Thursday February 17, 2000
Medicaid estate planning attorneys artificially impoverish elderly people to qualify them for Medicaid nursing home benefits. This lucrative practice overburdens Medicaid, which today covers 80 percent of all nursing home patient days, and undermines the program's ability to reimburse nursing facilities for care. When insufficient Medicaid reimbursement results predictably in lower quality care, Medicaid attorneys turn right around and litigate against the nursing homes for providing inadequate care. They earn huge fees by burning the nursing homes (and the taxpayers) at both ends.
The January 14, 2000 issue of McKnight's Long-Term Care News illuminates this issue with two powerful articles. "Lawyers Unfairly Target Nursing Homes, Poll Finds" (p. 19) says "Nearly 90% of nursing home officials say trial lawyers unfairly target nursing homes looking for abuse and neglect of residents, according to the latest McKnight's fax poll." Florida and Texas are the two most-targeted states. Florida nursing home officials said trial lawyers who sue nursing homes in the state advertise on TV and radio, in newspapers and on highway billboards. "Trolling for clients is what that is," said a spokesman for the Florida Healthcare Association, a nursing home trade group.
"Lawsuits Surge as Opinions Diverge" (pps. 1, 16-17) explains that nursing "facilities across the country are increasingly being sued for alleged abuse and neglect of residents." According to Attorney Scott Severns of Severns & Bennett in Indianapolis, "Society is saying that the abuse and neglect of helpless, vulnerable older people is not going to be tolerated in the way it has been." Severns is quoted at length in both articles with similar ostensibly noble sentiments. Another attorney, Steven Levin of Levin & Perconti in Chicago, said there has been a substantial increase in litigation against providers and that "understaffing is the cause of many of the industry's legal woes."
To hear these lawyers tell it, they are on a noble crusade to force evil, profiteering nursing homes to provide decent care. But here's the rest of the story:
Scott Severns is a founding member and former president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the trade association of the Medicaid estate planning attorneys. NAELA's membership jumped from nothing in 1988 to 3500 in 1998. Steven Levin is co-chairperson of the Nursing Home Litigation Group of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. This organization's membership increased from 10 to 200 in the past decade. Levin himself "has been suing nursing homes for 15 years." Both lawyers are doing very well, by doing IN the nursing homes. So much for their noble crusade!
By qualifying their well-to-do clients for a welfare program only intended to serve the poor, Medicaid planners caused the very problems of inadequate financing and care that they now claim sanctimoniously to attack. At their national conferences, the Medicaid planners often pooh-pooh the value and potential of private long-term care insurance. They promote continued dependency on ailing public financing programs like Medicaid and Medicare. How can Medicaid planners promote such counterproductive public policy? Directing clients to a financially failing welfare program while suing the hapless homes that depend on the program's deficient reimbursements is a very profitable business.
The only way to break this cycle of legally sanctioned financial abuse of the elderly is to empower consumers to purchase their own long-term care in the private marketplace. The secret to achieving that goal is to get more people to purchase private long-term care insurance while they are still young enough, healthy enough and prosperous enough to qualify medically and afford it financially. The Center for Long-Term Care Financing's white paper "LTC Choice: A Simple, Cost-Free Solution to the Long-Term Care Financing Puzzle" explains how to get this job done. Please get it, read it and help us save America's long-term care service delivery and financing system.
To order a copy of "LTC Choice" ($24.95; free to media and lawmakers), send your name and mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us toll free at 1-877-557-3627. All publications will be invoiced; sorry, we do not accept credit cards.