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The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care

May 14, 2013

Consumer Voice Executive Director Speaks at FTC Panel About Senior Identity Theft

On May 7th, Consumer Voice Executive Director Sarah Wells participated as an expert panelist on senior identity theft in long-term settings. This session was conducted as part of the Federal Trade Commission’s program, “Senior Identity Theft: A Problem in this Day and Age,” held in Washington, DC.

 Seniors in long-term care settings are especially vulnerable to identity theft. Their personal information is readily available to family members, caregivers, and agency personnel. In cases where individuals may be dealing with dementia or diminished capacity issues, resolving such issues can be especially challenging.

 Currently, there is no national legislation that specifically addresses senior identity theft in long-term care settings. A patchwork of federal legislation, including The Identity Theft Assumption and Deterrence Act of 1998 and The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act of 1994, as well as The Elder Justice Act of 2009 and The Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act contain provisions addressing identity theft in general and will compel facilities to conduct mandatory background checks on all healthcare employees working with seniors.

 On the state level, twenty-nine states, Guam, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have specific restitution provisions for identity theft. Five states – Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee – have forfeiture provisions for identity theft crimes. Eleven states – Arkansas, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Virginia – have created identity theft passport programs where victims of identity theft can present their passport to law enforcement agencies. Once their identify has been verified, victims can use their passport to assist in investigations related to fraudulent charges on one’s credit cards or bank accounts and as official notice of disputed charges on credit reports.

 While penalties, including a maximum of up to 25 years in prison for perpetrators of identity theft, are essential to deterring these crimes, there are several common-sense measures consumers, families, and providers can take to decrease the likelihood of identity theft from occurring.

 For consumers and families, here are five strategies Consumer Voice advocates recommend their peers employ to decrease the likelihood of being a victim of identity theft:

  • Be aware of what you leave out and around. Know where your credit cards are, how many you have, and be aware of what you have.
  • Recommend families get some sort of ID protection for their loved ones, such as a limited balance credit card to minimize exposure. Also consider freezing your loved one’s credit, which prevents anyone from getting additional credit or being able to make transactions with that individual’s financial information.
  • In home care settings, secure all files and computer passwords, and consider moving important papers to a safe deposit box at a bank or purchase a lock box or cabinet.
  • Work with family and resident councils to have ID theft and ways to protect individuals as a topic of education and discussion at meetings.
  • Provide tools and resources online about ID theft along with “choosing long-term care” and my “loved one is entering long-term care” checklists and planning tools.

 For providers, here are five measures an administrator can take to decrease the agency’s likelihood of having employees who take advantage of vulnerable seniors:

  • Carefully screen employees
  • Create an anonymous tip line where anyone can report a crime in the facility
  • Password-protect all computers and limit access to specific personnel
  • Send a letter to resident’s families indicating who they can contact if they experience problems
  • Have standardized procedures for securing residents’ personal belongings and data and clear policies regarding consequences for stealing resident’s belongings or data

 For advocates or administrators looking for a good starting point, developing a simple one-page fact sheet on protecting one’s self from identity theft with the best and simplest ways to do so would be extremely helpful in shedding light on this important issue.

American University Radio Features Aging and Abuse Series

WAMU 88.5 American University Radio is featuring an Aging and Abuse series. In this five-part series, they look at the complexities of elder abuse in the DC region and why the problem is so difficult to address. Part 3, entitled “Tackling Nursing Home Complaints with Ombudsman Programs,” will feature an interview with Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee.

Listen to the series.

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Consumer Voice Commends Senator Franken and Representative Johnson for Re-Introduction of Arbitration Fairness Act

Consumer Voice commends Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Representative Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA) for the re-introduction of the Arbitration Fairness Act (S. 878; H.R. 1844) in the 113th Congress. This important legislation, which was re-introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013, would protect consumers by barring the use of mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements, including the use of these agreements in long-term care facility admission contracts.

 Shamefully, mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements have become increasingly common within nursing home and other long-term care facility contracts. Such agreements force consumers and their loved ones to resolve any disputes that might arise regarding abuse, neglect or inadequate care in a facility through an arbitration process as opposed to a court of law, denying long-term care consumers of their constitutional right to a trial by jury.

 Mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements place consumers at a distinct disadvantage during the nursing home admissions process. Consumers may be forced into signing an arbitration agreement because refusing to do so would require trying to find another facility right away, which is not always an option. Moreover, arbitration agreements can often be buried within the fine print of admission contracts and may go unnoticed by many consumers given the huge amount of paperwork that must be signed during the admissions process.

 To-date, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the right for such agreements to be included under the Federal Arbitration Act, although states have begun to demonstrate greater resistance to holding consumers liable for these agreements. Most recently, the Illinois Supreme Court partially struck down the enforceability of a nursing home pre-dispute arbitration clause in the case of Carter v. SSC Odin Operating Company, LLC, in which the family of a deceased Illinois nursing home resident sought to file a wrongful death claim against the facility in question.

 The Arbitration Fairness Act would ban the use of pre-dispute arbitration clauses in consumer contracts and restore the rights of individuals and their loved ones to seek justice in court. Consumer Voice urges Congress to pass the Arbitration Fairness Act in order to achieve long-awaited justice for our nation’s consumers.

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ProPublica Launches Prescriber Checkup

ProPublica, an independent nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism, has recently launched Prescriber Checkup, an online database that allows the public to search prescribing data from Medicare Part D, the Medicare program's prescription drug benefit. Prescriber Checkup, which contains Part D prescribing data from 2010, includes information on over one billion prescriptions written by 1.7 million health care providers. With this tool, individuals can easily search prescriptions made by providers, including which medications providers most commonly prescribed.

 Prior to the launch of this online database, such information has not been made available to the public. Prescriber Checkup aides in the identification of prescribing patterns among providers, including the frequent prescribing of antipsychotic medications among long-term care consumers that participate in the Part D program. This ProPublica tool can be accessed at http://projects.propublica.org/checkup/.

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Webinar Series on Alzheimer's Disease and Resources

The National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health and the Administration for Community Living are hosting a webinar series to 1) improve coordination of federal resources available to assist people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias and their family caregivers and 2) encourage awareness of research participation opportunities.

Webinar #1: Updates on Alzheimer’s Disease Research & Resources: Thursday, May 23 1:30-3pm ET – Registration Open

Webinar #2People with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and Dementia: Tuesday, June 25, 1:30-3pm ET – Registration open

Webinar #3: Diverse Populations, Health Disparities and Dementia: Wednesday, July 24, 1:30-3:30pm ET

Webinar #4Younger Onset Dementia: Tuesday, August 20, 1:30-3pm ET

Webinar #5Advanced Stage Dementia & Palliative Care: Wednesday, September 25, 1:30-3pm ET

For more information, click here.

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Nursing Home Residents Can Leave The Facility

Spring is often a time for gatherings with family and friends – weddings, graduations, Mothers’ Day. Nursing home residents often want to join in family festivities and visit with children and grandchildren, but may be under the impression that they will lose Medicare coverage if they leave the facility to do so. This is not true.

The Medicare Benefit Policy Manual recognizes that although most beneficiaries are unable to leave their facility, "an outside pass or short leave of absence for the purpose of attending a special religious service, holiday meal, family occasion, going on a car ride, or for a trial visit home, is not, by itself evidence that the individual no longer needs to be in a SNF for the receipt of required skilled care."

Residents receiving Medicaid may also be eligible to leave for overnight visits and still have their bed paid for if their state has a therapeutic leave or bed hold policy. Each state’s rules are different so residents and families need to have all the facts before planning an overnight visit. Get more information on this fact sheet.

For more information, review the Center for Medicare Advocacy’s Spring 2013 Update.

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Senate Aging Committee Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Older Americans Month

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Older Americans Month, Senator Bill Nelson, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, submitted a Senate resolution with Senators Collins, Sanders and Coons, commemorating the contributions and achievements of our nation’s seniors. The Senate passed the resolution (S. Res. 137) by unanimous consent.

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FEMA Launches Hurricane Preparedness Week, Beginning May 26th

In anticipation of the 2013 hurricane season (which officially begins June 1), FEMA will be launching Hurricane Preparedness Week during the week of May 26th. Hurricane Preparedness Week provides an opportunity to take time now to increase our level of readiness to confront all emergencies as hurricane season approaches. You can promote action on this important issue by encouraging those around you to take the Pledge to Prepare which identifies the critical elements of readiness by educating those in hurricane prone areas to know their risk, take appropriate actions to prepare, and inspire others to do the same.

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Protect the Elderly from Dangerous Bed Rails

THANK YOU to those individuals and groups who have signed our petition which calls for safety standards for adult bed rails. Haven’t signed yet? Please take the time to do so today by clicking here. We have a goal of 1,000 signatures and we need your help to reach that goal!

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About The Gazette

The Gazette is a weekly e-newsletter, published by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care and the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. If you do not wish to continue receiving this publication, please unsubscribe. Your contributions and comments are welcome and should be sent to swells@theconsumervoice.org. Copyright © 2013.

The Consumer Voice is the leading national voice representing consumers in issues related to long-term care, helping to ensure that consumers are empowered to advocate for themselves. We are a primary source of information and tools for consumers, families, caregivers, advocates and ombudsmen to help ensure quality care for the individual. The Consumer Voice's mission is to represent consumers at the national level for quality long-term care, services and supports.

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