The Center for Public Integrity’s series unearthing potential fraud and waste under the Medicare Advantage program had little help — and apparently little interest — from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The insurance program, which Congress established to help control health care costs for older adults, could leave taxpayers on the hook for more than $36 billion, as AHCJ member Fred Schulte and the rest of the investigative team uncovered.
In this “How I did it” article, Schulte explains how the series follows up on CPI’s 2012 Medicare costs investigation, the extensive lengths taken to try to obtain CMS records, work-arounds and other sources the team used to piece together a puzzle that paints a clear picture of improper billing, missed opportunities by regulators, lack of oversight, and industry influence.
The Chicago Declaration on the Rights of Older Persons — a proposed international convention that aims to provide legal protections to older persons under international human rights law, was released last week after months of work by legal scholars, human rights advocates and policymakers from more than a dozen countries. Delegates will present the Declaration before the United Nations on August 1.
The Chicago Declaration addresses numerous issues facing the world’s older population, from medical decision-making to abuse. Participants say it is not meant to supersede or diminish any greater rights granted to older persons that may already exist in local, state or national law.
It calls upon nations to raise public awareness and educate older persons of their rights, as well as encourage programs that promote inter-generational relationships. The John Marshall Law School, Roosevelt University and East China University of Political Science and Law jointly supervised the work.
Prevalence of chronic disease is on the rise, and the ability to afford nursing home care is declining among older adults, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau commissioned by the National Institutes of Health.
The report, 65+ in the United States: 2010, highlights several trends among America’s older population. There are more than 40 million people over age 65. That figure is expected to more than double by mid-century, to 83.7 million people and one-fifth of the U.S. population by 2050. The report presents population trends among older adults, as well as data on life expectancy, how well they age, their financial and educational status, medical, long-term care and housing costs, where they live and with whom, and other factors important for aging and health.
According to the NIA, a key aspect of the report is the effect that the aging of the baby boom generation will have on the U.S. population and on society in general. Baby boomers began to reach age 65 in 2011; between 2010 and 2020, the older generation is projected to grow more rapidly than in any other decade since 1900.
The report points out some critical health-related issues: Continue reading
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the U.S. As with many other chronic conditions, age is the greatest risk factor. In 2013, someone in the U.S. died from cardiovascular disease every 40 seconds.
The average annual rates for first cardiovascular event rise drastically with age – from three per 1,000 men from 33 to 44 years old, to 74 per 1,000 men in the 85-to-94 age group. For women, comparable rate rises occur 10 years later than men.
Of the estimated 82.6 million Americans who have one or more types of cardiovascular disease, the American Heart Association says about 40 million are age 60 or older.
Many of the problems older people have with their heart and blood vessels are really caused by disease, not by aging. For example, an older heart can normally pump blood as strong as a younger heart; less ability to pump blood is caused by disease. But, changes that happen with age may increase a person’s risk of heart disease.
Get more facts, stats and resources for your reporting on heart disease.
AARP, The Commonwealth Fund and The SCAN Foundation have released their second long term care scorecard, a state-by-state breakdown of performance of long-term services and supports that help older adults, adults with disabilities and their family caregivers. The rankings looked at 26 performance indicators within five dimensions of care for each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and classifies them against each other.
Minnesota led the way among all states in all dimensions – affordability and access, choice of setting and provider, quality of life and quality of care, support for family caregivers, and effective transitions. It was the only state to rank in the top quartile for all five dimensions.
“The scorecard underscores value and importance and of state leadership and state policy,” said Melinda Abrams, vice president for health care delivery system reform, The Commonwealth Fund in a telephone press briefing. “Leading states have implemented laws and policies that build stronger Medicaid programs, and support the family caregiver.”
Policymaking at the state level sets the stage for a high performance system, she said. Indicators such as strong paid sick leave policies for caregivers and more funding of home- and community-based services help older adults age in place longer, or keep them out of nursing homes all together. Continue reading
A new study shows that walking 6,000 or more steps per day may protect those with or at risk of knee osteoarthritis from developing mobility issues, such as difficulty getting up from a chair and climbing stairs. The research appears in the current issue of Arthritis Care & Research.
Although walking has many known health benefits, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that two-thirds of U.S. adults with arthritis walk fewer than 90 minutes each week.
“Our study examines if more walking equates with better functioning, and if so, how much daily walking is needed to minimize risk of developing problems with mobility in people with knee OA,” said lead researcher Daniel White, P.T., Sc.D., of Boston University.
Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of disability among those age 65 and over according to the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research. It is the most prevalent form of arthritis in the United States, affecting more than 20 million adults. More than half of all people age 65 and over have evidence of this condition.
For the second straight year, Minnesota ranks as the best place for seniors, according to a new report, from the United Health Foundation, “America’s Health Rankings Senior Report: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities.”
Minnesota’s strengths include ranking first for all health determinants combined, which includes being among the top five states for a high rate of annual dental visits, a high percentage of volunteerism, a high percentage of quality nursing home beds, a low percentage of marginal food insecurity, a high percentage of prescription drug coverage, and ready availability of home health care workers.
The state also ranks second for all health outcomes combined, including ranking in the top five for a low rate of hospitalization for hip fractures, a high percentage of able-bodied seniors, a low premature death rate, a low prevalence of full-mouth tooth extractions, and few poor mental health days per month. Continue reading
Image by Richard White via flickr.
Americans today are more supportive of a government-administered long-term insurance program, similar to Medicare, and think a number of measures would be helpful for improving the quality of ongoing living assistance, than they were just a year ago, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. However, the survey also found that most people believe they lack enough information about long-term care assistance and planning – and intend to rely on family members for the majority of care, or already do.
The study follows up on results from the AP-NORC Center’s 2013 long-term care survey to obtain additional data on how much advance planning is being done and what role families play in the process, according to Trevor Tompson, director of the AP-NORC Center. Compared with the 2013 survey, nearly six in 10 Americans aged 40 and older (58 percent) now favor a government administered long-term care insurance program similar to Medicare, a seven-point increase from prior year’s results. Continue reading
Why do so many older adults complain about poor sleep? It turns out that physiological changes, coupled with increased prevalence of chronic conditions, multiple medications, and changes in overall sleep patterns can make getting a good night’s sleep pretty difficult for many people.
Sleep problems in older adults are often undiagnosed or untreated simply because many people believe they’re a normal part of aging or that nothing can be done to help. However, diagnosing and treating any underlying medical disorders can dramatically improve sleep.
Seniors need about 6.5 to 7.5 hours of sleep – about the same or a little less than their younger selves, however, the quality of that sleep is not as good. As we age, we spend less time in non-REM sleep, which is when the deepest sleep occurs. Research on the sleep habits of older adults show it also takes older adults more time to fall asleep and to stay asleep. Continue reading
Per capita health care costs for people age 65 and older grew by just 4.1 percent for 2002-10, the lowest among any age groups for that period, according to a new report by CMS’s Office of the Actuary. The report, published in the current issue of Health Affairs, examines aggregate and per-capita health spending by gender and major age groups. (Note: AHCJ members get free access to Health Affairs.)
In comparison, spending for children grew at the fastest rate (5.5 percent) and per person spending for individuals aged 19–64 increased 5.2 percent annually.
Estimates of health spending by age and gender consist of all the medical goods and services used to treat or prevent a specific disease or condition in a specific person – including hospital care, physician and clinical services, retail prescription drugs, and the programs and payers for that care, such as private health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid. Continue reading