Since 1995, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General has published warnings and reports outlining the misuse of the hospice benefit. Last year, it listed hospice fraud as the government’s top area for criminal recoveries, after the pharmaceutical and home health sectors. “It’s an open secret that hospice is one of the poster children for fraud and abuse in Medicare,” said David Grabowski, a health policy professor at Harvard who serves on MedPac, the federal advisory panel on Medicare spending.
Some hospices boost profits by signing people up regardless of whether they are dying. Marketers present the program as free home health care or steal personal information to enroll “phantom patients.” Others target assisted living facilities and nursing home residents whose life expectancy exceeds six months.
This guide can help you research your hospice provider and spot common signs of hospice fraud. It is adapted from the Senior Medicare Patrol National Resource Center, a grantee of the Administration for Community Living at HHS, that assists Medicare beneficiaries, families and their caregivers to prevent, detect and report health care fraud, errors and abuse.
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If you drive for any ride-hailing company (like Uber or Lyft), here's something you must know:
In the words of one very experienced lawyer who represents consumers against insurance companies, ride-hailing service drivers "are risking everything by not purchasing a commercial use endorsement" to add to their own personal auto insurance policies.
That's because, despite recent improvements to PIP coverage, Oregon did not change the exclusion of personal vehicles used for commercial purposes from collision or liability insurance coverage under the driver’s own personal insurance policy. The typical exclusion reads
“There is no coverage for an insured for damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of a vehicle while it is:
Anyone who drives for any of these companies in their own car IS NOT COVERED for liability (or collision) insurance benefits. Insurance coverage through the ride-hailing company's liability insurance coverage can be as low as $50,000 during certain periods of operation. A wreck, for which the Uber or Lyft driver is responsible, can result in no financial compensation for them for the loss of their vehicle plus they may be on the hook for damages to the other people or vehicle(s) and its occupants that exceeds the $50,000 minimum coverage.
The only way around this coverage exclusion is for the driver to purchase a separate commercial use endorsement for their vehicle.
The reality is the insurance companies are not educating their insureds about this exclusion and are not ‘offering’ this endorsement to their customers. For them, silence is golden (as in free $$$$$ for them as they keep enjoying your personal insurance premiums but deny claims for any losses arising while you were driving for pay).
(Side note: If you are an Uber or Lyft driver, this reminder is probably a good time to re-evaluate driving for these companies at all. When you look at the costs of the insurance and the wear and tear on your own vehicle and your own time, these companies are robbing you blind. The only way they make money on any particular ride is by underpaying you, the driver, who basically eats all the costs of the ride. And as a whole, these ride-hailing companies are dead losers, because their business model makes no sense and only serves to add traffic congestion. There's a tiny sliver of the business that might be profitable to serve, but only if there's about 99% fewer drivers competing to serve that business.)
On Veterans Day 2022, the National Park Service will unveil a lifetime pass providing free entrance to national parks for Veterans and their families.
The Interagency Military Lifetime Pass waives entrance fees for the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and standard amenity recreation fees for the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sites for current military service members and their dependents, Veterans and Gold Star Families.
Veterans and their families have free access to approximately 2,000 public locations spread out across more than 400 million acres of public lands, which host activities to fit any lifestyle—from serene to high octane, including hiking, fishing, paddling, biking, hunting, stargazing, camping, and much more.
The Military Pass has been expanded to include a pass that does not expire for Veterans and Gold Star Family members. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 authorized a free lifetime pass to national parks and other federal recreational lands for eligible Veterans and Gold Star Families. In recent years, they were able to receive annual passes.
Are you eligible?For purposes of this program, a Veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserve, and is able to present one of the following forms of valid (unexpired) identification:
The America the Beautiful – the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass (Interagency Pass) ProgramThe Interagency Pass Program includes a free annual pass for active-duty members of the U.S. Military and their dependents. Current Military service members must show a valid (unexpired) Department of Defense ID. Dependents of current service members must show a valid (unexpired) DD Form 1173 AD or DEC.
Other free or discounted passes, including some lifetime passes, are available for persons with permanent disabilities, fourth grade students, volunteers and senior citizens age 62 years or older.
How to get your Interagency PassInteragency Passes can be obtained in person while visiting a participating site. Visit Places to Get Interagency Passes for a searchable list and be sure to contact the site before you go, to make sure they are open and have passes in stock. In addition, Military passes, as well as those for seniors and persons with permanent disabilities, are available online through the USGS Online Store with an additional processing fee. Existing passes remain valid. You do not need to obtain a new pass if you already have a Lifetime Senior or Access Pass.
For more information about eligibility and passes, visit Free Entrance to National Parks for Veterans and Gold Star Families (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov).
The participating agencies also offer several fee-free days for everyone throughout the year to mark days of celebration and commemoration. Examples of fee-free days include the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., National Public Lands Day, Veterans Day and the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act.
Fee-free days and fee policies vary among the agencies, so it’s best to check the agency website or contact the site you plan to visit in advance of your trip.
APPLY FOR A VETERAN ID CARD
APPLY FOR A VETERAN HEALTH IDENTIFICATION CARD (VHIC)
There is an alert sent to elder law attorneys that you might want to review if you are low income and are paying premiums for your Medicare Part D (Prescription) coverage:
Excerpts from the alert (available for download below):
"You May be Overpaying for Part D Prescription Drug Coverage"
"Every year hundreds of thousands of Medicare enrollees with the Low-Income Subsidy (LIS or “Extra" "Help”) overpay for Medicare prescription drug coverage. In 2021, for example, thirteen percent (800,000) of" "LIS enrollees were expected to pay an average of $27/month for Part D premiums in plan year 2022 if they did not switch to a premium free plan.
In many cases, the reason these individuals are paying premiums is inertia.
People who qualify for the full Medicare Part D LIS do not pay premiums if they enroll in plans with “benchmark” prescription drug premiums.
Benchmark plans have premiums at or below a cut-off in each region, which is set yearly by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
LIS recipients who are enrolled in a Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) or Medicare Advantage plan with Part D premiums above the CMS cut-off must pay the difference between the benchmark premium and the premium charged by the plan.
Sometimes, PDPs lose benchmark status.
For LIS recipients who were auto-enrolled in a benchmark plan by CMS, CMS will also automatically move them to a different plan when their current PDP loses benchmark status the following year.
However, LIS recipients who pick a plan at any point in their Medicare eligibility (called “choosers”) are not moved automatically if their plan’s costs are above the benchmark in any subsequent year. If these LIS recipients do not affirmatively choose a new benchmark plan, they will have to pay the difference between the benchmark premium and the premium charged by their current PDP.
"Choosers receive a notice in early November on tan paper (the “tan notice”) informing them of their new premium and offering them a list of plans available with no premium liability. The tan notice goes to any chooser who will pay a premium for the first time or whose premium will go up. Choosers do not receive the tan notice if they already are paying a premium and that premium stays the same or goes down.
"•" ARE YOU PAYING A PREMIUM? If you are not sure, review your options with a State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselor.
You can also get help through 1-800-Medicare or on the Medicare.gov website.
The best time to review coverage options is during the Open Enrollment Period from October 15 through December 7.
Good piece from ProPublica on avoiding final rites ripoffs:
Revealing National Public Radio piece on how many auto dealers operate.
Recently, my truck was stolen, forcing me to get some new wheels. And, for the first time in my life, I've been looking to buy a new car. The process has involved hours of searching. Painful haggling. And encounters with many dealerships that, quite frankly, have been downright duplicitous. The whole thing has been kind of a nightmare.
A fellow consumer lawyer does a great job exploding how Experian is setting traps for consumers to trick you out of your rights.
The whole thing is really worth your time to read:
After a decade of research, the Federal Trade Commission has issued draft rules to combat the plague of auto-dealer misconduct throughout the sales process. You can help make sure the FTC adopts the strongest possible version of the rules by telling the FTC about your car-buying experiences. The car dealers lobby will be pushing back against pro-consumer rules, so we need everyone who has been subjected to abuse from a car dealer to build the strongest possible case about why the strongest possible rules are so vital.
So, please, if you have ever had a bad experience buying a car, turn that bad experience into good by telling the FTC what happened to you.
Your story can help the FTC write the strongest regulations.
Stick up for consumers by sharing your experiences at
And if you are a consumer advocate, urge the FTC to issue stronger car buyer protections on regulations.gov.
Agency Order Requires Grill Maker to Fix Warranty and Come Clean with Customers
Sad news, friends.
If you are a victim of identity theft, if they manage to get money out of your bank, investment, or retirement accounts, you are probably never getting that money back.
You can go to IdentityTheft.gov for a good checklist of things to do if you've been a victim, but they don't suggest anything to help you get the bank or investment broker to take mercy on you and make you whole. (Indeed, from their point of view, if they started paying off on identity theft claims, they would multiply exponentially as people would not take precautions against identity theft.)
If you are not a very comfortable Internet user -- such as if you don't know how to set up and use and maintain unique strong passwords for each different site you subscribe to or each business you patronize on the Internet, you might want to consider NOT doing any business on the Internet and asking for trusted friends to buy things for you and you give them cash or checks for those things.
If you aren't able to clearly recognize spam and phishing attacks promptly, you may need to adopt a strict "no click" policy of never clicking on anything in an email, just like you would never invite people into your home before looking through the door to see who is out there.
(And if you're a super-comfortable Internet user, don't get cocky! People who are experts fall for scams online all the time. Remember, in the old days, you could pretty much only get ripped off by local criminals. Now, every criminal in the world is just one click away from you.)
John Gear Law Office -