Archive for the ‘Legal News’ Category

Don’t Be Fooled By These Supposed Senior Living Community Perks

Having spent the last few years immersed in reviewing state regulations and reviewing inspection reports of senior living communities, I am familiar with what communities are required by law to have in place so the safety of their residents is ensured. All to often these requirements are advertised as amenities and perks, and each time I see this, I can’t help but shake my head in exasperation. Here are a few of the most commonly listed requirements that I often see senior living communities advertise as amenities or perks when in fact they are required by law.

Sprinklers and Fire Alarm System

When I see this claim on a community’s website – We are fully outfitted with sprinklers and a fire alarm system – I always can’t help thinking, “Of course you should be, that’s the law.” As part of the licensure process, communities are inspected by the local fire marshal to ensure they are in compliance with the state code. Communities are even required to have extra safety measures in place when they care for bedridden or nonambulatory residents. Here’s the language from California’s Manual of Policies and Procedures for Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly  Section 87203 Fire Safety—All facilities shall be maintained in conformity with the regulations adopted by the State Fire Marshal for the protection of life and property against fire and panic.

Granted a residential home doesn’t have sprinkles or a fire alarm system, apart from a smoke alarm, so seniors might not realize that the safety features of sprinklers or a community-wide fire alarm are required. Yet nearly every public space a senior may visit is outfitted with fire protection systems, so why should senior living communities be any different.

Employee Background Checks

Performing employee background checks are advertised as community policy when, yet again, this is a policy required by law; even volunteers are required to have background checks in most states. While reviewing inspection reports, I have seen communities cited for allowing a staff member to work with residents before their background check is completed, and in California this citation is accompanied by a fine.

The state of Wyoming’s Rules for Program Administration of Assisted Living Facilities spells it out quite simply in Section 5c:  All staff of the assisted living facility shall successfully complete, at a minimum, a State of Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) fingerprint background check and a Department of Family Services Central Registry Screening before direct resident contact.

Protecting Resident’s Privacy

Resident records and resident information shall be kept confidential and only provided in accordance with law—as per New Hampshire’s Residential Care and Health Facilities Rules. You can’t get more straightforward or simpler than that. A community is required to protect a resident’s privacy, which can mean locking resident records in a secure office or instructing staff not to discuss a resident’s health status in front of other residents.

So how can families know a community is in compliance with state laws if it’s not specifically called out? During the tour, ask to see the recent health and safety inspections or even procedure manuals. Communities are often required to keep the latest copy of the inspection survey on file or even post it for public viewing. Procedure manuals will detail how a community handles fire drills, background checks and resident privacy. If the community readily answers your questions and demonstrates their compliance by showing you these documents, that’s how you can be satisfied your loved one will be well taken care of—through actions not words.

Big Changes to Assisted Living Laws in California

California Gov. Jerry Brown just signed into law 10 of 14 bills aimed at protecting assisted living residents in the state. According to the Sacramento Business Journal, the laws are “designed to address what some say is a crisis of care in assisted living facilities across the state.” The new laws span a variety of components of assisted living, such as additional training requirements for owners of assisted living communities, to statutory rights for residents, and perhaps the most critical change: State regulators now have the ability to suspend admissions to an assisted living community which has received a number of violations deemed to pose a risk to the health and/or safety of residents.

Increased fines and stricter training requirements New California Assisted Living Laws

U-T San Diego notes that the largest fine is now $15,000—for violations resulting in the death of a resident—a marked increase from just $150. This particular bill, focusing on increased fines, was co-authored by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, and it applies to all community care facilities in the state, not just assisted living communities. U-T San Diego brought attention to the markedly low fines for serious injury and death in a series of articles which highlighted 27 deaths and hundreds of injuries caused to residents in senior living communities in San Diego county alone, allegedly caused by abuse and neglect. U-T San Diego calls this series of bills “the state’s most sweeping overhaul of the industry in nearly three decades.”

The entire reform package was initiated earlier this year, sponsored by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, which released its own report last year with some concerning details about residential care in California. Legislators were motivated by this and other reports concerning a lack of adequate oversight in the senior living industry.

Here’s a look at the 10 bills signed into law by Gov. Brown and the focus of each:

  • SB 1153 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) – This bill permits state regulators to suspend admissions to a residential care community with violations that place resident health and safety at risk.
  • AB 1570 by Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata) – This bill outlines increased training requirements for owners of residential care communities in the state, as well as direct care staff.
  • SB 911 by Senator Marty Block (D-San Diego) – Similar to AB 1570, this bill increases training requirements for administrators of residential care communities (rather than licensees) and direct care staff who perform specific duties.
  • SB 1382 by Senator Marty Block (D-San Diego) – Another bill relating to increased training requirements, this bill addresses increased requirements for licensees (owners), administrators, and direct care staff.
  • AB 1751 by Assemblymember Richard H. Bloom (D-Santa Monica) – The signing of this law means that residents in California assisted living communities must now have representation on governing boards of residential care facilities as well as quarterly reporting of financial statements.
  • AB 1899 by Assemblymember Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino) – This law, in response to an incident occurring in response to the abandonment of 19 residents at a senior living community at Valley Springs Manor in Castro Valley, now prohibits the reinstating of a license to any licensee who abandons a facility and therefore places residents’ health and safety at risk.
  • B 2044 by Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) – This bill addresses specific staffing requirements for residential care communities, along with health and safety requirements.
  • AB 2171 by Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) – Establishes statutory rights for residents, and requires the display of resident rights within the senior living community.
  • AB 2231 by Assemblymember Richard S. Gordon (D-Menlo Park) – Re-instates a previous program which provides property tax deferment for seniors and the disabled.
  • SB 895 by Senator Ellen Corbett (D-Hayward) – The signing of this bill means that residential care communities must now rectify licensing deficiencies within 10 days after notification.

Changes are beneficial for residents

These new requirements will now mandate that a CPR-certified staff member be on site at all times. Additionally, senior living community operators are now prohibited from punishing a staff member for calling 911 to obtain help for a resident facing a serious or emergent health concern. Previously, this was discouraged by some operators who believed it to reflect poorly on the community’s ability to provide adequate care, and, in some cases, was discouraged due to the impact transport would create for the community’s occupancy levels. In any case, staff members may now feel confident in seeking the necessary help for residents in emergent situations without fear of repercussion.

Marijuana Laws Throw a Monkey Wrench in Senior Living Operations

The legalization of marijuana for medicinal use has created some interesting challenges for the senior living industry, only further complicated by the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes in Colorado and Washington State.

With state and federal laws clashing in states which have legalized marijuana for medicinal or recreational use, senior living operators in these states must carefully craft policies to minimize legal risk. And that, it seems, is no simple matter. Medical marijuana challenges assisted living

While the Obama Administration has taken the stance that the federal government will not—and federal prosecutors should not—penalize prescribing physicians or approved patients or caregivers in states which have passed laws legalizing marijuana, it’s unclear what the future holds and presently, the government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. That means it’s deemed to have a high potential for addiction and has “no currently accepted medical use.”

Senior living providers are taking approaches ranging across the spectrum, with some permitting the use of medicinal marijuana but not centrally storing or dispensing it as they would another prescription medication. In this case, residents using marijuana for medicinal purposes must have a caregiver who can assist and obtain it via a third-party, outpatient provider — but these circumstances aren’t free of obstacles, either.

For some providers, the risk is too great to take, and they opt to prohibit the use of medical marijuana within their communities altogether to play it safe.It’s an interesting landscape that’s sure to change in the coming years, and will likely be a heavily-debated issue in the next presidential election. Until then, the policies of individual senior living providers are the determining factor in whether it’s possible to use marijuana for medical purposes as a resident in a senior living community.

For more on this widely-debated issue and where the current regulations stand, check out our article on the impacts of the legalization of marijuana on the senior living industry.

 

 

 

 

Important Laws That Protect the Elderly

Elderly woman sitting with her caregiver. Whether we like it or not, our parents, friends and other loved ones will someday become old and frail, and will need to reach out to others for help with life’s everyday activities. But how do you ensure that your elderly loved one is being properly cared for?

Well, in the United States of America (U.S.), we have recognized senior adults as a potentially vulnerable segment of the population and passed special laws to protect their unique interests.

Right to Privacy

American seniors have the right to financial and medical privacy, provided that another individual does not have power of attorney over their financial or medical decisions. The right to privacy is often essential in protecting seniors against financial abuse, a difficult situation under which caregivers might attempt to get additional money or other material possessions in exchange for their care.

Financial abuse is an incredibly common type of abuse, and it may be committed in a variety of ways; a caregiver might convince a senior to put them in their will, or might ask for money for certain things. Abusers could even steal a senior’s identity under the assumption that they won’t notice.

Right to Mental, Physical and Emotional Support

Seniors in the U.S. have the right to receive health care, regardless of the type of service necessary. Caregivers that neglect their loved ones or do not seek the appropriate medical treatment in a timely manner are in violation of elder abuse and neglect laws.

It is a caregiver’s responsibility to ensure that their charges are taken care of on every level. If you suspect your elderly loved one is not getting the health care they need — whether it be psychological or physical — you should contact someone immediately.

Rights of Nursing Home Patients

Residents of nursing homes receive additional protections under U.S. law. There are many rights outlined by the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act to be aware of. These rights include:

  • The right to be treated with dignity.
  • The right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment and neglect.
  • The right to privacy.
  • The right to freedom from physical and chemical restraints.
  • The right to communicate freely.
  • The right to accommodation of medical, physical, psychological and social needs.
  • The right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal.
  • The right to participate in resident and family groups.
  • The right to participate in a review of one’s care plan.

If any of these rights are violated, you may wish to seek legal counsel on behalf of your loved one. You should also notify family or friends of any rights violations that do occur, so that they can help you through the situation and check in with you on a regular basis.

Protecting a Loved One From Abuse

Warning signs of abuse could include suddenly putting out a large amount of money towards someone outside of the family, seeming dirty or unkempt or being unusually withdrawn. Elderly residents of nursing homes that experience abuse may have dirty fingernails and hair, and they may experience dramatic personality shifts — such as suddenly becoming non-verbal.

A lawyer that specializes in elder abuse and elder care law will be able to help you in determining whether rights have been infringed upon. If you suspect your elderly loved one has been the victim of emotional, physical or financial abuse, view our directory of U.S. Helplines & Hotlines for Suspected Elder Abuse and contact your local authorities.

Is Your Loved One a Victim of Verbal Abuse?

This is a guest post contributed by writer Alan Brady.

As children, we all learned the chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” But bullying does hurt and can have an adverse impact on a persona’s mental health and psyche. Bullies should outgrow the behavior once they leave school, but the sad fact is that some senior citizens are verbally abused and emotionally abused by their caretakers. Most caregivers dedicate their hearts and souls to caring for their recipients, so it’s unfathomable to think that a caregiver could be so cruel. But it does happen, so it’s important to be aware of the signs of abuse and what to do if you suspect it’s happening.

You have every right to be concerned about your loved one’s care and treatment, whether the person is living in a nursing home, assisted-living facility, residential care facility or even their own home. Any type of elder abuse or nursing home abuse—even verbal abuse—is unacceptable and is, in some instances, a crime. Abusers should be reported to the police and victims should hire a nursing home abuse attorney to take legal action against the abuser.

WARNING SIGNS
Here are some of the most common signs of emotional or verbal abuse:

  • The abuser tries to intimidate the victim, sometimes through threats or yelling.
  • The victim doesn’t want to be left alone with the abuser.
  • The victim is subjected to teasing or ridicule.
  • The victim is frequently blamed for things.
  • The abuser tries to isolate the victim from other people.
  • The abuser gives the victim the silent treatment.
  • The abuser attempts to make the victim feel mental pain, distress and/or anguish.
  • Loved ones observe tension or frequent fights between the abuser and victim.
  • The abuser treats the victim like an infant.
  • The victim experiences an unexpected decline in mental health and may exhibit dementia-like symptoms.

TAKING ACTION
It’s important to remember that emotional abuse and verbal abuse can escalate into other types of elder abuse. If a caretaker feels as if he or she is entitled to verbally abuse an elderly person, it may be just a matter of time before the caretaker decides to financially exploit the individual, or before physical abuse occurs.

You should take several immediate steps if you think someone is the victim of abuse, whether it’s in an assisted-living facility or in the victim’s home:

  • Attempt to separate the victim from the suspected abuser.
  • Contact local police.
  • If the abuse is occurring in a nursing home, report your concerns to the supervisor, if appropriate, and to your state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
  • Hire a nursing home abuse attorney or personal injury attorney. You should be sure to research the lawyers available in your area to ensure that your loved one received the best possible representation.

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15 Financial Management Resources for Seniors and Baby Boomers

Did you know that October is Financial Planning Month? Because financial planning is such an important topic in the senior living industry — these days, you have to start preparing early for your Golden Years — we’ve decided to round up some of the most informative financial management resources for seniors and Baby Boomers.

These 15 blogs, articles and websites offer valuable advice for retirement planning, paying for senior care, keeping an eye on your investments, where and when to retire, tips on what to do with the family home, and more.

1.       The Retirement Pros – Safe retirement investing information — and you can ask questions, too. 

2.       CNN Money – Retirement – The ultimate guide to questions about retirement such as: How much should I save?  When should I start saving? 

3.       Mint – A good way to understand where your money is going when you invest in your retirement fund.

4.       Money and Happiness – A guide to living the good life after retirement with money tips and much more. Stop worrying about money, and start living happy!

5.       Personal Finance for Seniors for Dummies – Find out your ideal retirement age, get tips for enjoying your golden years stress-free, and more with the Personal Finance for Seniors (for Dummies) guide.

6.       MarketWatch Retirement – Sometimes, seniors decide to make a move and experience life in a new area after retirement. This article will help you decide where you should and shouldn’t retire. 

7.       Kiplinger – Retirement – Answers to questions about social security and special tax breaks available to seniors.

8.       USA Today Personal Finance – This is a great guide on markets, finance, money and business.

9.       MarketWatch – If you’re planning to retire soon then you’ll want to start watching the market.  In addition to its Retirement section, MarketWatch as a whole is a great site to monitor your investments so you can keep better tabs on your nest egg.

10.   ConsumerReports Money – Anything you need to know about banking, 401-k plans, Medicare questions and more.

11.   WiseBread – Several ways to “live large”, even on a small budget.   

12.   Yahoo! Finance – If you’re over 50 and you don’t think you’re prepared for retirement, you can find answers here to many of the questions that might be weighing on your mind. Check out Yahoo! Finance’s Retirement section at large for more expert financial advice for your golden years.

13.   Lessons in Financial Basics for Baby Boomers – The down-and-dirty, cut-and-dry basics on preparing financially for retirement.

14.   Baby Boomers and Finance – Baby Boomers face unique challenges and opportunities at this stage of their lives – here’s a guide to help. 

15.   Retirement of Baby Boomers at Risk – Many Boomers are fearful that they’re at risk of not having enough financial resources to survive their retirement years. This article takes a look at the current financial crisis plaguing many Baby Boomers at the right age for retirement but afraid to make the leap.

What are the biggest financial management challenges you’re experiencing for yourself, a loved one, or the seniors you serve as a professional? What are the biggest obstacles we face as a society as we move into an era of people living longer, healthier lives well into their senior years? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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Post by Angela Stringfellow

OIG’s Plan for Nursing Facilities

The Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) has implemented a work plan affecting long-term care, specifically, nursing home and skilled nursing facilities. JD Supra highlights some of the focus areas of this initiative, which affect both payments and performance issues.

Focus on quality of care

In terms of quality of care, nursing homes are required to utilize the Residential Assessment Instruments (RAI) to create a plan of care for each resident and plan for eventual discharge. However, reports have indicated that about 25 percent of residents’ needs are not addressed in their care plans and residents are not receiving psychosocial services which are addressed in their care plans.

OIG scrutinizes nursing homes

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The OIG has also made state inspections a priority. Specifically, whether state agencies are following up on correction plans created in response to deficiencies identified during state nursing home inspections. There will also be a focus on the efforts of state agencies and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to improve performance. Enforcement decisions, including follow-up actions and the implementation of corrective measures in response to complaints and survey results are a core focus in this area.

Focus on billing and payments

A number of focus areas have also been identified in relation to billing and payments. There will be increased scrutiny on both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B claims submitted by providers with a history of billing errors. CMS will have the ability to deny a provider’s enrollment in the Medicare program if they’re found to have existing overpayments that they’ve failed to refund.

Medicaid overpayments will also be in focus: Medicaid is intended to be “the payor of last resort,” and providers are supposed to identify and refund overpayments. OIG will be reviewing patient accounts which have credit balances to identify and reclaim any overpayments found. State procedures for identifying and collecting third-party payments will also be reviewed, as these procedures can help avoid overpayments in the first place.

Hospice programs, and the relationship between hospice providers and nursing facilities, will also be scrutinized in light of findings that up to 82 percent of hospice claims for patients residing in nursing homes did not meet Medicare eligibility requirements. There have also been reports and findings that some hospice providers have aggressively marketed their services or have entered into inappropriate enrollment and compensation in conjunction with contracted nursing facilities.

Questionable billing patterns have also been identified in relation to Medicare Part B benefits for nursing home residents. Medicare Part B services must be billed directly by suppliers or other providers. The OIG will investigate these patterns to identify areas of inaccuracy.

These are just a few of the items addressed in the OIG’s Work Plan that will affect long-term care providers. These focus areas will place added responsibilities on both state agencies and CMS, as well as providers, although the implementation of these measures will serve to improve the quality of care received by residents and preserve funds that can help maintain the viability of Medicare and Medicaid programs.

 

Company Spotlight: SeniorLaw.com

In 1996, David Goldfarb of Goldfarb Abrandt Salzman & Kutzin LLP saw a gap in the public knowledge base of elder law information. He started SeniorLaw.com with the goal of providing simplified information to seniors and their loved ones to help them understand what legal documents are important for protecting your assets and planning for care in your golden years.

SeniorLaw.com offers elder law advice

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But SeniorLaw.com doesn’t stop with information for the community; it’s also a robust resource for attorneys who aren’t well versed in elder law, a highly specialized field that requires the right expertise to adequately meet this population’s needs.

SeniorLaw.com helps families understand what documents they can prepare themselves and when it’s time to seek the help of an elder law attorney. It includes information on Medicare, Medicaid, when to use a trust to protect assets and more. The website has been featured in a number of publications, including The New York Times senior citizens section and Parade magazine. More than 20,000 people visit SeniorLaw.com each month searching for legal advice on elder law for themselves or a loved one.

Elder law: Common questions and areas of confusion

There are two key areas generally most confusing to seniors and their loved ones, in Mr. Goldfarb’s experience:

  • Guardianships: What are they? Do I need one? How do they work? (In some states, they’re referred to as conservatorships.)
  • Hospital discharges and skilled nursing facility (SNF) transfers: Was my loved one discharged too soon? What care should I have set up at home? The hospital discharged my loved one, and I didn’t have time to make the proper arrangements. Was this an appropriate discharge?

The most frequently asked questions are related to:

  • Nursing home care and coverage
  • Home care
  • Medicaid eligibility

Elder law attorneys can help navigate sensitive issues

There are also some intricacies in state laws, says Goldfarb, and that’s where an elder law attorney can be most helpful. For instance, in New York State, where he practices, there’s a spousal refusal option that can be useful in protecting assets. If one spouse is sick and the other is well, under certain circumstances the well spouse can elect to not disclose their assets, enabling the sick partner to qualify for Medicaid without the need to spend down the family’s assets.

Why you need a Power of Attorney (POA)

Mr. Goldfarb says the one legal document most frequently overlooked by consumers is the Power of Attorney (POA) and healthcare proxy. He says it’s advisable for everyone to get this document in place – young or old, sick or well – because anyone can become incapacitated at any time. Many consumers assume that power of attorney will fall to their next of kin, but that’s not actually true. The lack of a legal POA document can pose significant roadblocks to your loved ones trying to advocate and make decisions regarding your care.

A POA is no longer a simple document, Goldfarb advises. While it used to be possible to purchase a boilerplate template from just about anywhere, it’s now a good idea to have an attorney prepare it for you to be sure your document will be considered legitimate should the need arise.

How to find an elder law attorney

If you think you could benefit from a consultation with an elder law attorney, the state bar association is a good place to start your search. Elder law doesn’t require a special license, but many attorneys who don’t practice in the area often aren’t aware of all the tactics that can be utilized to benefit clients.

If you’re not sure whether you need the assistance of an elder law attorney, SeniorLaw.com is a good place to begin understanding the many aspects of elder care and elder law. Beginning here will provide you with a solid understanding of the issues you could encounter as you enter your golden years and offer insight as to when you should seek expert guidance.

 

Workplace Discrimination Against Caregivers on the Rise, Says AARP

Caring for an elderly loved one is becoming the new norm as the Baby Boomer generation increasingly finds itself sandwiched between aging parents and their own children. More and more, American workers are finding themselves juggling the challenges of caring for an elderly parent with trying to maintain a full-time career. It’s a situation that requires employer flexibility, but workers are finding that many companies aren’t willing to be flexible with hours and scheduling to accommodate the needs of caregivers.

The AARP Public Policy Institute issued a report last week, titled “Protecting Family Caregivers from Employment Discrimination” designed to address the increasing issues faced by caregivers struggling to continue working. Created with support from The SCAN Foundation and The Commonwealth Fund, the report takes an in-depth look at the current landscape of Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD) and the future outlook as the number of individuals working while taking on the responsibilities of caring for an aging loved one will continue to rise.

Today's workers juggle careers and eldercare.

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What is Family Responsibilities Discrimination?

FRD occurs when an employer treats an employee less favorably than others based on the perception that caregiving responsibilities lead to decreased productivity and lower commitment to the job. Circumstances such as denying an employee leave to take care of an ailing parent or spouse, making inappropriate comments regarding whether it’s the employee’s responsibility to care for the individual in question or being fired for asking for time off or leave to take care of a loved one’s needs are all classified as FRD.

Current policies fail to offer adequate protection

Most states, and even federal laws, don’t specifically prohibit FRD. The caregiving population isn’t even classified as a protected group, like minorities are. Therefore, it’s challenging to bring discrimination allegations against an employer without working the circumstances into an existing law, such as sexual harassment. And for many working caregivers, simply leaving the workforce isn’t an option, as most families are dependent on dual incomes. In spite of the dual-income family being the norm for several decades, most workplaces are still based on the presumption that families have someone at home to care for young children or aging parents.

Current protections fall under a number of laws, including:

  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Rehabilitation Act
  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA)

Only four states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that prevent caregiver discrimination:

  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Washington, D.C.

However, only Connecticut and D.C. have statutes that include eldercare. Specifically, they protect workers with “family responsibilities” from discrimination, language which can be construed to include eldercare. The other three states offer protections for childcare, but not eldercare.

The AARP Public Policy Institute offers recommendations for including protections for caregivers at both the state and federal levels, and also offers guidance for employers to create workplace policies that will better suit the needs of working caregivers. Suggestions include offering training to supervisors and managers to educate them on the needs of the caregiving population, being flexible and offering eldercare support and resources to employees.

Fore more details, download the full report or the shorter fact sheet from the AARP Public Policy Institute.

Long-Term Care Payments Go Direct: Are You Prepared?

As of March 1, 2013, anyone receiving federal benefits such as Social Security will receive their payments via direct deposit, according to Healthcare Finance News. No bank account? You’ll be receiving a Direct Express MasterCard.

The U.S. Treasury estimates that this transition will save taxpayers $1 billion over the next 10 years, and it will also increase efficiency. Paper checks can be lost or stolen. Direct deposit is also more effective for nursing care facilities and this new payment process will help to improve internal processes.

How this change could affect you or your loved ones

Social Security goes direct deposit with Go Direct

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If you’re receiving federal benefits, you can opt to switch to direct deposit now, or you’ll automatically be switched to the Direct Express MasterCard on March 1st to avoid payment disruptions. Anyone who enrolled in federal benefits after May 1, 2011 is already using the electronic direct deposit system and won’t be affected by the change.

The Go Direct Campaign

The U.S. Department of Treasury is encouraging facilities to prepare for the change with Go Direct, a website featuring a countdown clock and information about how the change will benefit recipients, providers and the U.S. healthcare system. You can even follow the Go Direct Campaign’s Twitter account for the most recent updates, news and facts. For instance, did you know that more than 440,000 Social Security and SSI checks were lost or stolen last year alone?  The direct deposit system will drastically reduce this number by making it more difficult to steal checks, eliminate checks being lost in the mail and make it simpler for seniors to access their funds without having to make a deposit at the bank.

Educational resources for providers

In September, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) will be joining the Department of Treasury to offer a webinar, followed by a convention in October that will help make the direct deposit conversion smoother for long-term care facilities. Go Direct also has call centers that a lot of smaller long-term care facilities have been utilizing to ensure that the correct residents are credited and to learn how to appropriately reconcile payments. Also beginning in September, Go Direct will post different scenarios that may cause long-term care facilities issues and how to efficiently fix these problems.

Make sure that you, your facility or your loved ones are prepared for federal benefit paper checks to soon become direct deposits. Go Direct call centers will be available to field questions throughout the transition. Visit the Go Direct website for all the latest news, access to webinars for community-based organizations and financial institutions, and materials you can utilize in your own marketing efforts to educate your clients and customers about the upcoming changes.