Unexpected Medical Bills Impact Seniors

Unexpected Medical Bills Impact Seniors

By Ryan McNeill Many Medicare recipients are being stuck with excessive hospital bills from a practice called “observation care.” According to Kaiser Health News the term “observation care” is defined as care provided by hospitals “for patients who are not well enough to go home but not sick enough to be admitted.”  Inpatient vs. Outpatient While the patient may believe they have been admitted to the hospital if their visit is coded as observation care, Medicare pays under its Part B rules (inpatient care is covered under Part A). For patients without gap coverage, this means they will be responsible for 20% of the bill.  Medicare has strict rules related to when a patient should be admitted, so hospitals and doctors often keep patients for observation care for up to three days. During this time, the patient can be treated in the hospital and receive the same care as an admitted patient. After treatment, the physician and hospital then decide if the Medicare recipient will be admitted as an inpatient or released for further outpatient services.  Unfortunately, even when hospitals tell patients they are there under observation care and have not been admitted, many do not understand the implications. While they can appeal to the hospital at that point, patients who do not do so are often surprised with a bill they cannot afford to pay and have no option to appeal.  Skilled Nursing Facilities If the patient is released to go home, the hospital bill without gap coverage may be a struggle. The biggest surprise, however, may come if the patient requires skilled nursing care after being released....
What Does an Elder Law Attorney Do?

What Does an Elder Law Attorney Do?

By Ryan McNeill, Attorney at Law There are many areas of law and sometimes they overlap. That can lead to confusion about the different functions performed by an attorney in each role. Sometimes a client might think they need an estate planning attorney or real estate attorney, but might really need an elder law attorney due to this overlap in areas of practice. The role of an elder law attorney includes a wide range of topics, not all of which are handled by someone who only does estate planning or real estate. So, what does an elder law attorney do? Elder law attorneys work with individuals or families dealing with legal issues that often come along with aging. These may include: Healthcare and financial powers of attorney Long-term care planning Medicaid planning Guardianships Special needs planning Updates to wills or trusts Living probate Elder abuse Nursing home law Probate The elder law attorney may also help find and coordinate resources to help clients. Some examples may include suggesting local Alzheimer’s or dementia resources, working with a Realtor to sell property as an elderly parent moves into a long-term care facility, helping with the sale of a business, or recommending caregiver support groups. When should I speak to an elder law attorney? Consulting with an elder law attorney before there is a crisis is always best, though not always practical. We often have clients schedule appointments in the following circumstances: You, a spouse, or a parent is diagnosed with a progressive illness or are severely injured in an accident and are expected to need long-term care; if you are married,...
Finding the Best Long-Term Care Facility for a Loved One

Finding the Best Long-Term Care Facility for a Loved One

Updated for 2018 Placing a loved one in a long-term care facility is often one of the hardest decisions a family must make. As our population has aged, the number and type of these facilities have increased to accommodate the need. There are active adult communities, assisted living centers, special care units (memory care, palliative care, and others), nursing care facilities, residential care and specialized facilities for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Also available are progressive care campuses that offer residents a continuum from independent living through full nursing care. The search to find the “best” or “right” facility can be confusing and stressful. The challenges are compounded when a sudden health issue requires a quick decision. Not all long-term care facilities are created equal, and you want your loved one to have the best care possible. Here are some things to consider and some resources available here in North Carolina to help you make your decision: North Carolina adult care facilities are licensed and inspected by the state. There is a star rating system based on the annual inspection results. You may search by county, city or facility name. This is a good place to start but should not be the only factor in your decision. The search page is located at http://www.ncdhhs.gov/dhsr/acls/star/search.asp. Look at Medicaid’s nursing home comparison tool located at http://medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html. You can choose up to three facilities to compare. Note: Medicare is implementing a new star rating system. You can find a thorough explanation of the new rating system and how to review the facilities in comparison to the current star system. Tour the facility at...
May is National Elder Law Month

May is National Elder Law Month

There is a lot going on in May. In addition to honoring all the mothers out there, we also celebrate Older Americans Month and National Elder Law Month. As we grow older and wiser (we hope!), it is important to remain engaged. Today’s seniors are more active than ever, spending time working, volunteering, traveling, or mentoring younger people. Many also talk to estate planning and elder law attorneys to plan for their future or regarding issues related to the care of their loved ones. What is Elder Law? Elder law encompasses a wide range of legal topics, including healthcare directives, healthcare and financial powers of attorney, long-term care planning, Medicaid planning, guardianships, special needs planning, and similar matters. Elder law attorneys may also help coordinate public or private resources to assist the client and handle estate planning or probate matters. What is the Difference Between Elder Law and Estate Planning? Estate planning is often referred to as “wills and trusts” and involves determining how an individual would like his or her estate distributed upon their death. It also covers advance directives, powers of attorney, special needs trusts, digital asset review, and asset protection planning. There is some overlap between estate planning and elder law, though not all estate planning attorneys necessarily handle every aspect of elder law. When Do I Need an Elder Law Attorney? Many of our clients are adult children whose aging parents require legal assistance related to elder law issues. You may wish to speak to an elder law attorney if you, a spouse, or a parent is expected to need long-term care, is no longer...

Is It Time for a Senior Living Community?

Have you been considering a move to a senior living community? As they reach retirement age, many people begin looking at their living situations and talking about transitioning to an easier lifestyle. They may be tired of maintaining a large house and lawn, find they don’t have as much free time as expected (due to the house and lawn!), are not located where it is easy to socialize, or have concerns about living alone.  So, how do you decide when it’s time to consider a senior living community? Watch the first video in the Decision Time series and hear from others on the topic. Attorneys David Inabinett and Ryan McNeill also provide...
Ready to Move to a Senior Living Community?

Ready to Move to a Senior Living Community?

As our lives change over time, our desires for a certain type of living situation may also change. When you are young, an apartment close to the “action” can seem like the ideal situation. Once you marry and have children, a big single-family home may work best. Once the kids have moved out and you are retired or approaching retirement, that big house may require much more of your time than you are willing to give! Types of Senior Living Communities There are several types of senior living communities, depending on your needs. The most common include: Independent living, often referred to as “55+” or “active adult” communities, may range from traditional homes to villas or apartments. Assisted living communities are aimed at people who need help with the activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing, and taking medications. Long-term care facilities (nursing homes) provide care for individuals who cannot live alone or care for themselves any longer. Memory care units may be standalone facilities or part of other communities. These units take care of individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s or similar memory issues. There are also hybrid facilities that might include independent living and assisted living, but not nursing care, or continuing care communities, which offer the option of starting in independent living and receiving care in the community through your lifetime. As you investigate communities, it is important to understand what each offers and read the fine print in their agreements. Are You Ready to Move to a Senior Living Community? There is no right answer that applies to everyone. For some, moving to a community where they...