I am writing to ask you to do the right thing. The U.S. House of Representatives—including the entire Connecticut delegation—voted last week to reauthorize a version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that includes, among other changes, placing limits on convicted domestic abusers’ ability to buy firearms. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd, and Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, were two of the co-sponsors of the bill. The reauthorization passed 263 to 158 despite heavy lobbying by the National Rifle Association, which has become nothing more than a soulless gun delivery system. The organization lobbied especially hard against an expansion of the act that adds restrictions on gun-ownership by current or former dating partners, which closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the presence of a gun in the home of someone who commits domestic abuse increases fivefold the possibility of a homicide happening in that home. In a study that compared violent death rates in the U.S. with other high-income countries, U.S. women were 16 times more likely to be killed with a gun.
The Pentagon is not doing enough to make its sexual assault prevention strategy effective, according to a Congressional watchdog agency. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the Department of Defense (DOD) has failed to: identify risk factors that “promote sexual violence” in the military community and in military leadership; communicate the strategy to military bases to ensure consistency among Armed Services prevention programs; and undertake methods to measure if the strategy is working and whether changes are needed. The report to Congress notes that sexual assaults reported to the military increased from 2,800 in 2007 to 6,100 in 2014, but adds that they represent “a fraction” of actual incidents. The report cites a 2014 RAND survey, which estimated that 20,300 active-duty service members were sexually assaulted in the prior year. The report concludes that the DOD needs to take actions to better address the problem.
Medicare patients had more than 600,000 hospital stays in 2012 that lasted three nights or more but did not qualify them for follow-up nursing home care, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG). Although the report does not include historical data, it indicates that hospitals in the U.S. increasingly are designating multi-day stays as outpatient or “observation status” visits, rather than inpatient admissions. In all, Medicare beneficiaries had 1.5 million hospital stays in 2012 that were classified as observation visits, with more than a third of them lasting two nights or more. The “observation status” designation – which often deprives Medicare recipients of coverage for follow-up nursing home care – is being challenged in a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Hartford and in legislation proposed by Democrat U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, who represents the 2nd Congressional District. Many Medicare beneficiaries who come to hospitals in emergencies are classified as observation patients, even though the care they receive may be indistinguishable from the care received by patients classified as inpatients. Under current rules, Medicare will not pay for a stay in a skilled nursing facility after hospitalization unless the beneficiary has been classified as an inpatient for at least three consecutive days.
Connecticut Veterans’ Affairs Commissioner Linda Schwartz was nominated this week by President Barack Obama to serve as assistant secretary for policy and planning in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Schwartz’s nomination needs U.S. Senate approval. Schwartz has served as state commissioner since 2003. Gov. Dannel Malloy, in a press release, said, “For more than ten years, Commissioner Schwartz has been a strong and important voice for veterans in Connecticut, and she is an excellent choice to serve veterans on a national level. Her appointment is also a great loss for Connecticut.’’
Malloy, who reappointed Schwartz in 2011, added, “The commissioner’s integrity and her work on behalf of Connecticut’s veterans and women veterans, and on the Governor’s Veterans Cabinet, has a critical impact on improving how the state delivers programs and services to our veterans and military service members.
Roberta Baxter, a 78-year-old retired instructional assistant for the Killingly school system, dislocated her kneecap after a fall in her bathroom last September. Following treatment at a local hospital, she spent seven weeks at a nursing home for rehab so that she could walk again. While she was recovering, she and her husband Bill received the first of several bills from the nursing home. That’s when the couple learned Medicare wouldn’t cover the $16,000 cost because Roberta didn’t spend at least three consecutive days in the hospital as admitted patient, or inpatient, as Medicare requires. Instead, the four days she spent in the hospital was for “observation care.”
“I thought it was surely a mistake,” she said. “Nobody ever said I wasn’t admitted.”
Last Friday (5-3), lawyers representing 14 seniors, including 7 from Connecticut, appeared in U.S. District Court in Hartford to ask a judge to eliminate the observation care designation because it deprives Medicare beneficiaries of the full hospital coverage they’re entitled to under Medicare, including coverage for follow-up nursing home care. The judge did not rule on the case. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which runs the Medicare program, pays for doctor visits, hospitalization, nursing home care, prescription drugs and other benefits for nearly 50 million older or disabled Americans, including about 586,000 in Connecticut.