Don’t Prejudge Your Medicaid Situation

Businessman Overwhelmed with PaperworkRemember the old adage, don’t judge a book by its cover? People have a tendency to judge people, situations, events and just things in general before they know all the facts. It happens every day. Your financial health is no different. You think, because I have too much money, I won’t qualify for Medicaid or other assistance programs. Or because I or a loved one is already in a nursing home that it’s too late to get Medicaid.

Think again! It’s not too late! You still have plenty of options!

It’s easy to prejudge. It’s a habit many of us have, and who knows where it started. Prejudging has been a lifelong companion since, occasionally raising its ugly head from time to time. Guess what? Now is the time to break that habit.

Let’s think about a potential Medicaid situation. The likelihood of you or a loved one spending some time in a nursing home is high, at least 50 percent, and the percentage only increases the older you get. Unless you’re Bill Gates rich and can private pay your entire stay, chances are, you or that family member are going to try and qualify for Medicaid. Did you know more than 70 percent of current nursing home residents are receiving Medicaid? Yes, the percentage is that high.

Now here’s where the dilemma starts. You start looking into what it takes to get qualified for Medicaid. Information is a wonderful tool but in cases like this, it borders on information overload. You’re bombarded with information from all sides: A friend or an employee at the nursing home where your mother is told you one thing, or you read a magazine or did some research and found an Internet article. And that’s the problem. The overwhelming majority of information you’ve read or heard is incorrect, and you’ve based or prejudged your initial decision on that information. You start to think, this won’t work for me.

Nice Mrs. Smith at church or the magazine/Internet article (which, by the way, is three years old) didn’t intend to mislead you. Mrs. Smith and the article intended to be helpful, but when it comes to something as complicated as Medicaid, the rules are regularly changing. That’s why it’s imperative you seek professional help from financial and estate planners or elder law attorneys whose job it is to deal with this on a daily basis. If Regulation #1138 was changed two years ago, allowing Mom or Dad to have more or less assets to qualify for Medicaid, these are the people who’d know it. It’s their job to know about changes.

Another rule that people forget is that Medicaid rules vary from state to state. Chances are, what worked for your cousin in North Carolina isn’t going to work for you in Illinois, Iowa, Florida or pick your state of choice. Yes, Medicaid is a federal program, but it’s managed by the individual states, and those rules vary from state to state. You need to get correct information the first time around because delays can be extremely costly. Who do you call? The professionals.

Let’s fall back, regroup and take a fresh look at the situation. Man up and admit that you can’t do this by yourself and need help. Admitting you can’t do this process on your own isn’t a sign of weakness. You are a novice in the very complex world of Medicaid. The first steps will require you to call financial planners, estate planners or, in the very least, an elder law attorney, and schedule a meeting to set down and take a look at your circumstances.

Like a mechanic, the professionals will perform diagnostic tests on your legal and financial vehicles: what condition it’s in, where it needs to go, what needs to be done, what you need to get. In some cases, you might have already laid the groundwork, such as having financial and health care Powers of Attorney, or have established a living trust. Worst case scenario, the experts will start from scratch and need to have these documents created. Regardless, it needs to be done.

Leave the prejudging at the front door when you go into the meeting. Keep in mind that every situation is unique. There is no simple choice or solution to choose from. This isn’t a fast food restaurant and you’re not ordering off the bargain menu! You need to be open-minded and forward with information. You will be asked specific questions about checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, real estate, etc… It’s not that the financial planner or elder law attorney is being nosy; it’s part of their job to gauge the situation. And, if you’re eventually going to file for Medicaid, the state needs to know this information. Remember: you can’t hide this information. (Some people think they can, but legally, they can’t.) That only makes the situation worse.

It was stated at the beginning of the article that isn’t never too late. Okay, you’ve burned through thousands of dollars of Dad’s or Grandma’s money to pay the nursing home bills. That money is gone and can’t be recovered. However, the hemorrhaging cash flow to the nursing home or assisted living facility can be stopped. The remaining assets can be protected, and your loved one could get qualified for Medicaid in a reasonable amount of time. But you have to get out of the mindset that it’s too late.

Quit prejudging and make a call.