Medicare to Cover More Home Health Services

January 8, 2013
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Good news for Medicare recipients! Just in time for the New Year 2013! In the past, Medicare recipients were unable to receive home health services such as nursing care and therapies if they had a chronic condition. As a result of a court case that originated in Vermont, that is about to change. Vermont Chief Judge Christina Reiss will sign off on the settlement after a hearing on January 24, 2013. The settlement will apply nationally, and it will mean a big change from the current practice. At present, the Medicare recipients had to have had a reasonable chance of recovering from the condition before they could receive rehabilitative services in the home. Of course, sometimes it is difficult to make that prediction, so this ruling represents a giant step forward for patients. Now, they will be able to receive skilled nursing services as well as speech therapy and occupational therapy in the home, despite the fact that the patient may not fully recover. Those enrolled in both fee-for-service Medicare and private Medicare Advantage plans will also have this option.
Thanks for this change is due to action by the nonprofit organization called the Center for Medicare Advocacy. Under the direction of founder, Judith Stein, the center brought a class action suit which resulted in the new ruling. Tens of thousands of people are likely to be affected by the change. There are some qualifications–a doctor must give a prescription for the services to be renewed every 60 days and, for those in skilled nursing facilities, the services must to be such an extent that they are required 5x per week. Additionally, the patient must be classified by Medicare as “homebound,”  meaning they need assistance from a device (like a wheelchair or walker or a person) to ambulate. Finally, the services must be provided by an agency certified by Medicare.
Yet, this represents a tremendous victory for patients’ rights. If any difficulty is encountered in attempting to secure services, an appeal can be filed. A booklet called ‘Self-Help Packet for Home Health Denials’ is available at www.medicareadvocacy.org.  The site recommends that a doctor’s letter explaining the reason for services can also be of help. The word is just getting out, so don’t be surprised if everyone is not aware of the new change. Additionally, those denied services on or after January 18, 2011 will be granted a ‘special appeal.’ You and/or your loved ones will soon be receiving the care they have long desired!
(Information above taken from Anne Tergesen, “Medicare to Cover More Home Care,” Wall Street Journal (online), Dec. 17, 2012.)
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What are Pet Trusts?

Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what are pet trusts?
Kit Kat: Pet trusts are a trust specifically designed to care for a pet in the event that his/her owner becomes incapacitated or dies. They are an excellent idea! The trustee who manages the funds can authorize the funds of the trust before the owner’s death, like when someone is ill, or after death. It depends how the trust is set up. In some states, the trust continues for the length of the animal’s life or for 21 years, whichever comes first. In other states, it continues for as long as the animal lives, which is really the best system, in my humble opinion. In that case, pets such as horses and parrots, which can live for a very long time, are provided for. Unfortunately, there are some states in which pet trusts are not valid at all, and some in which enforcement is discretionary.  For a list of all the states and their pet trust status, go to the website at www.aspca.org and search for the Pet Trust State Law Chart.
So my best advice is to set up a pet trust with an attorney who specializes in estateplanning, like my dad, Andy Hook of the Hook Law Center.  He or one of the other fine attorneys there can help you design a pet trust. If you’re not a Virginia resident, the Hook Law Center can refer to you to an estate/elder law attorney in the state where the pet resides. Before going to the attorney, you will need to think about who you would like to serve as the trustee of the trust and the pet’s future caregiver. You will also need to designate a successor trustee and a successor caregiver, in the event the first people you entrust with your pet’s future, are unable to serve in that capacity.  I hope this information is helpful! It may be something you’ve never thought about before.
(Information taken from Kim Bressant-Kibwe, Esq., www.aspca.org,, Dec. 19, 2012 under category of Pet Trust Primer)
Life situations change. Be sure your Estate Plan reflects your life-today. Our Estate Planning attorneys will be happy to review your current plan and make any changes needed. Give us a call today to schedule your appointment.
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Upcoming Seminars

Hook Law Center is presenting a seminar on Long-Term Care, Estate and Life Care Planning and Veteran’s Benefits at Centerville Baptist Church on January 17, 2013 at 11:30 a.m.
Hook Law Center is presenting a seminar on Long-Term Care and Estate Planning at Lake Prince Woods, 100 Anna Goode Way, Suffolk, VA 23435 on January 25, 2013 at 2 p.m. To r.s.v.p., please call 757- 923-5500 or 757-399-7506.
Hook Law Center will be speaking on the subject of Making an Elder Law Practice More Efficient at the VAELA Conference on February 23, 2013 in Charlottesville, VA.
Hook Law Center is hosting a reception to benefit the Chesapeake Humane Society at Hook Law Center’s Suffolk location, 5806 Harbour View Blvd., Suite 203, Suffolk, VA 23435 onMarch 14, 2013.
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