Georgia seniors who find themselves in need of long-term care are often faced with some difficult choices. Many of these older residents lack the resources needed to cover costs that average more than $180 a day, especially when they require ongoing care for months or even years into the future. And while there are government benefits that can provide assistance to seniors who need help paying for these rising nursing home costs, some seniors struggle to meet the eligibility standards for those benefits. Fortunately, elder law attorneys can help the state’s elderly residents deal with these concerns.
How Bad is the Situation?
For large numbers of Americans, nursing home costs receive little attention. For decades, the country has debated the rising cost of health care in the abstract, and collectively lamented its impact on the most vulnerable members of society. The high costs associated with long-term care were rarely a part of that conversation, however, and costs continued to spiral upward each year. Many people simply assumed that senior access to long-term care was covered by the Medicare program.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. While Medicare will pay for nursing home costs in certain situations, approval can be difficult to obtain, and the coverage only lasts for up to one hundred days in the vast majority of cases. That leaves millions of seniors left to choose between paying for care on their own or relying on subsidy programs for the poor. The first option is often impossible, given that costs can exceed $65,000 a year. The second option is a difficult pill for many seniors to swallow, since it involves being dependent upon the government to a large extent. Moreover, many seniors have just enough in assets and income to make them ineligible for those program benefits.
Government Aid to the Rescue?
There is a major government program that can help those seniors – that is, if they can qualify for benefits. It’s called Medicaid, and it is a program that operated as a partnership between the Federal and State governments. And though most people know it as a program designed to provide support for the poorest members of society, it has grown and evolved in recent decades to the point where it now provides health care coverage to many lower middle income families as well. It also helps millions of seniors to meet the cost of nursing home care. In fact, it provides benefits to so many seniors that it is now the largest source for nursing home payments in the country.
That all seems extremely positive at first glance, and one might think that every senior who needs Medicaid can simply sign up and get those benefits. In reality, though, gaining approval for benefits is not quite that simple. The program has extremely tight asset and income limits that can be difficult for some seniors to satisfy. Your assets must be valued at no greater than $2,000, excluding your home, one vehicle, and other exempt property. You must also have income that is at or below $2,199 per month.
In many cases, seniors find that their income and assets are too high to meet those requirements, but still too low to actually manage to cover the cost of care on their own. In other instances, seniors might have the resources to pay for several months of care, but would then exhaust their small nest eggs and be left without any savings. Some elderly residents are able to rely upon family to help them meet those high nursing home costs, but even that can represent a significant burden for all involved.
As you might expect, there are certain advantages that can be enjoyed by seniors who opt to self-fund their nursing home care. Often times, the ability to pay for those expenses can ensure that the senior ends up in a higher-quality care facility. For most seniors, however, the idea of having all of their savings consumed by high nursing care costs tends to make even that benefit less than appealing.
Why Medicaid Planning Matters
Elder law can help through the strategic use of Medicaid planning to rearrange a senior’s finances in a way that enables those requirements to be met. This type of planning is in some ways like any other type of estate planning. It’s designed to allow you to use all of the available exceptions included in Medicaid law to ensure that your assets and income are arranged in a way that ensures your eligibility for critical benefits. At the same time, an experienced attorney can also help you to protect many of your assets so that you don’t have to impoverish yourself to obtain that eligibility.
It is important to understand that this type of planning is not something that you should attempt without competent legal assistance. Far too many people attempt to transfer assets on their own, and end up incurring penalties that make them ineligible for Medicaid assistance for many months or even years. That’s because the Medicaid program is empowered by law to examine transfers made within the five-year period preceding your application for benefits. Officials can thus look back over that five-year period and penalize you for inappropriate transfers made during that time, operating on the assumption that your effort to reduce your wealth was an attempt to unlawfully shield assets from the program.
An experienced elder law attorney can help to ensure that your Medicaid planning is done in a way that comports with the program’s legal requirements. At the Fouts Law Group, LLC, our elder law experts can ensure that you protect assets and achieve eligibility without exposing yourself to potentially ruinous penalties that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars due to rising nursing home costs. We’ll work with you to protect your estate and your loved ones, even as we secure the financial assistance you need to pay for your long-term care. To find out more, contact us online or give us a call at (678) 242-8344.
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