Like many people, you may have gone your entire life without giving the need to qualify for Medicaid a second thought because you were covered by employer or private health insurance and/or because your income exceeded the limits for any of the state or federal need based assistance programs, including Medicaid. You may, however, find yourself in a situation where you do suddenly need to qualify for Medicaid benefits. If so, you will quickly realize that the road to qualifying for Medicaid is fraught with bumps in the road that can lead to a denial of eligibility. If you need to qualify for Medicaid immediately, a Greensboro Medicaid attorney may be able to help.
Why Would I Suddenly Need to Qualify for Medicaid?
The most common reason for the sudden need to qualify for Medicaid benefits is the need to pay for long-term care. This happens most often during your retirement years; however, you could find yourself in need of long-term care at any point in your life as the result of a tragic accident or devastating illness. During your “Golden Years,” however, the odds of needing long-term care increase dramatically. When you enter your retirement years, at age 65, you stand about a 50-50 chance of eventually spending time in a long-term care facility. If you are fortunate enough to still be here at age 85 those odds increase to a 75 percent chance of needing long-term care. The cost of that care is where Medicaid comes into the picture. In North Carolina the average cost of a year in long-term care is about $85,000. With an average length of stay of 2.5 years you could be facing a $200,000 long-term care bill. Because neither Medicare nor most private health insurance policies will cover long-term care expenses, Medicaid is often the only option for assistance.
What Problems Might I Encounter When I Apply for Medicaid?
In order to qualify for Medicaid, you must pass the program’s income and resources test. Although Medicaid is primarily funded by the federal government it is administered by the individual states, meaning there are slightly different eligibility requirements from one state to the next. In most states, the income requirement is not at much of a problem for a senior living on a fixed income; however, the asset requirement can be problematic. In the State of North Carolina, for example, you cannot have “countable resources” valued at over $2,000 for an individual applicant. If your assets do exceed the program limit you will essentially be required to rely on those assets for a period of time before Medicaid will kick in and start helping. Transferring assets to loved ones when you realize the need to qualify for Medicaid will no longer work after the implementation of the five-year “look-back” rule that effectively allows Medicaid to review your finances for the five-year period prior to your application and discount the value of asset transfers made during that time period. This is precisely why it is highly recommended that everyone include Medicaid planning in their comprehensive estate plan early on in life.
How Can a Greensboro Medicaid Attorney Help?
If you did not include Medicaid planning in your estate plan, and now find that you need to qualify for Medicaid immediately, all is not necessarily lost. An experienced Greensboro Medicaid attorney may still be able to use last minute Medicaid planning strategies to reduce the value of your “countable resources” to the point where you qualify for Medicaid immediately, or at least much sooner than you would otherwise. For example, you might be able to convert a non-exempt asset into an exempt asset by paying off your mortgage. Because North Carolina allows a very generous exemption for equity in your home, you might be able to use your savings to pay of your home, thereby converting the non-exempt savings to exempt home equity.
For more information, please download our free estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions about Medicaid eligibility and/or Medicaid planning in the State of North Carolina contact the experienced Medicaid attorneys at The Law Offices of Cheryl David by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule an appointment.