Elder law attorneys assist clients who are looking ahead toward their golden years. There are legal and financial matters that should certainly be addressed, and many people are not aware of all of the potential costs that they may face toward the end of their lives.
We practice law in Hartford, Connecticut. If you would like to stay up-to-date with regard to local news that is of interest to senior citizens in Hartford, you may want to access the Hartford Golden Ager Newsletter. This newsletter is produced by the town of East Hartford, and it is a great resource to tap into if you are a local senior citizen.
The Top of the List
There are a number of different elder law issues that are on the table at the present time, but without question, long-term care is at the top of the list.
Medicare will provide health insurance for most senior citizens, but there are out-of-pocket expenses that you should prepare for in advance. These would include co-payments, deductibles, and premiums.
For most people, these out-of-pocket costs will be manageable. However, there is a significant gap in Medicare coverage: The program does not pay for long-term care.
If you are not too concerned because you feel as though you will probably be able to handle all of your own day-to-day needs throughout your life, you should understand the facts. There is a website that is maintained by the United States Department of Health and Human Services called LongTermCare.gov. You can find a lot of very useful information on this website. According to the site, 70 percent of people who are reaching the age of 65 will eventually need help with their day-to-day needs.
Nursing homes are very expensive. According to a relatively recent survey that was conducted by MetLife, the average annual cost for a private room in a nursing home across the United States is over $90,000. The average length of stay is over two years, and approximately 10 percent of people in nursing homes remain in the facilities for at least five years.
Medicaid is another government health insurance program, and it will pay for long-term care. Though it is intended to act as a safety net for people with very limited financial resources, Medicaid pays for most of the nursing home care that is received by seniors in the United States.
Since Medicaid is intended for people with financial need, there is a limit on personal assets. This limit is just $2000, but some of your belongings do not count. Your home is not a countable asset, but there is an equity limit of $828,000 during the current calendar year. If the healthy spouse is remaining at home while his or her spouse enters a nursing home, there is no equity limit at all.
Personal belongings and household goods are not countable, and a Medicaid applicant can retain ownership of one vehicle that is used as a primary source of transportation. Heirloom jewelry, engagement rings, and wedding rings are not counted. A whole life insurance policy, which is life insurance with a cash value, valued at up to $1500 is allowed, and you can have unlimited term life insurance.
Under Medicaid rules, most of the income that is brought in by someone who is using the program to pay for long-term care must be contributed toward the cost of the care. However, this is not required if a healthy spouse who is remaining at home relies on the income for support.
The healthy spouse is referred to as the community spouse in Medicaid terminology. The community spouse is entitled to a Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance. This allows the community spouse to continue to use the institutionalized spouse’s income. In 2016, the Medicaid Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance in Connecticut is $2,980.50.
While we are looking at the rights of the healthy spouse, we should also touch upon the Community Spouse Resource Allowance. The healthy spouse can keep half of the countable assets without impacting his or her spouse’s Medicaid eligibility status. This is called the Community Spouse Resource Allowance. In 2016, the maximum allowance in Connecticut is $119,220, and the minimum is $23,844.
People often give assets that exceed these limits to their loved ones before they apply for Medicaid. This can be done, but advance planning is important, because gift giving must be concluded at least five years before the submission of the application for Medicaid coverage. If this rule is violated, eligibility for Medicaid will be delayed.
Free Elder Law Consultation
As you can see, long-term care costs are a very big factor when you are preparing for the eventualities of aging, and Medicaid planning can be quite complex. If you would like to learn more about the process, our firm would be glad to help. We offer free consultations, and you can call us at 860-548-1000 or send us a message through our contact page to set up an appointment.