Close to two-thirds of seniors remain working primarily because they worry about not having enough assets to afford to retire. On average, seniors who are still working only have $133,108 saved for retirement, which is not enough to pay for living expenses and medical expenses during retirement. Financial advisers recommend that workers should have eight times their salary saved by age 60, but many senior workers do not have enough saved. Many people who are retirement age state that they do not have the necessary finances to retire.
Hiring a Skilled Medicaid Attorney
Should you suddenly become ill and lose your ability to work, you will need to qualify for health insurance. Medicaid is a federal and state-run program that helps people with limited income pay for medical costs. Medicaid is particularly beneficial for those retirement age individuals who cannot afford to pay for long-term nursing home care when it is needed. Kentucky Medicaid attorneys work with clients to apply for Medicaid. At CommonWealth Elder Law, we focus our law practice on helping elder clients receive the medical care they need.
Helping Clients Apply for Medicaid
Medicaid lawyers assist clients in applying for Medicaid. Filing for Medicaid can be challenging as the process is often complicated and labor-intensive. When applying for Medicaid, applicants need to fill out paperwork, provide supporting documentation, and submit the application itself. While individuals can file for Medicaid benefits on their own, hiring a Medicaid planning lawyer can help significantly.
Medicaid Income and Asset Limits
In order to qualify for Medicaid, your assets and income must be below the limits. Applicants with too much asset or income will not qualify. Every state has its own financial eligibility requirements. As of right now, the monthly income limit for institutional or nursing care is $2,349 per month. The asset limit for a single person seeking nursing home care is currently $2,000.
Nursing home care now costs anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000 or more per month. Most Americans cannot afford these exorbitant costs. What happens if your income is above the limit but you cannot afford to pay for nursing home care? It is possible to engage in a “spend down” to lower your assets and income to meet the minimum requirements.
Medicaid Attorneys Help Clients Conduct Medicaid Spend Downs
If you are 65 years old or older, disabled, or blind, your Medicaid eligibility depends on your income level. If you earn above the income limit for Medicaid, you will usually not be eligible for Medicaid. However, when your medical costs are extremely high, you might still be eligible for some types of Medicaid damages. For example, if the costs of your average medical expenses are higher than your monthly income, you may still be able to qualify for Medicaid benefits.
A Medicaid Attorney Will Help You Determine Your Countable Assets
A Medicaid attorney will first determine which assets are considered “countable assets.” Only certain assets count as income when it comes to qualifying for Medicaid. Personal belongings and homes usually do not count towards countable assets, though very expensive homes usually count as assets. However, the following assets are generally considered countable assets:
- Money in a checking or savings account
- A second home
- A property that generates income, such as a rental property
- IRA’s and 401(k)s unless you are currently withdrawing money from them
- Mutual funds, stocks, and bonds are usually considered countable assets.
The Medicaid Spend Down Process
Medicaid attorneys can help you engage in a Medicaid spend down in order to qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid spend downs are usually calculated on a one, two, or three-month basis. You may be able to spend money on debt, such as credit card balances, debt, or mortgage. Depending on your situation, an attorney may be able to help you put the following toward your Medicaid spend down:
- Transportation services to get medical care
- Past and current medical bills
- Home improvements necessary for your medical care, including a chair lift
- Any medical expenses such as a hearing aid, an eyeglass, a wheelchair, or cane
The following additional factors may play into whether or not you need to engage in a Medicaid spend-down:
- Is the applicant living in a nursing home or at home?
- Is the applicant receiving Social Security income or Medicaid?
- Is the applicant single or married?
When the Medicaid recipient is not currently living in a nursing home or receiving Social Security income, then they may be able to transfer their assets directly to a family member or into an irrevocable trust. However, when Medicaid recipients are receiving Social Security income, they will not have this option. Social Security imposes a three-year penalty on transfers of wealth that are uncompensated.
Additionally, if a Medicaid recipient is married and your spouse has not received Medicaid, some of the money can be transferred to a spouse. The process of qualifying for Medicaid can be extremely complicated. One of the best ways to qualify is to prove that your medical expenses exceed your income. This means careful tracking of every single medical expense, including doctor’s offices, medication, hospital bills, or buying over the counter medicine at a pharmacy. At the end of the day, one receipt from the doctor’s office could mean the difference between you qualifying and not qualifying for Medicaid.
A Medicaid Attorney Will Help You Prove That You Need Assistance
If you still do not qualify, you may receive a penalty rather than financial assistance. For example, if your income is still over the limit, Medicaid may give you a time penalty calculated in months, rather than dollars. If Medicaid penalizes the individuals for five months, you may need to pay out of pocket for your health care for the five-month period, then Medicaid will chip in and start paying after that.