Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health insurance coverage to low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities. In addition, it covers care in a nursing home for those who qualify.
In the absence of any other public program covering long-term care, Medicaid has become the default nursing home insurance for many. Lacking access to alternatives such as paying privately or being covered by a long-term care insurance policy, most people pay out of their own pockets for long-term care until they become eligible for Medicaid.
Although their names are confusingly alike, Medicaid and Medicare are quite different programs. For one thing, all retirees who receive Social Security benefits also receive Medicare as their health insurance. Medicare is an “entitlement” program. Medicaid, on the other hand, is a form of welfare — or at least that’s how it began. So to be eligible for Medicaid, you must become “impoverished” under the program’s guidelines. Don’t let that word cause you to run for the hills! There are many allowed transfers and strategies an experienced Elder Law attorney can assist with in obtaining qualification.
Also, unlike Medicare, which is totally federal, Medicaid is a joint federal-state program. Each state operates its own Medicaid system, but this system must conform to federal guidelines in order for the state to receive federal money, which pays for about half the state’s Medicaid costs. (The state picks up the rest of the tab.) This complicates matters, since the Medicaid eligibility rules are somewhat different from state to state and they keep changing. This most recently occurred with the passage of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (the DRA), which significantly changed rules governing the treatment of asset transfers and homes of nursing home residents. To be certain of your rights, consult an expert. He or she can guide you through the complicated rules of the different programs and help you plan ahead.
The Medicaid rules are very complicated and difficult to navigate without the guidance of an experienced Elder Law Attorney. There are many allowable assets which will not affect Medicaid qualification as well as methods and strategies to protect other assets in order to qualify.
Call Sabrina Winters, a Charlotte Elder Law Attorney at (704) 843-1446 to discuss your or your parents’ options.. Planning ahead is always the best way!