Unethical accessing of nursing homes must end, elder law expert says

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Asset transferring and other unethical methods of gaining access to nursing homes must be stopped, the past-president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys told the Senate Special Committee on Aging last week.

Such practices, which exploit the ailing Medicaid program, unfairly taint most seniors as gaming the system, said Vincent J. Russo. However, Congress should not make the asset transfer penalties more punitive because that could negatively affect seniors who need Medicaid long-term care services, he said.

He also recommended six ways to reform rules for receiving Medicaid coverage for nursing homes. They include: changing the treatment of "balloon annuities," which allow those seeking Medicaid coverage to convert an asset into income stream for the purpose of taking advantage of Medicaid.

Also, rounding down the monthly transfer penalty should be eliminated, he said. Under this loophole, a resident could transfer two months of nursing home costs, while receiving a one-month penalty.

More information on the hearing is available at: http://aging.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?Fuseaction=Hearings.Home.