The high cost of long-term care has made planning a critically important issue for most middle class seniors and their families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that about 70 percent people age 65 and over will need some type of long-term care services during their lifetimes. Over 40 percent of people age 65 and over will need care in nursing homes sometime during their lifetime. About 10 percent will stay there five years or longer. The odds of entering a nursing home, and staying for longer periods, increase with age. In fact, statistics show that at any given time, 22 percent of those age 85 and older are in a nursing home. Because women generally outlive men by several years, they face a 50 percent greater likelihood than men of entering a nursing home after age 65.
As the average cost of nursing home care in Massachusetts is now more than $10,000 per month, families who have not planned well in advance of a health crisis may find themselves financially devastated by the extraordinary costs of caring for an elderly spouse in his or her final years.
Long-Term Care Insurance
While some seniors are able to afford private pay care, the cost of long-term care will wipe out savings of all but the wealthiest families in a matter of a few short years or less. Those who have planned ahead by purchasing long-term care insurance have a degree of certainty and peace of mind, knowing that they have a decreased need to rely on other sources in the future. Unfortunately, many can’t afford the high cost of long term care insurance or worse, because of age of medical condition cannot qualify for long term care insurance altogether. If you do have long-term care insurance, you should be aware of what your policy covers. Many policies have high deductibles or provide for only a short period of care in facility. In fact, many who have long-term care insurance still have to resort to Medicaid to pay for their care.
MassHealth (Medicaid) Eligibility
The other option to pay for care is Medicaid, known as MassHealth in Massachusetts. Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides medical assistance to low-income individuals, including those who are 65 or older, disabled or blind. Medicaid is the single largest payer of nursing home bills in America and serves as the option of last resort for people who have no other way to finance their long-term care. Although Medicaid eligibility rules vary from state to state, federal minimum standards and guidelines must be observed.
While Medicaid eligibility with respect to long-term care was not difficult in the past, there has been a steady drift towards more complex and restrictive rules, the latest being the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 which went into effect in 2006. These changes have resulted in complex eligibility requirements for those in need of Medicaid benefits. It’s no longer as easy as reviewing one’s bank statements. There is a complex series of regulations involving look-back periods, transfer penalties and waiting periods to plan around.
There are a number of strategies available that enable clients to protect their assets from the cost of nursing home expenses, most of which involve transferring properties to specialized irrevocable trusts at least five years before applying for Medicaid benefits through MassHealth. There are also strategies available to married couples to protect assets even at the “last minute” where one member of the couple is still alive and able to live at home.
The Law Office of Robert Weinstein has the experience and the expertise to help avoid the financial ruin associated with the high cost of long-term care. Contact Newton estate planning attorney Robert Weinstein today online or call 617-431-8424 to start the process of understanding the issues surrounding Medicaid eligibility and to implement the planning and application process.
_____________________________________________________________________________Newton, Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney Robert Weinstein at the Law Office of Robert Weinstein assists clients with Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Probate, Trust & Estate Administration, MassHealth, Long-Term Care, Elder Law, Conservatorships, and Special Needs Planning in Newton, Massachusetts and throughout Middlesex, Norfolk and Essex Counties, including Newton, Brookline, Cambridge, Needham, Dedham, Westwood, Weston, Waltham, Watertown, Lexington, Arlington, Belmont, Concord, Woburn, Stoneham, Tewksbury, Salem and surrounding communities.