Tag Archives: Medicaid

Living Trust Plus™ Asset Protection Trust Video Series

Written by Evan Farr

The Living Trust Plus™ is a unique solution to a large problem.

living trust plus asset protection trust virginia elder lawEvan developed this trust as a means of protecting assets while the creator is still living.  Including the most expensive creditors in existence: nursing homes.  Any form of long-term care is expensive, and long-term care insurance is not easy to obtain for many people, either due to eligibility requirements, pre-existing conditions, or the high cost.

Many attorneys are not aware this trust even exists, and it goes without saying in detail how absent from public knowledge this form of asset protection really is.  Our educational video series will shed some light on this trust that is growing in popularity, yet still relatively unknown on a national scale.

Enjoy our Living Trust Plus™ Video Series

Part I

 

Part II Will “Unlock” Soon!

 

Part II covers the main limitation of a revocable living trust, and how this limitation is abolished with a Living Trust Plus™.

 

This is part of an effort to spread awareness of the protections this trust can provide, at a time when middle class Americans need it the most.

 

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“What if I can’t qualify for long-term care insurance?”

Written by Evan Farr

The Living Trust Plus™ is a revolutionary asset protection trust, designed to help the middle class protect assets from the devastating expenses of long-term care.   If you’ve attended one of my seminars you are already familiar with it.

To brush up your knowledge on what we refer to as “Medicaid Asset Protection,”  please visit my Firm’s section dedicated to explaining Medicaid asset protection trusts and other related services you may want or need.

If you are an attorney and are interested in learning more about the Living Trust Plus™ so you can offer it to your clients, or if you want even more detailed information in general, visit the national attorney page, LivingTrustPlus.com.

If you do not live in Virginia and can’t pay us a visit at The Farr Law Firm, you may also be interested in visiting the Living Trust Plus National Network website, so you can locate and contact the licensed attorney in your state.

Free Seminar: Who Will Pay for Your Long-Term Care?

Written by Evan Farr

Many people approach estate planning attorneys in order to determine how their assets will be divided among survivors after their death.

Unfortunately, a huge number of them skip a step and don’t take the high likelihood of long-term care into consideration.  Elder law attorneys see this situation come up time and again, and it is important to educate clients on the options they have available.

Notice: crunched for time?  We understand.  Just call us at 703.691.1888 to reserve your spot ASAP, as our seats are filling up fast.

asset protection seminarFirst of all, long-term care is a very likely scenario. People are now living longer than they ever have before.  This can be a great thing, but the flip side is that it also means that the period of time in which we cannot fully care for ourselves may be longer, too.  More and more people find that they truly need some form of long-term care.  In some cases, this can be handled through an in-home healthcare worker rather than in a nursing home, but even that is expensive.

Nursing homes are a common solution when it comes to long-term care, and a good elder law attorney should help you plan for how to make this possibility happen.  It’s common for people to think that the government will simply pay for their needs or that a nursing home isn’t any more expensive than renting an apartment.  Both ideas are usually untrue. For example, here in Northern Virginia a nursing home can cost around $10,000-$12,000 per month!

So, how does one pay for long-term care?  Elder care attorneys typically see four approaches:

1.       Private Pay – Any care that is needed, from nursing homes to prescriptions drugs (including co-payments or full costs) are covered out of pocket. That can mean lifetime savings, IRA’s, stocks, and any other assets that you’ve worked for. Elder care services tend to be very expensive, and the costs associated with them are incredibly high.  It’s not unusual for assisted-living placements to cost upwards of $8,000 a month.  That means that “simple” basics that are required for day-to-day living come out to $96,000 a year.

2.       Medicare – Medicare is a health insurance program administered through the government. Many people are surprised to learn that Medicare does not typically cover long-term care.  So, even if you qualify for this program, it cannot be used to cover nursing home care or in-home healthcare professionals for more than about 100 days.

The Farr Law Firm is conducting a free seminar this weekend, Saturday February 18th.  Simply click the button below to RSVP!

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3.       Medicaid – Medicaid is the only government benefit intended for long term care, and you must apply and qualify for the benefits.  Many people are shocked when their elder law attorney explains that Medicaid may not actually be available to everyone, and if you have much by way of assets (even a modest home or a few thousand dollars in the bank), you may not be able to qualify right away.  If you hope to become eligible for Medicaid sometime within the next several years, it’s a good idea to prepare in advance to protect your assets. If it’s too late for that, the Farr Law Firm can still help you protect your hard-earned assets using our proprietary Asset Protection methods and years of knowledge and experience so that you can qualify for Medicaid benefits sooner. The application in itself is also a time consuming and headache-inducing process requiring the documentation of financial minutiae the likes of which many people can’t even imagine. So many of our clients come to us at their wits’ end, having already tried to apply once on their own (or even multiple times) and been swiftly denied.

4.       Long-Term Care Insurance – This type of insurance can help to cover or offset the costs associated with long-term care, such as an in-home healthcare worker or nursing home care.  Policies can be somewhat confusing and expensive, so it’s highly recommended to work with an impartial elder law attorney when reviewing potential policies to ensure you understand them and are getting what you expect. Sadly, by the time that most people find that they need LTCI, it’s too late–in fact, only about 7% of Americans currently have long-term care insurance policies.

There are many issues to take into consideration when planning for your future, and long-term care is undoubtedly one of the most important, and that with the most far-reaching effects.  Working with a Certified Elder Law Attorney means that you will understand the options that are available to you and how they apply according to state and federal law.

To learn more about the complexity of Medicaid law and why it’s been called “an aggravated assault on the English language, resistant to attempts to understand it”, visit this page on our website, then call us at 1-800-399-FARR to find out how we can help.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: worradmu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Avoid Losing Massive Amounts of Money to a Nursing Home

Written by Evan Farr

Evan H. Farr, CELA

When older adults think of estate planning, many actually have asset protection in mind. What they want is the peace of mind of knowing that the nest egg they’ve been saving for that proverbial “rainy day” will actually be available for them when that rainy day comes. The rainy day, for most people, is when they or their spouse enters a nursing home.  But estate planning and asset protection are two very different fields of law. Estate Planning documents do nothing to achieve asset protection, as Estate planning deals with distribution of assets upon death.  If you wind up going broke in a nursing home before your death, your Estate Plan will wind up being a worthless pile of paper.

These days most older adults use the Revocable Living Trust (RLT) as their primary Estate Planning document in order to minimize delays and expenses and avoid the “nightmare of probate.”  A Last Will and Testament is designed to put your estate into probate – an expensive and complex process that most people want to avoid at all costs.  Although the RLT can achieve this important goal of avoiding probate, a major limitation of the RLT is that it cannot accomplish asset protection. The RLT can’t shield your assets from nursing home expenses.  With the average cost of a nursing home room in the DC Metro area at around $9,000 per year, this is an important limitation of the RLT that every older adult needs to understand.

Is there a living trust that actually does protect assets in contemplation of future nursing home expenses?  Yes. You can protect your assets legally and effectively by using the Living Trust PlusTM (LTP).  As opposed to the RLT which only avoids probate, the LTP is designed to protect your assets from the expenses and complexities of probate PLUS lawsuits PLUS nursing home expenses. The LTP functions very similarly to the RLT and maintains much of the flexibility of the RLT, but in addition to serving as your primary estate planning document, the LTP allows you to actually protect your nest egg from having to be “spent down” to pay for the catastrophic expenses often incurred in connection with nursing home long-term care.

If you’re over the age of 65 and you’ve been holding on to a nest egg for a rainy day, the time to get out the umbrella and protect the nest egg is now, while you’re still relatively healthy and living independently. To find out more, you can sign up yourself and your family to attend a free seminar on the Living Trust PlusTM.

If you are an attorney and are interested in learning how you can offer your clients true asset protection, visit LivingTrustPlus.com and join the dozens of attorneys across the U.S. who have already educated themselves and embraced the LTP!

Top 3 Advancements to Help Seniors Stay at Home: “No Thank You, Nursing Home”

Written by Evan Farr

Evan H. Farr, Certified Elder Law Attorney

“Getting old is not for sissies” goes the quote. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges people face as they age is a seemingly inevitable and impending change to their living situation, whether it be due to health concerns, financial circumstances or both. This feared transition may not be so inevitable after all.  With the right plan, seniors can qualify for Medicaid, take advantage of today’s latest elder care technologies, and protect the assets which otherwise could be drained by the catastrophic costs of long-term care.

Most people are familiar with care options such as In-Home Care, Assisted Living, and Nursing Homes.   But now, a fourth option is gaining popularity: Aging-in-Place . . . a care option that allows individuals to continue living independently in their own home without the need for a live-in caregiver.

TabSafe

Drug compliance is the most common issue for those living alone. For those with memory issues, pill-reminder services and gadgets can issue daily visual and audio alerts to take medication, dispense the correct pills at the right times, and can even send a confirmation message to a caregiver once the medication has been dispensed. If a dosage is missed, an alert is sent to the caregiver and appropriate action can be taken.  The  TabSafe is one such product; you may visit their website here.

Falling is the leading cause of injury and death among those ages 65 and older.[1] For those with a high fall risk, monitoring devices like eNeighbor use unobtrusive sensors to monitor a resident’s daily routine. If the resident were to fall and not be able to get up or reach the phone for help, the device would trigger a phone call to a list of contacts as well as a 24-hour call center.

HomMed Genesis

“Remote monitoring” is an in-home technology that measures vitals such as heart rate, body weight, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels–making it useful to patients with a variety of health concerns, from cardiovascular disease to diabetes.  Check out the HomMed Genesis.

These latest technological advancements are not necessarily cheap.  One of the goals we at the Farr Law Firm seek to accomplish through our Level 4 Planning is to protect assets from the disastrous expenses of long-term care, so that some of those assets can be used to enhance the standard of living with goods and services not covered by government financial assistance, such as the ones I’ve described.  Of course, if Aging-In-Place is not the ideal option for you, we can help you prepare for and decide on your other long-term care options.

If long-term care planning is a relatively new subject area for you or your family, I suggest you take a few moments to watch this segment from the National Business Series.

If you have been contemplating you or a loved-one’s long-term care options, we can provide the solutions that you may be looking for. Achieving long term peace of mind is an invaluable asset that we are honored to assist you with. Please do not hesitate to call us at 1-800-399-FARR to schedule a free, initial consultation.

Images from:
http://www.TabSafe.com
http://www.hommed.com/Products/Genesis_DM.asp
Resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Farr Law Firm’s Levels of Planning

Required Disclaimer:
*Virginia has no procedure for approving certifying organizations

Obamacare Warfare: Why is the Public Positively Puzzled on Health Reform?

Written by Evan Farr

Struggling to make sense of the status of health care reform in America? Don’t worry; neither can Congress, the White House, nor the Courts say with certainty whether The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Act) will ultimately be considered successful legislation, whether it will be repealed, or if certain contested provisions are constitutional. The goal of this article is one of education and not political persuasion.

Last year, I discussed how the health reforms will help Medicare recipients and early retirees in my article entitled, Health Reform: Changes in Store for the Elderly.  This year, I want to briefly reiterate the most important 2011 changes.  As you may know, the sweeping health reform law passed last year is designed for long-term implementation.

Two Important 2011 Reforms for Seniors

There are two monumental changes worth mentioning briefly.  First, preventive services (including annual physicals and cancer screenings) will now be free for most beneficiaries, including people who enrolled in private plans as of last September.

Second, a 50% discount on brand-name medicines will be available for people in the Medicare Part D “donut hole.” Seniors on the Medicare Part D drug plan subject to the donut hole pay out-of-pocket when their annual drug costs are between $2,840 and $4,550.

Illustrating the likely unpopularity of health reform repeal, US News quoted Kenneth Thrope, Head of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Emory University:

“If you do repeal the law, you’ll have to start charging people for preventive benefits.  You’ll have to increase what seniors pay for prescription drugs . . . . [n]either one of those would be very popular.”

My goal is not to convince my readers to support or oppose the Act, nor is my goal to explain it: consisting of over 1,000 pages of law and policy reform, it is becoming increasingly clear that top lawmakers do not even fully understand or agree on the law.  Instead, I seek to enlighten my readers on the law’s current status.  Paradoxically, the same principle that ensures Democracy in America is the source of the maddening confusion, delay, and uncertainty: “the Separation of Powers.”

If you are interested in a summary of the Act, you can view the bill on OpenCongress here.  For information on related legislation that will modernize America’s health system, you may want to read my recent article on the HI-TECH Act, How New Health Information Technology Will Save Money and Lives.

For those who may feel lost, allow me to quickly bring you up to speed

Obama signed the Act in March of 2010

The Act was introduced September 17, 2009, passed both the House and Senate by late December, 2009, and was later signed into law by the President on March 23, 2010.  Republicans vow to repeal the law, while Democrats dismiss repeal of reform as an impossibility.  One thing is certain; this is a major piece of legislation that implicates millions of lives and billions of dollars.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinilli and 13 other states sued the federal government shortly after the law took effect. Presently, more than 20 states have filed suit against the federal government over the legislation. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said the new laws would have “a significant and unavoidable impact on the bottom line of [Virginia’s] state budget,” reported Richmond Times-DispatchThe Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy has voiced its opposition to Cuccinelli and McDonnell’s challenge, proclaiming, “[T]he political actions of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli may simply allow health-insurance industry abuse of small business, seniors and children to continue.”

Sources of Confusion

Opposition from state Governors and their Attorney Generals is a major source of the public confusion.  The New York Times criticized such efforts and said these state suits “create confusion among the public and further destabilize political support for legislation that is under fierce attack from Republicans in Congress and in many statehouses.” The media’s undivided attention to the individual mandate provision has been broad, as opposed to the seemingly jaded level of concentration allocated to the other stories related to the law.  For example, beginning September 23, 2010, a key provision took effect prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to children based on health status.  But America is divided, as evidenced by a recently introduced state law in California: According to NewAmericaMedia.org, the backlash from insurance companies started in California when large insurers announced that they would no longer offer “child-only” policies.  Only after a law was introduced that would penalize these insurers for such behavior by banning them from the individual market for five years did the insurers reconsider their policy.  This is but one example of how important news stories are being overshadowed by the “individual mandate” debate.

What Role does Virginia Play in Shaping America’s Health Care Reform Debate?

Fast-forward to the present day, and Republicans in the House vow to repeal the law, while Democrats insist it isn’t possible (because they control the Senate).  On the other hand, there is speculation that it would be possible for the House to “de-fund” the legislation because they control the “purse strings.”  It is no wonder that the American public is confused.  Meanwhile, states are challenging provisions of the law in Federal Courts, and there is likely a Supreme Court case in the making, because Federal Courts can’t seem to agree on the constitutionality of a key provision – the “Individual Mandate.”

The "Individual Mandate" of the Act has been challenged in Federal District Courts

Henry Hudson, a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, recently found, this key provision of the Act to be unconstitutional.  Hudson did not undermine the Act and even refused to suspend its implementation pending appeal he referred to Congress’s enactment as laudable but disagreed that the Commerce Clause granted the powers contained in the Act.  The New York Times provides the full opinion here.  Judge Hudson is the third federal district court judge to decide one of these cases on the merits; more than 20 other judges have cases pending which seek to challenge the law.

Demonstrating the “tit-for-tat” nature of the debate, the Obama administration responded just one day after the Virginia decision in an op-ed piece posted on the Washington Post website.  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder along with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are of the belief that Americans who are presently insured are paying too much for their insurance, because of an inequitable burden placed upon them by those who don’t have health insurance. “Every insured family pays an average of $1,000 more a year in premiums to cover the care of those who have no insurance,” they said, reported CNN.

Though analysts agree that there may be a Supreme Court case in the making, it will most likely take some time before winding its way up to our nation’s highest court.  Illinois State University Political Science Professor Bob Bradley commented on the aftermath of the Virginia case, stating, “The Supreme Court [is] not going to hear this for awhile…what they’re going to do is let this play through all the other federal district court challenges.” Lawyers involved say it could take two years for the Supreme Court to hear the case.

“The problem is that if [state challenges succeed], they’ll all be left high and dry with half-baked reform plans that won’t work.”  Bnet offered this interesting take on the irony of state-developed reform plans, which would provide more state-autonomy but could do so at the expense of federal grant money.

An American tragedy has delayed the Republican effort to repeal.

Because of the recent shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz) that left six dead, the vote to repeal the Act has been postponed.  Scheduled to take place this week, the vote was delayed by House majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), along with the rest of the legislative agenda.

Major Groups that Support and Oppose Health Reform.

Of the groups that  support the Act, OpenCongress lists health professionals, consumer groups, elder groups, the U.S. military, and various trade unions.  The opposition is composed of groups such as accident and health insurance companies, construction companies, security brokers, investment companies, and milk and dairy producers.

To conclude this article, I would like to reiterate that you should not feel bad if you are still confused about the status of the U.S. health reform law. Every day, the mainstream media plasters headlines across its networks and they can be very misleading.  Some headlines I have seen could lead a casual reader to assume the Act never became law.  Still others may perhaps lead one to think the Act is doomed.  Whether you support health reform or not, and no matter what your political philosophy may be, something everyone can agree on is that patience is needed as Congress, the White House, and the Courts sort it out.  Here is the bottom line: the Affordable Care Act is currently law.  Any potential attempt at repeal or prospective landmark Supreme Court case is pure speculation at this point.

Image Credits:

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Hubpages.com/hub/inauguration-day-clip-art

Should the WikiLeaks fiasco raise healthcare privacy concerns?

Written by Evan Farr
Evan Farr, CELA

Evan Farr, CELA

As the recent WikiLeaks disclosures continue to make headlines across the globe, I can not help but reflect upon what this means for healthcare privacy.

Why are these classified documents so “sensitive” in nature, that the White House believes their dissemination will risk the cause of human rights? There are at least two obvious reasons: First, the disclosures are embarrassing from a public relations standpoint, because they chronicle communications which were meant to remain confidential indefinitely. Second, some of the disclosures are substantively sensitive from a national defense perspective.

The White House is pulling no punches when it comes to how it feels about the organization, and made the following statement earlier this week regarding the disclosure of the diplomatic cables:

“By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights, but also the lives and work of the individuals. We condemn in strongest terms, the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.”

In light of the WikiLeaks disclosures, Dr. Westby G. Fisher, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at University of Chicago, summed up his concerns about healthcare privacy earlier this week: “While a single individual’s private healthcare information may not carry the gravitas of wartime communiqués, each of us deals with famous patients who might not want their diagnosis, HIV status, or drinking history spread far and wide.” Dr. Fisher makes a valid point, but I am not so quick to panic. While I think the privacy concerns extend beyond “famous patients,” I have faith that the HI-TECH Act will promote safeguards to effectively protect healthcare data. You can read my recent article on Electronic Health Records and the HI-TECH Act here. As I will explain later in this article, the Pentagon’s data-sharing network was grossly flawed and too easily accessible. It is my hope that the “takeaway” from this entire WikiLeaks issue will be a lesson learned by our Nation’s IT professionals. In other words, this “fiasco” will hopefully lead to an increased focus on Healthcare information technology and security in the future.

With roughly 250,000 documents released by WikiLeaks and with the aid of some popular media outlets, the ramifications of the diplomatic cables will be far-reaching. My initial thoughts were mixed:  perhaps this latest WikiLeaks embarrassment will sound the alarm bells for governments and private industries to protect sensitive information more closely; perhaps it will lead to the development of more sophisticated information technology tools and training methodologies. On the other hand, it is impossible to ignore the obvious – that the United States government failed to prevent a massive theft of classified data. As a result, the logical question raised is “how we can expect, in the future, government agencies (federal, state, or local), or even private industries, to keep sensitive data confidential?”

In my recent article on the importance of Electronic and Personal Health records, I discussed why the electronic storage of medical information is beneficial to patients, and how the use of smart health information technology can save money and lives. There is no denying that we are living in the “information age,” and to resist this transition would be counterintuitive and counterproductive. But, we also are living in the post-9/11 era. Thus, we must strike a balance between our privacy rights & expectations, and our safety.

Many Americans are wondering how hundreds of thousands of classified documents could be released in such a fashion. The answer seems to be that the security measures in place were rooted in good faith, albeit somewhat reckless in hindsight. Following 9/11, the government sought to implement a more free-flowing data network so that federal agencies could exchange information more quickly.  Analysts quoted by VOA News say, “the WikiLeaks disclosures can be traced in part to changes instituted in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 …The 9/11 Commission sharply criticized intelligence agencies for failing to share critical information with each other that, when combined, might have revealed and perhaps thwarted the plot.” As a result, the Pentagon created a network called the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet). Although the network limited information to persons with a security clearance from either the State or Defense agencies, the threshold was too low. According to officials, a 23 year-old Army Private First Class (PFC) downloaded the documents and later transferred them to WikiLeaks. The rank of PFC is the third lowest in the Army; thus, the “Wikileaks fiasco” may be an example of the balance between privacy and safety having been too far skewed towards notions of the latter.

Below is a chart that represents the sources of the leaked cables. As you can see, they all came from U.S. agencies and Embassies.

Origin of Cables

Origin of Cables by Percentage

With almost every media outlet reporting on the recent WikiLeaks disclosures, it is my hope that, after all is said and done, America will emerge with a new-found appreciation for data security. In light of the WikiLeaks disclosures, it is vital that our federal and state governments institute laws, security measures, and protocols that will ensure that private medical records are kept out of the hands of thieves, extortionists, organized criminal enterprises, and non-government political groups. Most of us would have probably thought that a 23 year-old private first class officer would not have access to the documents released this week. Perhaps it is time to start asking questions, the goal being to learn from this unfortunate situation and hence pay more attention to safeguarding our data in this “post-9/11, information age.”

How New Health Information Technology Will Save Money and Lives

Written by Evan Farr
Evan Farr

Evan Farr, CELA

Why is it that our most sensitive, personal data is often in an unorganized state of disarray? Most of us probably could more quickly pull a given DVD or book from our collections than proffer to a doctor a condition or illness we may have suffered 1, 2, 5,  or 10 years ago!

The electronic consolidation of health information is finally coming to fruition, as States, entities, and individuals are being presented with incentives (including common-sense!) to upgrade health information exchange technology. Absent privacy concerns, the benefits patients will receive are astonishing. Money will be saved, as will be lives. For example, we can eliminate duplicative and/or unnecessary tests. They will be a burden of the past. Doctors will be enabled to more accurately diagnose and treat patients.

I want to distinguish between two common terms that are sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably. An Electronic Health Record (EHR) is maintained by a person’s provider, whereas a Personal Health Record (PHR) is a consolidated electronic record of information, derived from numerous sources, and controlled by the individual. Both are essential to the dignity of healthcare in the wireless age moving forward.

EHR’s are useful; they document medical progress, treatment, and records rendered by a given provider. If you would like more information on EHR’s, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services provides an informative online overview here.

According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, approved hospitals and healthcare professionals will begin receiving incentives (payments) if they implement a “meaningful use of certified EHR technology.” This phrase is the standard established by the “HITECH” Act (the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act).  The Incentives Program begins in January 2011 and is scheduled to run for 10 years. The proposed timeline, in my opinion, correctly includes a generous “buffer” period (when incentives will no longer be provided) for the Medicare and Medicaid programs to initialize IT overhauls. This period of time should be more than enough for entities that lag behind the trends; once the efficiency of EHR technology is realized and in full-swing, I find it hard to believe that any state or eligible and able organization would forego the receipt of incentive payments to utilize technology they would otherwise need to implement to stay competitive and viable.

As I alluded to earlier, privacy concerns are real. In fact, medical conditions and diseases have historically been treated as among the most confidential of all personal information. I am happy to see that CMS has worked alongside the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, with the purpose of instilling standards and criteria for EHR technology. In addition, CMS is working with the Office for Civil Rights to focus on privacy-related concerns. As the year draws to a close, I will update my blog with developments within the realm of EHR’s and privacy. For now, I will refer you to The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Privacy and Security Page.

It appears that 2011 will be a year of important decision-making at the State level. I will continue to update my blog with developments and my thoughts. I would like to shift to another concept – the PHR – which I mentioned earlier.

I want to touch on three aspects of PHR’s that I believe are important – Control, Security, and Consolidation.

As I noted above when distinguishing EHR’s from PHR’s, a PHR is within (almost) complete control of the individual. This feature alone is what I believe will bring the American public on board to the entire electronic health information idea. I use the word “almost,” because sometimes a health plan provider will automatically create and maintain PHR’s, while others require the individual actually enter the information manually. Whatever the case may be, “Notices of Privacy Practices” generally require disclosure of the measures in place to keep the information safe and secure.  Moreover, companies have correctly realized that PHR’s should be readily accessible by allowing for unique user ID and password protection.

Consolidation is the key. It’s the key to saving money and saving lives, as my title indicates. The information consolidated by a PHR can vary, but may include important data such as emergency contacts, medication dosage and history, previous surgeries, allergies, hereditary conditions, and more. For information on selecting a PHR, visit Medicare online.

We have come a long way. I am happy to live in a proactive country with a government that insists on promoting advances that can save lives. We have the legislation (The HITECH Act), but now we need the participation. States and Medical providers will ultimately decide whether to take advantage of the incentives to put health technology in place.

At the Farr Firm, we have always taken your health and privacy concerns seriously. For many years, we have used the most advanced measures available to ensure that our clients (and their healthcare providers) have private access to their healthcare records.  For instance, for over a decade we have offered to register the Advance Medical Directives (AMDs) of our clients (and more recently, the Child Protection Plans (CPPs) of our clients), with an electronic registry, at no cost to our clients, to make these documents available in an emergency or simply for convenience.  DocuBank is the registry we currently use – an organization that has been trusted for many years with electronic storage of medical records. These records can be retrieved online by hospitals. The benefit of registering PHR’s in the context of an AMD or CPP is enormous. AMD’s are critical in emergency situations. According to their site, “a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, living wills are not accessible in 74% of cases when needed in hospitals.”  Although this study was performed in 1998, I don’t think we have advanced tremendously since then. With the HITECH Act, I do think that America is finally on the cusp of revolutionizing healthcare information technology.

Whether you have a young family, or a family with seniors who are contemplating long-term care options, we can provide the solutions that you may be looking for. Achieving long term peace of mind is an invaluable asset that we are honored to assist you with.  Please do not hesitate to call us at 1-800-399-FARR to schedule a free, initial consultation.