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Pennsylvania Bar Association Pushes Legislation to Protect Older Pennsylvanians

HARRISBURG (April 29, 2009) - The Pennsylvania Bar Association and its Elder Law Section is seeking passage of two important pieces of legislation aimed at improving the lives of older Pennsylvanians.

If passed, House Bill 245 would amend the Family Caregiver Support Act to expand eligibility for the Family Caregiver Program. The legislation also would increase the maximum amount available to qualified caregivers from $200 per month to $500 per month and the amount of one-time grants for home modifications or assistive devices from $2,000 to $6,000.

"Family caregivers are the cornerstone of Pennsylvania's long-term care system," PBA President C. Dale McClain of Worcester said. "The care they provide, often at great personal cost, allows impaired older family members to remain at home."

PBA Elder Law Section Chair Linda M. Anderson of Media explained that although the proposed increase would be the first since the program's beginning in 1990, the expanded eligibility and increased reimbursement levels would not increase spending for the program because it can continue to operate using its existing state appropriation.

Anderson said the Family Caregiver Program saves tax dollars by limiting the need for formal agency-provided services and delaying expensive institutional care. "Increasing support to people struggling to care for loved ones with Alzheimer's Disease and other impairments is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do."

The second piece of legislation endorsed by the PBA and its Elder Law Section is Senate Bill 237, which if passed would protect Pennsylvania consumers, particularly the elderly, from being solicited and sold annuity products that have hidden fees, substantial penalties and high sales commissions.

"Currently, Pennsylvania law has no legal standard regarding suitability of annuity transactions, unlike most other states. This void makes Pennsylvania consumers vulnerable to unscrupulous salespersons and hurts legitimate insurers," explained McClain.

The legislation would amend the Insurance Company Law providing for suitability of annuity transactions. It establishes a duty on insurers and insurance producers to seek information from the consumer about financial status, tax status and investment objectives. The insurer then would make recommendations based on reasonable grounds for believing the recommendation is suitable based on the answers provided by the consumer.

"We've heard stories from the Attorney General's Office of an 85-year-old Delaware County man being sold a 10-year deferred annuity with the first payment due him when he turns 95," said Anderson. "Unfortunately, these unsuitable sales are not uncommon."