Mon, 15 September 2008
The long term care system is a maze and Medicaid in particular is quite complicated. A recent call to our office illustrates that even after receiving Medicaid there are pitfalls to avoid that can cause one to lose Medicaid.
Mary (names have been changed) called us because she had been sued for $80,000 by the nursing home caring for her mother, Jane. Jane had entered Nursing Home on private pay and after spending down her assets qualified for Medicaid. Under Medicaid rules Jane’s Social Security check went to Nursing Home and Medicaid paid the rest of the bill. Mary and Nursing Home arranged for the check to go directly to Nursing Home and everything was fine for 8 years or so.
Mary then moved out of state. Apparently, Social Security assumed that Jane moved too and started sending her checks to her bank account. Mary did not take notice of this and neither, at least for several months, did Nursing Home. After 8 years, Jane lost her Medicaid eligibility.
How could this happen? While Mary does not yet have all the facts (she’ll find out more as the lawsuit winds through the court system), here’s what probably occurred. Because Jane’s income was accumulating in her account, once the balance exceeded $2000 she lost Medicaid eligibility. Jane’s Social Security is treated as income in the month received but if still in her possession the next month then it is treated as an asset. And each month her balance remained over $2000 she was Medicaid ineligible – and those lost months can never be recovered. So every month Jane was running up a bill at the nursing home’s private pay rate.
It is not clear why Nursing Home didn’t notice the change or why it took them several months to write to Mary. They did send Mary a new Medicaid application to complete and file but she either didn’t receive it or didn’t act on it. It appears that nobody on either side was following up on it so Medicaid was never reinstated for the last year of Jane’s life. Now Nursing Home is looking to recoup a year’s worth of lost payments and Mary is trying to avoid a judgment that she can’t afford to pay.
The sad thing is that this all could have been avoided. Medicaid rules are quite complex. Jane’s family and the nursing home needed to keep in contact and stay on top of any changes that could affect Medicaid eligibility. It is easy to miss something that can very quickly result in the loss of benefits.
What you would think is the most insignificant change can cause a chain of events that will lead to losing benefits. You can’t just go on autopilot. That’s when things fall through the cracks. That is exactly what happened here. And now both sides are pointing fingers at each other. Had Mary retained an elder law attorney to file the Medicaid application, both resident and nursing home would have benefited and perhaps this unfortunate result could have been avoided. An important lesson to be learned.
Category:Medicaid -- posted at: 6:28pm EDT
Mon, 1 September 2008
In show number 9 of his podcast, Elder Law Today, practicing elder law attorney, Yale Hauptman welcomes as his guest Lauren J. Siegel, a registered nurse and certified life care planner. Lauren explains how she is typically brought into lawsuits brought by parents of disabled minor children and asked to devise a plan of care covering the various needs that the child may have over his/her life.
Yale and Lauren then discuss how this same planning is just as important to elderly parents of adult disabled children. Parents must address care issues for those children after they pass away and how to fund it. Yale points out that any assets intended to fund that care must be properly set aside while the parent is healthy or risk being spent down entirely for the parent’s long term care needs, leaving nothing for the child’s needs. Lauren offers some suggestions for parents to consider.
Yale also introduces a new “In the News” segment. He discusses a recent Pennsylvania court case that highlights the need to be specific in a power of attorney as to what gifting powers are given to an agent. He also discusses a recent Connecticut case in which a child was held responsible financially to pay mom’s nursing bill when he failed to immediately provide all information and documents necessary to complete her application for Medicaid benefits. Yale also updates listeners on a bill introduced in Congress to extend the federal estate exemption amount to $3,500,000 for 2010 and beyond and highlights the continuing trend by employers to provide services to their employees who are caring for elderly parents and loved ones.
This 9th show is packed with important information that anyone who is elderly or caring for, or concerned about, an elderly loved one, won’t want to miss.
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