The subject of my last two posts has been a proposed piece of legislation introduced by 2 New Jersey legislators in response to a couple of cases reported upon in the media in which seniors were moved into long term care facilities and their asset taken from them by individuals with connections to those facilities, using a power of attorney. The new law would prevent such a person from being appointed agent under power of attorney.
The proposed legislation, however, goes further to address some other areas of concern regarding facility admissions agreements. The law would direct the Department of Health to develop a standard resident admissions agreement to be used by all long term care facilities. Furthermore, the law would prevent facilities from requiring residents to sign anything other than this standard form as a condition of admission.
I have written here about clauses in facility agreements requiring a resident to agree to mandatory arbitration in the event of disputes. The proposed law would prevent such clauses from being included as part of the standard agreement facilities would be required to use. A facility would not be able to make signing one a condition of admission.
The proposed statute addresses another area of concern – companies with financial connections to a facility that file Medicaid applications on behalf of that facility’s residents. The standard admission agreement would require a separate notice in bold advising a resident that he or she can hire an attorney to assist with applying for Medicaid and advising of the dangers of hiring a non attorney. This notice would also need to be prominently displayed at the facility entrance.
Any person providing such Medicaid application assistance would be required to disclose any financial relationship he or she has with the facility before beginning work, including any relationship with a parent company or subsidiary of that facility.
Finally, the law would direct New Jersey’s Human Services Commissioner to develop uniform standards for non attorneys who provide assistance with Medicaid applications, including but not limited to defining who can provide assistance, the scope of the services provided and requiring such individuals to complete training on Medicaid rules, how to handle confidential financial and medical information, conflicts of interest and what constitutes the unauthorized practice of law. Non attorneys would also be prohibited from charging a fee for filing Medicaid applications.
While it remains to be seen whether and in what form this proposed law may become a reality, it does appear that some of the abuses reported in the media have caught the attention of lawmakers who are attempting to address the problem. We’ll just have to wait and see how things progress.