Don’t harm elderly now being cared for by family

 

The Florida House will soon vote on proposed legislation that, if not amended, would severely harm our elderly citizens who are being cared for by a family member. A similar bill is in Senate committees.

Currently Personal Service Contracts (PSCs), allow family member caregivers to be paid by the ill person for their services. Since many family member caregivers must leave their jobs or reduce their work hours to devote the time necessary for caregiving, putting unreasonable limits on how much they can make would be a huge financial sacrifice. The Senate version even calls for minimum wage.

But let’s remember that many of these caregivers have families of their own to support. The proposed legislation, HB 1323 in the House and SB 1748 in the Senate, would also require these caregivers to accurately predict the time they will spend performing their services. That means knowing in advance when and how often the elderly loved one will have to be taken to the hospital and have vital errands run for them. These are impossible to accurately predict when it involves a frail, elderly adult, and our caregivers don’t have a crystal ball. The legislation would, in effect, get rid of the contracts That would mean discouraging at-home care and put more people in nursing homes. This is the opposite of what our new Medicaid Reform seeks to encourage. It is always better to have a senior citizen stay at home as long as they can do so with proper care.

The reason lawmakers are considering the changes is the concern by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) that some people are using PSCs to cheat the system by 1) getting paid too much and 2) utilizing these over payments to make the elderly person in their family appear “poor enough” to qualify for Medicaid. DCF is the agency that determines Medicaid eligibility.

All of us want to get rid of fraud, but it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. That’s why Florida elder law attorneys, who advocate for senior citizens daily, AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association have worked with DCF to keep the PSC oversight in Florida reasonable and flexible. All of the organizations are proposing an amendment to the bill that, instead of creating an inflexible law, emphasizes that DCF will make rules governing PSCs. That way, Medicaid eligibility cases can be determined on an individual basis.

Creating a new law encourages more big government looking over our shoulders. This is something honest senior citizens don’t need. We would urge our lawmakers to vote in favor of the new amendment, recognizing that it will fight those who try to cheat the system, while still allowing family member caregivers, who already make huge sacrifices, to care for their deserving elderly family members without fear of financial ruin. It will also help ensure that deserving seniors and their family members aren’t punished for the sins of others.

Len Mondschein, past chair, Elder Law Section of The Florida Bar, Miami

Read more Speak Up stories from the Miami Herald

  • Public Insight Network

    Gun-free zones can be defenseless targets

    It is about time that society recognizes that gun-free zones mean that, besides law enforcement, the only person with a gun is a criminal who has a multitude of targets unable to fight back. There is great truth to the NRA slogan, “Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.”

  • Public Insight Network

    Educators meant to teach, not shoot

    It’s highly unlikely that an armed teacher would be in the right place at the right time to intervene with an armed assailant. And teachers are hired to educate, not shoot people. Many schools have armed resource officers (Miami-Dade has the school police), and having armed teachers is no guarantee that students could be protected from an Adam Lanza or Dylan Klebold.

  • MIA soars as an economic engine

    Miami International Airport has long been Miami-Dade County’s No. 1 economic engine. As a public enterprise fund, MIA generates nearly $33 billion in positive economic impact for our community, supports one out of every four local jobs and drives commerce and trade at no cost to local taxpayers.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category