Articles By
Jack W. Bolling, Esq.

Medicaid: A Misunderstood and Underutilized Long-Term Care Option

First, at the risk of being politically incorrect by not saying Happy Holidays or some other form of safe and nonoffensive wish at this time of year, let me start by wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year! My family and I happen to celebrate this Christian holiday, thus my wish to you all. But my sincere wish is that each of you will experience the joy and magic that brings us together with family and friends, regardless of your faith or belief.

Now on to the subject at hand; asset preservation, long term care and using expert Medicaid planning and advice to accomplish these goals.

Medicaid is often thought of as a form of welfare. While it is a needs based program, let me be clear in stating that it is NOT welfare! Also, Medicaid is often confused with Medicare, and they are distinctly different programs. Medicare is an entitlement insurance program similar to social security. Medicare does not pay the costs of longterm care. Medicaid is a joint federal -state program that provides health insurance coverage to low-income children, seniors and people with disabilities. Medicaid is often utilized to pay for long-term care, such as in a nursing home, when the nursing home resident has no other form of long-term care insurance. While we must qualify for Medicaid based on need, the key point to understand is that qualification is not based on being or becoming destitute. This is a myth that can and does hurt many people who should explore the benefits of Medicaid to help defer expensive long-term care costs while preserving their assets.

Typical of many folks, my Aunt Jo (now deceased bless her soul!) lived in rural North Carolina and got most of her advice about virtually anything from the local Walmart cashier. God bless Walmart cashiers! They perform a difficult and perplexing job (ever work retail?) and are to be admired, especially at this time of year! However, I am pretty sure that this nice gal was not an attorney, although she probably made more money. So, if you happen to run into me at Walmart please don’t ask me a perplexing retail type question because that is not my area of expertise. And, no I do not have an opinion about the effectiveness of various incontinence products. Anyway, my point is that too many folks get their advice on matters of great importance from family members or acquaintances who, while well meaning, offer what they are sure is sage advice based on their own experiences. Be certain that no two experiences are the same and no set of facts or circumstances will overlay exactly to solve a problem.

Unfortunately, people quite often rely and act upon the well meaning advice received and as a result the consequences can be devastating; sometimes without the realization that better solutions or alternatives even existed. Firsthand, expert advice is always the best way to go. Consider these Medicaid facts:

· In Michigan in 2007 the avg. cost of nursing home care was $6,191.00/month!
· 69% of Michigan nursing home residents use Medicaid to pay or defer these costs
· 35-65% of elderly expected to need nursing home care
· 70 % of all Americans have done little or no estate planning, or rely on outdated plans.

Nursing home care is expensive. If your spouse has to go into one, will you have enough money to live on? With a little advance planning the answer to this is, “yes.” The best time to plan for the possibility of nursing home care is while you or your loved ones are still healthy. However, once entry into a nursing home becomes necessary, it is still not too late to put a plan into place. In fact, contrary to the myth that you must spend down all your assets to qualify for Medicaid, with a little planning we can often protect most, if not all, of your assets for you and your loved ones. Medicaid rules are complex and they change frequently so, get good advice. Careful planning, whether in advance or in response to an unexpected need for care, can help protect your estate for you and your loved ones. Peace of mind goes a long way, especially as we, or our folks, get older.