I am a member of the Public Policy Committee of the Massachusetts Chapter of The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Below is some information about recent bills that have been filed by our chapter to help seniors and their families. You can click on the name of the person sponsoring the bill to be brought to a page with their contact information, or call your local senator or representative to ask them to support these bills.
As part of its advocacy for quality of life for seniors, the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (MassNAELA) is filing four bills for the 2009-2010 legislative session that affect the state's elder population. The bills focus on improving the ability of elders to remain financially independent and in their home while dealing with the cost of long-term care.
"Our efforts at the State House make a tremendous difference for elders," states Suzanne Sayward, president of MassNAELA. "In this time of financial crisis, it is critical we do all we can to allow elders to remain in their homes with sufficient income and resources to provide for their needs. We are very pleased that so many Representatives and Senators have signed onto our legislation supporting elders' financial security."
The four bills recently filed by MassNAELA are as follows:
"An Act to Help Families Care for Frail Elders," sponsored by Senator Mark Montigny and Representative Kay Khan, would allow elders to compensate family members providing in-home care-giving services without violating MassHealth eligibility rules. The bill would permit family members to leave employment to care for loved ones, thus preventing nursing home placement and saving costs to the MassHealth program.
"An Act to Provide Financial Security for Spouses of Nursing Home Residents," filed by Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Alice Peisch, would help community spouses of nursing home residents retain their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA's) as non-countable assets when the resident applies for MassHealth. Allowing spouses to keep their retirement assets provides them with additional income and resources while they are dealing with the substantial cost of nursing home care.
"An Act Relative to Nursing Facility and Long Term Care Claims," sponsored by Senator Robert O'Leary and Representative Chris Fallon, concerns MassHealth's exemption of the estates of individuals with minimum long-term care insurance coverage from its estate recovery claims. This bill would allow the use of such coverage for community-based care before entering a nursing home without forfeiting the exemption from MassHealth estate recovery. Allowing seniors to use their long term care insurance for community-based care will enable many more elders to remain in their homes rather than forcing them into institutional care.
"An Act to Correct the Income Calculation for Spouses of Nursing Home Residents," filed by Senator Gale Candaras and Representative John Fernandes, would correct the unrealistically high interest rate that is used by MassHealth to deem investment income to the community spouse of a nursing home resident. Most seniors invest in shorter-term investment products such as money market accounts, which have relatively low interest rates. Use of a money market interest rate to deem marital income to the community spouse would provide additional assets for their support.
MassNAELA's most recent legislative success, Chapter 125 of the Acts of 2008, orders financial institutions to not charge fees for providing up to 5 years of retroactive bank records for a MassHealth applicant or recipient who has a written request signed by a MassHealth employee or agent.
Anyone with questions regarding these bills or interest in expressing their support may contact their local state representative or state senator.