Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Washington Post covers hospice care with onine guide

The Washington Post offers a “Consumer Guide to Hospice”, link here , organized by state, and also alphabetically.  Sometimes the alphabetic collation is out of sequence, and there are multiple occurrences of the same hospice.
Monday, the Post featured a cover story Peter Whorisky and Dan Keating, “Selecting hospice is roll of dice for families; quality of care varies, and information about providers is lacking”, here,, from the “Business of Dying” series. 

For my own mother, we started with Capital Hospice, which has a facility in Arlington VA which happens to be the same building in which I went to grade school in the 50s (Woodlawn, now replaced by Glebe Elementary a half mile away).  There were typically two nursing visits a week, a social worker visit, and occasionally a chaplain.  She went into the facility on Dec. 10, 2010 and passed away Dec. 14 at age 97.  The chaplain noted my mother’s sense of humor. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Heart transplants from deceased people could extend lives, but can we afford it?

Surgeons in Australia have accomplished the first heart transplant from a person with complete circulatory death, according to a BBC News story by James Gallagher, link here. The operation is said to increase the pool of patients who might benefit from heart transplant by 30%.
Would there be an age limit (say the mid 90s), or some requirement that the patient not have developed severe dementia?  Life spans are already increasing longer than we are able to support them financially, at least without having more children than we do.  
Just because we can do something like this doesn’t mean we should.  We have to consider the impact on others in the family. 

Dick Cheney has done very well on his heart transplant, Huffington story here

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nursing home fine underlines problems of unreliability of care, an issue for adult children

One of the country’s largest nursing home chains, Extendicare Health Services (site ), has agreed to settle with the US DOJ for $38 million for a quality of care suit.  The Washington Post has a story by Daniel Salazar on p. A17 today.  The story was not online yet Wednesday morning, but Eric Tucker has an AP story on WCPO in Cincinnati here.  The company and subsidiary Progressive Step Corporation operates in Kentucky and other states.  
The litigation apparently involved two sorts of abuses: overbilling of Medicare for “unnecessary” or unauthorized rehabilitative services in skilled nursing situations (for patients who are supposed to get better), and inadequate custodial care of many patients, with regard to falls, infections, bedsores, malnutrition.
My own mother was in an SNF (not belonging to this company) for two weeks in May 1999 after her sudden coronary bypass surgery at age 85.  I was living in Minneapolis at the time and did not return until June.  But I heard about serious problems at the facility, and a peer female friend of hers did register complaints with an ombudsman. 
My mother passed away in December 2010, after a long period of care at home from home health aides, and four days in a hospice.  But she was never in a custodial nursing home, but I was having to consider it.  A nursing home costs about two-thirds of what round-the-clock home health costs (unless you use a live-in, which is morally much more problematic).  

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

A major primer on Medicare for those approaching 65

It’s important to prepare for Medicare as you approach 65.  The “Health and Science” section of the Washington Post has an important insert by Caroline Mayer today, “Ready or not, you have a date with Medicare”, link here
Mayer explains how Part B Medicare premiums and deductibles work.
Health insurance sales people will deluge seniors with Medicare Advantage pitches, as well as long term care.  I had the experience of people trying to recruit me to sell it during my own “retirement”, I don’t like to knock on doors.  My own experience is this.  I joined AARP a number of years before 65.  (Yes, I looked at their job openings, too, since I’m in the DC area.)  I found that I did get a sizable discount to start Medicare Part B Supplemental, which has continued (now I’m 71).  The provider is United Health Care, and I have had no problems with claims (the main one was hernia surgery in 2010, when I was 67; again, the coverage paid for everything after the first $135, and the fact that I had the coverage at all causes the surgeon and the Virginia Hospital Center to discount the basic fees about 65% to start with, based on their “volume discount” contract with Medicare and UHC.  

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Motley Fool debunks common myths about Social Security

The Motley Fool has tweeted a piece “5 Huge Myths about Social Security”, link. 
It debunks the idea that Social Security adds to the deficit (remember John Boehner in 2011, before the first debt ceiling crisis?).  But more important, it plays down the “demographic winter” argument, saying that life expectancy, given that one has reached age 65, really hasn’t risen all that much.  It also maintains that rising worker productivity helps offset the numerical loss of workers available by “head count”. 
It also says that we need to come up with only 1% of Gross Domestic Product to makeup the shortfall for the next 75Years. 
It’s true that Social Security provides disability benefits as well as retirement benefits.  But I would disagree with the idea that it “isn’t a retirement savings plan” but an insurance plan (or welfare).  I really did use if as “retirement savings”. 
The URL link is here.