Monday, December 11, 2017

The Question of Medicaid Planning

To expand upon our previous post on Gifting, today we are addressing Medicaid. Often questions regarding gifts are tangential to questions about qualifying for Medicaid. Taking time to educate clients on the benefits, and limits, of Medicaid is the first step to deciding if Medicaid is appropriate for a client's circumstances.

With the rising cost of healthcare, especially as it applies to long-term care for elderly individuals, our clients often inquire about Medicaid and its rules and limitations. While Medicaid is the “best insurance money can’t buy,” qualifying for coverage under Medicaid comes with significant asset and income limits. In addition, the facilities which accept Medicaid as a payment over private pay options are many fewer, and may be of lesser quality. Still, a common concern for clients is that significant medical costs incurred in their later years may wipe out assets they worked for their entire lives, leaving them unable to pass on any inheritance to loved ones. Questions initiated by the client, and sometimes by children worried about an inheritance, often center around protecting assets or about giving money away during lifetime.
It is important to clarify that qualifying for Medicaid is not about keeping the government from taking a person’s money, but reaching specific limits of assets before Medicaid coverage is available. In addition it is important for clients to understand that all health care is not the same and there are significant differences between providers. This is the point in most conversations about Medicaid where we discuss the differences between private-pay facilities and facilities funded primarily by Medicaid. We remind our clients that while a private-pay facility generally has a higher cost, the quality of life in those facilities tends to be markedly better. Whether because the facilities have more staff per patient, better amenities, or even simply nicer rooms, a private-pay facility is going to provide generally better care.
This conversation provides us with a gateway to remind people that the funds they will potentially spend on their care are the funds they worked hard to earn during their life. This leads to more in depth discussions about what is motivating inquiries about Medicaid and what is more important to the client, the quality of their care or passing more wealth on to their loved ones. It also provides us with the opportunity to discuss whether the client has reason to believe that they will need the types of long-term healthcare that Medicaid covers. This is because many people believe that Medicaid is an advanced version of Medicare and covers more costs than it actually covers. Often people begin asking questions about Medicaid long before they actually have need for such care and when they may never have healthcare need that Medicaid would cover.
Medicaid planning is a complex area of law with many potential benefits, but it is not something that everyone should be doing. There are a number of things that can be done to prepare a client for a potential Medicaid need, but it is first and foremost important to make sure that clients have the information they need to determine if Medicaid is appropriate to their circumstance. Even if Medicaid is appropriate, the rules that govern eligibility create many potential pitfalls for the unwary, it is important to avoid taking steps that could actually inhibit qualification for coverage in an effort to speed up coverage. As with so many things we discuss, the advice of an experienced attorney is invaluable.

Matt and Al

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