Many individuals are unaware that if they require long-term care, such care is only covered by Medicare or other primary health insurance for a short time. For example, Medicare may cover up to 100 days of nursing home care so long as the patient needs skilled care. However, if that patient requires care beyond Medicare’s coverage limit, then without any long-term care insurance, that patient would be responsible for the full cost of his care. With many nursing homes charging more than $350.00 per day, such a cost is unaffordable for many. Thus, Medicaid is the only option available to them.
As Medicaid is a means-tested benefit, an applicant has the burden to prove that she is financially eligible. In Michigan, this requires submitting an application with supporting documentation to local Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”). The rules governing Medicaid are complex, and quite often each county’s DHHS interprets these rules differently. Therefore, it behooves an applicant to retain the services of an elder law attorney to assist her with navigating the Medicaid minefield.
A person is not obliged to retain a lawyer to assist him with applying for Medicaid. Many professionals such as social workers can and do assist their clients accordingly. Many people are tempted to retain the services of a non-lawyer because they believe it will save them money, but only lawyers can give legal advice.
Attorneys will not only assist their clients in preparing their applications, they will also advise them on options to PROTECT and PRESERVE all or a significant portion of their assets. Even though lawyers may charge a higher fee, lawyers will most likely save their client’s money in the long term.
The following example illustrates why it is almost always in an applicant’s best interest to retain the services of an experienced elder law attorney:
Mary had very few assets other than her home, and she needed to apply for Medicaid for home care. She hired a home care agency who told her that they would prepare her application at no charge. What the agency failed to do was advise Mary that, when she died, her home would pass through her probate estate. On her death, Medicaid filed a claim against Mary’s estate in order to recoup the money it had spent on her care. Once Medicaid’s claim was satisfied, there was almost nothing left for Mary’s children. An attorney could have advised Mary on how she could have protected her home so that it would pass to her children in accordance with her wishes.
It is almost never too late to take steps to try to preserve your assets in the event you need long-term care. If you would like to learn more, it is advisable to speak to a knowledgeable elder law attorney.