Like many people, you may make it through the first half of your life without ever even considering the need to qualify for Medicaid. Once you reach your retirement years, however, you may suddenly find that qualifying for Medicaid is critical because of the high cost of long-term care. If you did not plan ahead by including Medicaid planning in your overall estate plan, you may find that the need to qualify for Medicaid could result in putting your heard-earned assets at risk. At some point, the need for long-term care will mean it is time to consult with a Medicaid attorney.
Why Would You Suddenly Need to Qualify for Medicaid?
You may have been fortunate enough to have employer sponsored health insurance or even a private policy for the entirety of your working years. If so, you probably never gave the Medicaid program a second thought. Why would you suddenly need Medicaid? The cost of long-term care is the answer to that question. When you enter your retirement years you stand a 50 percent chance of one day needing long-term care (LTC). If you are married, your spouse stands the same chance of needing LTC at some point down the road. Every year that passes your odds of needing LTC increase – and the cost of that care is high. Nationwide, a year in LTC averages about $80,000. If you are a Missouri resident, you are fortunate to be looking at a LTC bill that is below the national average at just over $60,000 per year; however, that still means you may be required to pay over $5,000 per month in LTC costs at some point in the future. The real problem is that neither your basic health insurance policy nor Medicare will help you cover the high cost of LTC. Most insurance policies specifically exclude LTC expenses unless you paid for a LTC rider, at a significant additional cost. Medicare only covers LTC costs under very narrow circumstances, and then only for a short period of time. Fortunately, Medicaid does cover LTC expenses; however, you must qualify for benefits first.
How Can a Medicaid Attorney Help?
Ideally, you will consult with your estate planning attorney early on in your life and include Medicaid planning in your overall estate plan. By doing so, you will ensure that your assets are protected and that you qualify for Medicaid benefits if you need them in the future. Why would you need to plan ahead to qualify for Medicaid? Because Medicaid is a needs based program, meaning it is intended to be used by low income individuals and families. As such, the program has very low income and asset limits that cannot be surpassed by applicants. The income limit is tied to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) which changes each year. As a senior on a fixed income, the income limit may not be as much of a problem as the asset limit, which is set at just $999. If the total value of your countable resources exceeds $999, you will be forced to “spend-down” those assets before Medicaid will start covering your LTC costs. Understandably, most seniors do not want to see their entire nest egg disappear because of the need for LTC. Although you cannot simply transfer assets to family members because of the five year “look-back” period used by Medicaid, there are some Medicaid planning strategies that may be able to help you, even if you failed to plan ahead. This is why you need to consult with a Medicaid planning attorney as soon as you realize you may need LTC in the near future. A Medicaid planning attorney can evaluate your situation and help you employ any available Medicaid planning strategies that may protect your nest egg while still ensuring that you qualify for Medicaid as soon as possible.
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding Medicaid planning or the need to consult with a Medicaid attorney, contact the experienced Missouri estate and Medicaid planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.