Elder Law

Older couple

What Is Elder Law?

The Issue (providing for long-term care)

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides payment for medical care for persons unable to afford to pay. Medicaid covers physicians’ services, hospital care, supplies and other necessary services once a person has been made eligible for the program. It also pays for the expenses of longterm care in a nursing home.

The Medicaid program in Missouri is administered independently. Eligibility is generally based upon the amount of assets a person has along with the income that the person receives. Eligibility is determined at state Medicaid offices and, in the case of married individuals; the assets and income of both spouses are considered in the determination process.

It is important to distinguish between Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is an insurance program providing
payment for medical needs for persons 65 and over and for certain people with disabilities. All persons 65 and over, regardless of financial resources or income, are eligible for Medicare. Medicare and Medicare supplemental insurance, however, provide very limited coverage with regard to the cost of long-term care in nursing homes. These non-covered services must be paid privately by the individual, unless the individual has coverage under a long-term care insurance policy. Medicaid, on the other hand, pays for medical needs for those of any age that have been determined to be eligible.

In fact, a person with limited income and resources who has Medicare coverage may also qualify for Medicaid benefits.

What You Need to Know

Medicaid is considered to be one of the most complex laws of the United States and, further complicating matters, each state has a different version of Medicaid. Many Elder Law attorneys have carefully studied the Medicaid statutes and regulations and are able to assist clients.

Medicaid is often of importance to middle-income Americans because Medicare does not cover the costs of long-term care for illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease or paralysis caused by a stroke. Most people who need such care for extended periods will eventually deplete their assets and become unable to pay the costs of their care.

At such a time Medicaid is available to pay the difference between their income and the actual costs of care provided in a nursing home, including room and board, as well as physicians’ care, hospital care and all other reasonable necessary medical expenses. Medicaid covers the costs of such care in nursing homes, adult care homes, hospices, and, in appropriate cases, in the individual’s own home.

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If faced with the possibility of such long-term care expenses, there are certain rules that you should be aware of:

  • In determining eligibility for Medicaid payment for long-term care expenses, we will review the individual’s actual need for care, the person’s available resources (including life insurance and retirement plans) and income received from any source. In Missouri, if monthly income exceeds a certain amount, then the individual is ineligible for Medicaid, even though the individual’s long–term care expenses exceed his or her income.
  • In determining eligibility, a person will be disqualified from Medicaid for gifts made within the previous five years.
  • In determining eligibility for one spouse, the assets and income for both spouses are considered, regardless of premarital agreements, community property laws or the nature of the ownership of the asset.
  • Assets of married couples, however, receive special treatment so that the spouse who remains living at home will not be unduly impoverished. Such a community spouse is permitted to keep one-half of all of the available assets (up to a federally-established maximum) and is allowed to keep a minimal amount of income of the couple in order to provide for support expenses at home.
  • In addition, there are certain resources that are considered non-countable for eligibility purposes; these include the family residence, household contents, a vehicle, a prepaid burial fund and other necessary items.
  • It is important to be aware of the state specific eligibility provisions and exemptions so that assets will not be unnecessarily spent down before applying for Medicaid.
  • Finally, it is important to know that there are appeals processes built into the Medicaid system. If you are unhappy with eligibility determinations, care decisions  or placements made under Medicaid, there is a process for an administrative hearing and even court proceedings to enforce your rights.

    Elder Law attorneys have training and experience concerning Medicaid and have been advising clients and their families for many years. Much of the planning done by older persons concerning Medicaid has been done with the help of such experienced attorneys. It is important to see such an advisor as soon as possible to enable the greatest benefit from such planning. Because the law regarding Medicaid is so complex, Elder Law attorneys are a particularly appropriate source of advice. As your Elder Law attorney, I can assist you in planning for the expenses of long-term care as well as planning for the protection of assets for the rest of the family.

    For FREE Consultation Call: 636-532-9933

    ~ Serving clients in Chesterfield, Town & Country, Ballwin, Wildwood, Ellisville, Creve Coeur, Des Peres, St. Charles, Eureka, Kirkwood, Ladue, St. Peters, O'Fallon, Weldon Spring and other communities in the St Louis Metro area. ~