Changes Are In the Works
With counties, states and the federal government imposing a variety of shelter-in-place orders, many seniors are running into roadblocks with finding help and getting answers. Here are three resources that should be immediately useful, and a listing of a few interesting changes:
The Area Agency on Aging
This center can be reached at 800-252-9240. Their job is to plan, advocate, coordinate resources and provide services for seniors (persons 60+) and their caregivers. The automated answer will state Health & Human Services Commission. Stay on the line to speak with an operator. They will problem-solve with you, even if only to connect you with a free service to pick up and deliver items for you. Note that there are also Area Agency on Aging programs that are specific for Dallas, Tarrant and North Texas. You can find those numbers at https://txregionalcouncil.org/agencies-on-aging/dallas-area-agency-on-aging/
The Aging and Disability Center
This center can be reached at 855-937-2372. Again, the automated answer will be for Health and Human Services Commission. The operator can direct you on how to apply for one of the 109 Medicaid program benefits, which can include meals and transportation to a doctor’s office. If you are already on Medicaid, then the operator can direct you on how to take advantage of the available programs.
Some legal matters just won’t wait for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courts are open for emergency matters such as temporary restraining orders, temporary injunctions, temporary guardianships, mental health cases and some criminal matters. Some judges are expanding their availability to hear other types of cases through telephone or video-conference. Divorces are still being filed, houses bought and sold, entities formed, estate planning documents drafted and signed, and demand letters sent and responded. Your lawyer may be your best resource during this crisis.
There Are Other Changes of Note
The Social Security field offices are closing to the public until further notice. Help with benefit claims, checking the status of an application or appeal or requesting a replacement Social Security card will only be available through their help-line at 800-772-1213 and online.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has provided a number of actions under a Section 1135 waiver:
- The 3-day prior hospitalization requirement to get coverage in a skilled nursing facility is waived.
- Some beneficiaries can get renewed skilled nursing facility coverage if they recently exhausted their skilled nursing facility benefits.
- The requirement that Critical Access Hospitals limit the number of beds to 25 and the length of stay to 96 hours is waived.
- An acute care hospital can house acute care inpatients in previously excluded units.
- Replacements for lost, destroyed or unusable Durable Medical Equipment Prosthetics, orthotics and Supplies can now be obtained without all of the red-tape such as face-to-face interview, a new physician’s order and new medical necessity documentation.
- Allows for out-of-state providers to provide care in a state other than the state where they are licensed.
- Changes the timetables for Medicare appeals in Fee for Service, MS and Part D.
Virginia Hammerle is a lawyer and president of Hammerle Finley Law Firm. For ongoing updates regarding legal issues and the COVID-19 pandemic, see her blog at legaltalktexas.hammerle.com and Timeless in Texas.