severe cognitive impairment. 

The benefits would be funded through a 0.5% surtax on the state's 4% General Excise Tax, with close to one-third being covered by money brought in by tourists.

Baker has introduced unsuccessful long-term care insurance proposals in the past but believes this one has a good chance of passing, the American Prospect reported. 

“We're going to work to help people understand exactly what the funding mechanism is, how small a tax burden it is, and just how it will help lots and lots of people afford the care they need,” Baker said.


Eligibility checks proposed

MISSOURI — A recently introduced bill would require the state to hire an outside company to verify that people who receive Medicaid are actually eligible.

The bill, introduced by Sen. David Sater (R-Cassville), would contract verification of Medicaid beneficiaries to a company, which would then flag people it thinks aren't eligible. The Department of Social Services would have the final say on a beneficiary's eligibility.

The company and state would also be required to file an annual eligibility data report with the governor and the general assembly.

Bolstering the Medicaid verification process would save the state millions of dollars, and help avoid giving funds to people who have died, moved out of state or gotten a job, he said. 

Tougher background checks

MICHIGAN — A trio of bills have been introduced in the state senate to close loopholes that allow healthcare workers to begin work before a background check has been completed.

Current “conditional employment” laws allow people to work in healthcare facilities and for home health agencies before a background check is conducted, with some allowed to work up to 30 days before the check is completed by the Department of State Police.

The three bills, introduced in January by Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor), aim to close the conditional employment loopholes for skilled nursing centers, adult foster care facilities and home health agencies.

Fifteen states already require background checks to be completed before healthcare employees start work, Hopgood said. 

Emergency plans lacking

OHIO — A new survey of Ohio nursing homes has found many haven't coordinated emergency plans with local agencies.

The survey, conducted by Miami University's Scripps Gerontology Center, found that all responding administrators reported having emergency plans for natural disasters, mandatory evacuations and equipment failures. But half of those facilities reported not working with outside agencies such as emergency responders, hospitals or health officials in creating their plans.

The survey also found hundreds of facilities would run out of food, water or medicine if required to shelter in place for more than a week. 

State health officials say the survey has helped them identify action steps.

Alzheimer's bills introduced

WISCONSIN — The state's Task Force on Alzheimer's and Dementia introduced a package of 10 bills in January that aim to improve Alzheimer's care and education.

The bipartisan Wisconsin Cares legislative package includes initiatives to invest $1 million in respite care, increase the number of dementia specialists in the state, improve education and give mobile crisis teams more training on dementia.

The package was developed with input from dementia experts, caregivers, state officials and community members.

Task Force Chair Rep. Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) said the legislative package is an important step to ramping up efforts against the disease while keeping costs down. 


Inspection backlog remains

IDAHO — The agency responsible for inspecting and certifying nursing homes is experiencing a backlog of overdue inspections, despite the addition of four new surveyor positions last year.

Three surveying teams in the Department of Health and Welfare's licensing and certification division have backlogs. The long-term care team experiences frequent employee turnover due to workload and required travel that makes catching up with inspections difficult, officials said during a January hearing. 

Currently, seven of the 13 positions on the LTC inspection team are vacant. As of press time, the team had 23 overdue inspections and 57 overdue complaint investigations.

The Medicare certification team had 42 overdue inspections and seven overdue complaint investigations.

State officials said new strategies and technology upgrades are being implemented, the Spokesman-Review reported.


Archdiocese settles claims

PENNSYLVANIA — The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has agreed to pay $80,000 and improve one of its skilled nursing facilities to settle allegations of poor resident care.

The settlement follows an investigation into care at St. Monica Center for Rehabilitation and Health Care in Philadelphia, which is operated through the archdiocese's Catholic Health Group.

Specific allegations against St. Monica Center were not released, but the facility agreed to make improvements to physician orders, wound care, medication administration, documentation, and transfer and toileting of residents, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. The archdiocese also agreed to make resident care enhancements in addition to the $80,000 payout.

In a statement to the Philadelphia Business Journal, archdiocese representatives noted no liability was determined as part of the settlement, and that the review involved changes the facility “had already made or were in the process of implementing.”

County home sold

PENNSYLVANIA — Following a drop from a five-star to one-star rating, a county nursing home in Greensburg was sold in January.

Allserve Business Support of Penn Township bought Premier Healthcare and soon replaced the Westmoreland Manor administrator, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. 

Deficiencies included malfunctioning elevators, food temperature and procedures for the use of catheters, the paper reported.

The facility received a $5,000 fine from the state and $14,000 federal fine. 

Scabies outbreak in Boston 

MASSACHUSETTS —  State officials were investigating a scabies outbreak in a long-term care dementia unit in early February, according to local reports.

The nursing home, Woodbriar Health Center, is owned by Synergy Health Centers. The chain has been frequently accused by the state and families of poor care, but told the Boston Globe the scabies situation “was properly handled.”

Monitoring bills introduced

NEW JERSEY — Two new bills that would allow the use of electronic monitoring devices in nursing homes were introduced in the state assembly.

The first bill would require nursing homes to allow residents or their families to monitor resident rooms through use of video surveillance cameras, audio devices or video conference software. 

The nursing home would also have to inform residents and their representatives of the residents' right to electronic monitoring. 

The second bill, also introduced on January 27, would similarly allow residents and their families to monitor and record the resident's room, upon completion of a consent packet provided by the Department of Health.

The consent packet would include signatures of consent from the resident and any roommates, identify the type of electronic monitoring device that will be used and expressly release the facility from any civil liability for violation of the resident's privacy rights relating to their room being monitored.

Both bills have been referred to the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.


Nurses win big in lottery

california — A group of thirteen nursing home nurses was one number away from winning January's history-making $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot, but will still take home nearly $50,000 each.

The nurses, who work at Brookside Healthcare Center in Redlands, each contributed $10 to buy 65 lottery tickets. One of those tickets matched five of the six Powerball numbers for the biggest jackpot in history.

The group is planning to split the $638,146 prize. The winners plan to invest the money, take vacations and may even buy matching Louis Vuitton handbags, according to local reports.

Another nurse also missed the Powerball jackpot by one number, but will take $779,264 in winners. Jessa Mae Del Barrio, a certified nursing assistant from Las Vegas, said her winnings will help her career — she is studying for her registered nursing exam.

The news was a happy contrast to the story of a nurse at another California nursing home, who was identified by early reports as the winner of the big jackpot — but turned out to be the victim of a prank by her son.

Her ticket was purchased by Brius Healthcare Services owner Shlomo Rechnitz, who bought 18,000 Powerball tickets for employees and residents.

Hope for dual eligibles

WASHINGTON — The preliminary results of a demonstration program testing care coordination for Medicare-Medicaid dual eligibles are “encouraging,” according to federal officials.

The Washington State demonstration, which began in July 2013, saved  $21.6 million in Medicare spending between its start and December 2014, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Deputy Administrator and Chief Medical Officer Patrick Conway, M.D., said in a blog.

That 6% boost in savings is an “encouraging first look” at how the demonstration can help improve care coordination for high-risk, high-cost dual
eligibles, Conway said. 

Future analysis of the program is expected to include Medicaid spending estimates as the data becomes available.