Like many people, you may have made it all the way through your working years without ever giving the need to qualify for Medicaid benefits a second thought. Either you were covered by employer sponsored health insurance or earned enough to purchase your own private plan. Medicaid, at any rate, was never an option nor a concern. Now, however, you are firmly into your “Golden Years” and the likelihood that you will need long-term care has become a real possibility. Considering how expensive long-term care is, Medicaid may be your only hope for help with covering the costs. Qualifying for Medicaid, however, may be difficult, leading you to ask “Can a Medicaid attorney help me qualify for benefits?”
The Need for Long-Term Care
Though you may prefer not to think about it, there is a very good possibility that you, or your spouse, will eventually need long-term care. Americans, in general, are living much longer than they were just a couple of generations ago. In fact, the average life expectancy of an American has almost doubled in the last 100 years. While this is certainly welcome news, living longer does not mean living without suffering the effects of the natural aging process. As a result, the longer you live the higher the odds that you will one day need long-term care. When you retire at age 65 you will stand a 50-50 chance of needing long-term care at some point prior to the end of your life. If you are still alive at age 85, those odds increase to 75-25. Moreover, if you do need long-term care you can look forward to a lengthy stay, considering the average length of stay is 2.5 years. What does all of this have to do with preserving your assets? The answer can be found in the cost of the long-term care you may very well need down the road.
The Cost of Long-Term Care
Because most people prefer not to dwell on the possibility that they will need long-term care down the road, they also have very little idea what that care will cost if it is needed. If you are one of those people, you need to know. Nationwide, the average yearly cost for a semi-private room in a long-term care facility is just over $80,000 as of 2015. For a private room, expect to pay about $91,000, on average. In the State of New Hampshire, however, you can expect to pay considerably more than the national average with a semi-private room costing around $115,000 and a private room just over $122,000 per year. With an average length of stay of 2.5 years, you are looking at over a quarter of a million dollars ($250,000) for an average stay in a long-term care facility. It becomes easy to see how quickly your hard earned nest egg could be depleted if you are forced to cover those costs out of pocket.
What about Private Health Insurance and Medicare?
Most of your healthcare expenses are likely covered by some combination of private health insurance and Medicare. Unfortunately, most private health insurance policies will not cover long-term care expenses unless you purchased a separate long-term care rider at an additional cost and Medicare only covers long-term care expenses under very limited circumstances — and even then only for a short period of time. Unless you can easily afford to cover your long-term care costs out of pocket, Medicaid will likely be the only place to turn for help.
The Trouble Qualifying for Medicaid
Medicaid is intended to provide healthcare coverage for lower income individuals and families. For this reason, the Medicaid program has both an income and an asset limit. As a retiree, your monthly income may not be an issue; however, your assets likely will. In Texas, you cannot have countable assets valued at more than $2,000 to qualify for Medicaid. If your assets exceed the limit you will essentially have to deplete them before being eligible for Medicaid benefits. Worse still, the Medicaid rules effectively prohibit you from transferring assets out of your estate in an effort to reduce the value of your estate anytime in the five year period leading up to your application for benefits.
How Can a Medicaid Attorney Help?
A Medicaid attorney can help by incorporating Medicaid planning strategies into your existing estate plan that will help ensure that you qualify for Medicaid when the time comes without losing your hard earned assets in the process. The earlier you incorporate Medicaid planning into your estate plan the more effective it will be which is why you should ideally consult your New Hampshire estate planning attorney about Medicaid planning before you reach retirement age.
For additional information, please download your free copy of our “Set the Stage for Medicaid Eligibility” pamphlet. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding Medicaid planning, contact the experienced New Hampshire Medicaid attorneys at Debruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.