Elder Law

Elder law is a broad and varied practice. Care advocacy is an area of the practice that provides the elder law attorney with the opportunity to “do well by doing good.” Understanding how the health care system works and being aware of systemic weaknesses enables us to become effective advocates for our clients (as well as our loved ones). One poorly understood component of the health care system for elder clients and clients with disabilities is their Medicare beneficiary rights and how to advocate for getting the benefits they deserve when the system fails.

A Health Care System Challenge – Transition of Care when a client transitions from one level of care or care setting to another there is often opportunity for elder law advocacy. Health care providers are under economic pressure to provide services for limited funding and frequently seek to transfer a patient from one care setting to the next to avoid having to expend additional resources without reimbursement. This pressure can result in nursing homes and hospitals making unsafe and inappropriate discharges. For example, when a patient over age 65 with traditional Medicare coverage is hospitalized the hospital receives a flat payment for the patient’s care based on the patient’s diagnosis. Accordingly, the hospital enjoys greater profits by discharging the patient in three (3) days rather than five (5). Further, health care providers who depend on Medicare to contribute to their livelihood are sometimes timid to request additional payment for fear of reprisal (even when the provider feels that a patient could benefit from an extended stay or additional services).

As our society ages, the need for health care services is growing exponentially. More and more, our clients are in need of reliable information and effective advocacy in order to obtain the care and services they deserve. We should help our clients know the rules and recognize the patients’ and families’ role in advocating for quality of care. Clients also need to know who to call for professional assistance when personal advocacy fails. Including care advocacy as an integral part of an elder law practice can be rewarding in many ways. Most importantly, it allows us to provide a real-time benefit to enhance the quality of life and quality of care for our clients. Hopefully, as more attorneys offer beneficiary rights and care advocacy services we will collectively force the system to change, making optimal care the norm. Remember, tomorrow that patient in need of care may be someone we love – or even us.