by Reg Turnbull
It has been awhile since our last newsletter was issued in July 2012 when it was predicted that this year could be the hottest on record. It turned out to be the hottest year on record in most parts of the state and in the top three to five in other parts.
Besides the hot weather last year, we completed a presidential election cycle. Some of our clients were predicting the end of the world if the wrong person was elected. Of course I don’t think that has happened and probably wouldn’t have happened if the other person won.
Last year several of our clients were very uncertain and anxious about the future, i.e., whether to hold on to assets or to give them away to save on taxes. Many of us are relieved that the estate/gift tax discussion is off the table of political manipulation with the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Without an expiration or sunset date, the 2012 estate/gift tax provisions were mostly continued with estates excluded from such tax if valued on an inflation-indexed basis in 2013 at under $5,250,000 for single people and estates under $10,500,000 for a married couple. Other features enacted were portability for married people and only a slightly higher rate for large estates exceeding the exclusion amounts (i.e., from 35% to 40%).
In the bill were two provisions that elder law practitioners were watching. The first was the repeal of the CLASS Act provisions found in the Affordable Care Act. The administration had suspended implementation anyway, but it was billed as a way for people to pay for long-care services in their homes rather than nursing homes.
The other provision particularly relevant to elder law was the establishment of a 15-member commission to be appointed by the president, House, and Senate to study the long-term services and supports system and how it is financed. In my opinion, special scrutiny is critical of this part of our health care system for our dependent elders and people with disabilities. To be studied as to their effects on quality care are how such services are financed by Medicare, MO HealthNet (Medicaid in Missouri), insurance, and private pay.
Another legislative session has begun, and we intend to keep our members advised on our listserve about what is going on. Please watch for our messages.
The Family Support Division has issued several updates to the income maintenance manual on administration of applications for Vendor MO HealthNet benefits, rules about how to value assets, and clarification of transfer rules. We hope to be talking to the manual authors in the implementation of these in addition to challenging them as necessary in court. Committee vice chair Jessica Kruse, of Springfield, has written about some of the new manual updates in this issue. Again we will also try to keep you posted on our listserve.
Last year we started spotlighting two of our Elder Law Committee members—an attorney experienced in elder law practice for more than 5-8 years and one who has been practicing in the area for a couple of years. Our committee newsletter editor and vice chair of communications, Christine Gilsinan, of St. Louis, is the featured experienced Elder Law practitioner (although she objected to the attention). Connie Haden, of Columbia, our committee secretary, is the less experienced elder law practitioner. Our members are people and professionals, and I find learning about their personal side in addition to their Elder Law practitioner side to be quite fun and enlightening. One of these days, I’ll be calling one of you readers.
Our committee education vice chair Samantha Shepherd, of Kansas City, has her subcommittee planning our committee’s three events this year—on March 20 will be a webinar; on June 20 in Blue Springs and June 21 in St. Louis will be our second all-day Elder Law Institute, and a fall webinar on a date to be announced later. Please note her article.
Committee vice chair and SLU professor, Barbara Gilchrist, of St. Louis, has written in this newsletter about two issues in the Medicare program which concern Elder Law practitioners: the improvement standard to receive Medicare Part A services in a skilled nursing facility and the hospital observation/admission dichotomy to qualify for Part A rehabilitation services. We are trying to get you information you need to represent your clients when these issues come up.
National Healthcare Decisions Day is coming up in April. Last year for the first time, The Missouri Bar joined in with other sponsoring organizations in this effort to encourage Missourians to complete healthcare directives and durable powers of attorney for healthcare. Recognizing that such efforts go beyond just completing documents, we also encourage people to have conversations about their end-of-life issues with their family members, physicians, and others. Committee member Brigid Fernandez, of St. Louis, represents our committee in these efforts again this year. Thanks, Brigid.
Your committee leadership consisting of our vice-chairs, council members, board and YLS council liaisons, and me jointly and severally seek to provide value to our Elder Law Committee members. If you have an idea for a newsletter article or for something that we could do to add value for you, any of us would love to hear from you.
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