You have that uneasy feeling that you ought to be doing something . . . just not sure what. Perhaps Mom or Dad has been exhibiting some troubling health symptoms. As the oldest/only/closest child you know that it will be up to you to come up with a solution.
You’ve also been reading the news.
Once the 2012 elections are over and a new Congress is seated, Medicaid rules may likely tighten. It really will not matter which party comes out on top: It will become ever more difficult to qualify for this program as Congress authorizes and directs the states to revise rules.
Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are in trouble. Across the political spectrum, from secretaries Geithner and Sebelius to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, the alarm is being raised. The only thing the politicos disagree on is what to do. On April 24 the trustees of the Medicare program released their annual report with 3 different sets of numbers (“bleak, bleaker, and bleakest” according to Medscape Medical News).
So desperate is the government getting for money that cuts in Medicare reimbursements to nursing homes, aggravated by Medicaid cuts, will likely cause as much as 35% of nursing homes to reduce staffing – and North Carolina is the third hardest hit state (according to a study by the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care).
The financial crisis has set the stage for the problems, but all social programs directed to older population will feel intense pressure from the Boomers “coming of age” and having the nerve to live longer.
Some states are squeezing now. An excellent Wall Street Journal describes this in some detail.
Although the numbers discussed show the programs becoming insolvent at current levels within 10 to 15 years, do not be lulled into complacency: Action will need to be taken very soon to begin to turn the tide.
While I have real misgivings about the way long term Medicaid is currently designed and believe that there are rational approaches to saving huge amounts, the current program and rules are all I have to use for the benefit of my clients.
So . . . What To Do?
Plan early. When the rules change, they almost always change prospectively, not retroactively. In other words, harsher rules will likely apply to planning strategies implemented after the new rules become effective.
Failure to adequately plan early runs not only the risk of being hit with higher rules hurdles, but leaving a family with fewer options if a parent’s health suddenly declines. There is a medical analogy here: The longer a bothersome problem is left untreated, the more intensive will be the final remedy (if one is even available).
So where does planning start?
First, become familiar with Medicaid. There are all sorts of resources online. I have written a “Plain English” guide to North Carolina Nursing Home Medicaid that is available online (fill out the online request form and I’ll even send you a paper copy – which also contains a valuable planning offer).
Learn about trusts. I have a number of informative articles posted on the Mason Law, PC website. There are also hundreds of articles on the web.
If you’re looking for something more comprehensive with planning guides and forms, tryElderLawUniversity. It is not free, but it is not too expensive either. Fair disclosure:ElderLawUniversityis my brainchild.
In May the Friends of the Asheboro Library and I will be hosting a series of three seminars that might get you started on planning. Click HERE for more details on these three seminars.
Get qualified help. Many of the news outlet articles I mentioned above urge people to get the help of a qualified elder law attorney. I know of at least one! On the other hand, there are other sources to find qualified help.
A good elder law attorney need not be certified, but a certified elder law attorney will be good. Check the North Carolina Board of Legal Specialization for board certified elder law attorneys.
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) is an organization representing almost all elder law attorneys in the US. The NAELA website has a geographically searchable directory. In fact, if an attorney is not a member of NAELA, he or she likely is not serious about practicing in the elder law specialty.
- Don’t dither!
- Get educated!
- Get help!