The senior years are filled with many surprises, but few offer more of a challenge than the evolving legal needs we all face as we get older. Along with the physical and mental changes that typically accompany the aging process, seniors often face a whole host of legal issues that are specific to their age group. These can include everything from incapacity and end-of-life concerns to abuse and neglect. One issue often rises above all others, however: finding a way to pay for the high costs associated with long-term care. Fortunately, an Indianapolis Medicaid attorney can help seniors deal with this elder law challenge.
Why Medicaid Matters
Nursing home costs have been on the rise for many years now, and the average cost for that care in Indiana is estimated to be roughly $215 per day – though rooms can cost as little as $100 a day or in excess of $300. That average cost means that seniors in the state often find themselves facing nursing home costs of more than $60,000 a year. The problem is that few seniors have that type of money lying around, and many are faced with the prospect of either liquidating assets to cover care expenses or finding another funding option.
Medicaid is typically their best bet for obtaining the funding they need to pay for care. The Medicaid program was designed to provide health care access to the poorest Americans, but is now also the largest single payment source for America’s nursing homes. Millions of American seniors rely on program benefits to cover the cost of their long-term nursing care. That’s why every senior who might one day need nursing home care needs to think about Medicaid eligibility – and the sooner, the better.
Eligibility is About More than an Application
It’s easy to look at the Medicaid eligibility requirements and think that all you have to do is fill out the application form and let the chips fall where they may. Here’s the thing, though: every Medicaid applicant has to meet certain strict asset and income standards. Moreover, if you don’t meet those limits, the cost of your nursing home care will be your responsibility – and those costs will continue to be your problem right up until the point where you are able to meet those requirements.
Obviously, the application is something that can only benefit you once you already manage to satisfy those income and asset requirements. So, if you are already basically impoverished, then there’s a good chance that you could qualify right away. By the same token, if you have substantial assets and more than enough wealth to meet your nursing home obligations, then you’ll likely never be eligible for those benefits. Of course, chances are that you won’t ever bother to apply for them either.
For everyone in the middle, however, eligibility is a goal to be attained with some effort. In many instances, elder law attorneys are confronted with clients whose estates are large enough to prevent them from receiving the benefits they need to pay for care, but not large enough to cover nursing home costs without effectively impoverishing themselves. For those applicants, there is a need to spend down part of the estate to ensure that the asset limits are satisfied.
You Can Protect Some Assets
On the surface, the idea of “spending down” assets might sound like an exercise in waste – as if you’re expected to simply run out and spend almost all of your wealth to meet the Medicaid limits. Fortunately, there is more to it than that. The fact is that the laws governing Medicaid provide opportunities for seniors to exempt certain assets and even make transfers of certain assets to avoid having them counted for eligibility purposes. Moreover, there are a whole set of complex rules for married couples that are designed to ensure that the nursing home resident’s community spouse is not impoverished or denied his or her portion of the couple’s estate.
In addition, there are transfers that can be made in advance of your application, to reduce the size of your estate and ensure that you meet those eligibility standards. These have to be carefully executed, however, since Medicaid has the authority to look back five years from the date of your application to evaluate all asset transactions and ensure that they are not attempts to hide assets.
What Do Medicaid Attorneys Do?
An experienced Medicaid attorney can help you with your nursing home eligibility in many ways. He or she can offer comprehensive advice to assist you with Medicaid planning – helping you to develop strategies that can protect certain assets while still ensuring that you are able to meet those strict program eligibility requirements. Those attorneys can also provide invaluable guidance and assistance throughout the application process – ensuring that any asset transfers are within Medicaid’s guidelines and scrutinizing your application to identify any possible problem areas that could result in increased government scrutiny.
Your Medicaid attorney can ultimately help you to preserve at least a portion of your estate so that you’re not left completely dependent upon the government during your nursing home stay. And while it is always best to begin Medicaid planning years in advance of your eventual need for benefits, an attorney may still be able to assist you even if you’re already in a long-term care facility.
The Indianapolis Medicaid attorneys at Frank & Kraft, Attorneys at Law, have the experience you need to have in your corner when you’re dealing with complex elder law concerns like Medicaid eligibility for nursing home care. We can work with you through every stage of the planning and application process to ensure that you protect as many assets as possible while securing a legacy that provides for the needs of your precious loved ones. To discover more about how we can help you with your Medicaid and other elder law needs, call us today at (317) 684-1100, or visit us at our website.
Mr. Kraft assists clients primarily in the areas of estate planning and administration, Medicaid planning, federal and state taxation, real estate and corporate law, bringing the added perspective of an accounting background to his work.