By Bill OBoyle
WILKES-BARRE — The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Lisa
Baker, this week held a joint public hearing with the Senate Aging and
Youth Committee, chaired by Sen. Judy Ward, on strengthening
guardianship laws and preventing elder abuse in Pennsylvania.
Baker, R-Lehman Township, said when an adult of any age is deemed
incapacitated by a court, a guardian may be appointed to become
responsible for making certain decisions on their behalf, including
financial, medical and personal matters.
“Our current court-appointed guardianship process in Pennsylvania
needs to be improved,” Baker said. “We must ensure individuals requiring
assistance are properly represented and have their rights safeguarded
by properly certifying legal guardians, limiting the abuse of the system
and enhancing our laws to protect the vulnerable.”
Ward, R-30, said appointing a guardian for a person represents a
serious step that must be taken with great caution and the utmost
respect for the person’s basic rights.
“This is an issue that can touch all Pennsylvanians,” Ward said.
“It’s important that we take a proactive approach and identify and
address issues with our current system. With the information gleaned
from this hearing, we can ensure that the Pennsylvania’s guardianship
system meets the needs of our citizens in the 21st century.”
To strengthen the guardianship laws in Pennsylvania, Baker, along
with Sen. Art Haywood, D-4, recently introduced Senate Bill 506 to
provide alternatives to appointed guardianships.
The bill would require courts to automatically appoint counsel to
individuals undergoing the guardianship process, consider other less
restrictive alternatives before imposing a guardianship, and institute
training and screening of professional guardians.
This legislation originated from an unfortunate situation that
occurred when Sen. Haywood’s neighbor was taken advantage of by the
unscrupulous practices of a professional guardian.
“While guardianship can be an appropriate tool to support some
individuals who cannot make decisions themselves, it should be limited
and used only as a last resort,” Baker said. “Alternatives to
guardianship may prove equally effective at a substantially lower
emotional and financial cost.”
During the hearing, testimony was given by professionals in the elder
and disability law fields to provide input on the current flaws in
Pennsylvania’s guardianship process.
Panelists discussed how Pennsylvania is one of only eight states in
the U.S. that does not automatically appoint counsel to represent
alleged incapacitated persons, and highlighted the necessity for
training and oversight of guardians to prevent waste, fraud and abuse.
“Unfortunately, cases where guardians have stolen or misused money
belonging to the people they are legally charged with looking after are
not uncommon,” Baker said. “We must have capable people step in and
protect their financial interests.”
Senate Bill 506 has received bipartisan approval and is supported by
the Pennsylvania Bar Association, Disability Rights PA, and other
advocacy groups because it helps prevent fraud, abuse, and exploitation,
and increases representation.
Casey, Cardin bill would expand Medicaid,
Medicare dental, vision, hearing coverage
U.S. Senators Bob Casey, D-Scranton, and Ben Cardin, D-MD, will
introduce legislation to enable more Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries
to access comprehensive dental, vision, and hearing coverage.
Medicare does not cover those services, leaving many beneficiaries
with no other options but to buy stopgap, short-term plans or go without
coverage, often facing exorbitant out-of-pocket costs for basic care.
Medicaid can provide optional dental, vision, and hearing services,
but the extent of the coverage varies by state. The Medicare and
Medicaid Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act would allow Medicare to
cover dental, vision, and hearing services and increase the federal
investment in Medicaid, incentivizing more states to provide these
“Because of a patchwork of limited health care coverage options for
Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, many older adults, people with
disabilities, and low-income families have inconsistent access to basic
dental, vision, and hearing services,” Casey said. “Cost should not be a
barrier to care, and all Americans deserve access to comprehensive
dental, vision, and hearing coverage, no matter what state they live in
or how much money they make. This bill builds on the promise of Medicaid
and Medicare to expand services that people need and help them avoid
Research shows that untreated dental, vision, and hearing problems
can have negative physical and mental health consequences. People with
lower incomes are three times more likely to have four or more untreated
cavities than adults with higher incomes or private insurance.
Vision loss is associated with increased fall risks and mobility
limitations among older adults, while hearing loss is associated with an
increased risk of social isolation and cognitive decline.
The Medicare and Medicaid Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act
would strengthen coverage for dental, vision, and hearing services under
Medicare by repealing the statutory exclusion that restricts coverage
of such services.
It would expand Medicare coverage to ensure beneficiaries are covered
for routine exams and other preventive care, as well as coverage for
items like dentures, eyeglasses, and hearing aids.
Full Article & Source:
Baker hearing looks to strengthen guardianship laws, prevent elder abuse