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Wanna watch a busy brain at work?

That’s just one of her ideas.

Last week, Margaret Donnelly issued a press release listing some of her newer ideas for expanding the role of the Attorney General’s office, as well as mentioning ideas she’s already proposed. Among the old ideas would be banning toxic chemicals in children’s products and requiring stores to pull dangerous products or face fines of $500 a day.

Among the new ideas were setting up a senior citizens fraud hotline and e-mail alert system, as well as pushing for funding to help local law enforcement fight meth and track sexual predators who fail to register.

Those are straightforward suggestions, but two of her other ideas require some explanation.

She would investigate fraud in connection with applications for reverse mortgages. If a house is paid off, usually by a senior citizen, that person can apply for a reverse mortgage in order to obtain needed cash. That can be a good move if, for example, the house is in need of extensive repairs or the senior citizen now requires care in the home.  

But in the last four years, such applications are up 25 percent nationwide, and the potential for abuse exists. Sometimes the sellers of reverse mortgages pressure seniors to buy unnecessary annuities. The seller may promise that the annuity will pay off the mortgage when the homeowner dies, so that the house can be left free and clear to his heirs. But lo and behold, it turns out that the annuity is insufficient to pay off the reverse mortgage.

Donnelly tells me that she hopes to prevent another “subprime mess”. There’s been next to nothing in the news about this issue. Yet. But she says there would naturally be a lag time between large numbers of seniors getting suckered into buying these annuities only to have their heirs find out, down the line, that the houses could not be claimed.

The second new idea Donnelly proposed that needs explanation is that she would study the efficacy of a new trend: Medicaid has begun signing contracts with vendors whose companies promise to call Medicaid recipients and remind them when it’s time to make doctors’ appointments or renew prescriptions. Donnelly says she “could end up being pleasantly surprised” when she looks into this new practice, but she feels a duty to make sure the state is getting its money’s worth out of these contracts. She wants to ascertain whether hiring such vendors pays off in longterm improvements in the health of Medicaid recipients.

They all sound like worthwhile projects to me.