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Is It Too Late For Me To Apply For Medicaid Benefits?

Money

Many erroneously feel it is too late to do any planning and that their only option is to spend down all their money before they apply for Medicaid benefits.

By Linda T. Cammuso, Esquire

In a previous column, we noted that there are tricks and pitfalls to filling out an application to receive Medicaid benefits, and we discussed how an attorney could help accelerate the process while preserving assets.

But, many people who seemingly waited too long — i.e., they, or a loved one, are already receiving nursing home care or rehab services —  have come to believe that it is too late to apply for Medicaid, so they do nothing. If you have already spent all your money and depleted your assets for care in a nursing home, it is too late. However, if you still have assets, it is not too late to contact an attorney who specializes in estate planning and elder law for guidance.

While it is always better to plan ahead to protect your assets, it is almost never too late to protect at least some of your remaining assets and to save your family from a great deal of distress should you find yourself in a crisis situation.

Mistakes are made as seniors reach this stage. Many erroneously feel it is too late to do any planning and that their only option is to spend down all their money before they apply for Medicaid benefits. Even those who feel it is their responsibility to pay for their care may have a spouse or disabled child or other relative who is relying on those assets.  In most cases assets can still be saved even though a move to a facility is imminent (or you are in one), and often times there are special exceptions or circumstances that may apply to exempt certain assets from Medicaid countability.

In the nursing home context, families may rely on well-intentioned social workers, case managers or others to guide them in the Medicaid application process. Discount Medicaid application services have become common, and their low fees are tempting.  However, the Medicaid rules, which are based on Federal statutes, state regulations, administrative decisions and court rulings, are complicated and often confusing.

Without proper guidance, families may miss key spend down opportunities and planning options to protect their assets. A denial of the application can jeopardize a person’s care options, and may result in lengthy and costly appeals. An elder law attorney who understands the Medicaid system and rules and is well-versed in the application process is an invaluable resource.

Contacting an elder law attorney if you or a family member are in a crisis situation for help is a judicious move. The support you should expect to receive includes:

✔️ A personalized analysis of the financial and healthcare considerations that are relevant to your situation

✔️ A review of qualifying spend down options

✔️ Preparation of the application form and attachments

✔️ Communications with Medicaid caseworkers on your behalf, throughout the application process

✔️ Coordination with the assisted living facility or nursing home

✔️ Managing appeals for denial of benefits

You should also expect your attorney to assist with the annual eligibility verification process and to counsel you on the steps necessary to maintain eligibility.

Linda T. Cammuso is a founding partner of Estate Preservation Law Offices located in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is a skilled estate planning and elder law attorney and has authored many articles on elder care and long term estate planning issues. She has appeared on Money Matters Radio and has been a speaker for various community and professional organizations. 

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