How Attorneys Help Navigate the Medicaid Process

As a death doula, sometimes I have clients with needs that extend beyond what I can provide. For example, I’m hearing from a lot of people who need long-term health care for themselves or a loved one. They are trying to budget these costs with everything else they require to live a full and independent life. Most don’t even know about Medicaid and those who do feel a bit overwhelmed. Elder care attorneys can help.

Why would someone need Medicaid?

Medicare doesn’t cover everything my clients need. This includes nursing homes, in-home health care or other medical/supportive care and services.

Most of the time these are elderly clients who need help right now. Through taxes, they have paid into a system for fifty or sixty years. They believe they should now be able to utilize benefits, receive quality care and not go broke.

That’s not too much to ask right?

That’s what Medicaid can do. But it’s complicated.

To get started

If you or your loved one lives in Florida, download application forms here. See for yourself what is required to file an application to qualify for Medicaid. (Click here if you live outside Florida.)

Those who are knowledgeable in the ways of healthcare and have experience applying for government programs, have at it. You can certainly tackle this yourself. Especially if you have some time.

Everyone else with an immediate need – call an experienced attorney.

In short, professionals help make sense of what can be burdensome and confusing paperwork. They also explain the complicated reasoning behind some of the questions.

This isn’t an easy process. Applying for Medicaid funding requires attention to detail and an understanding of the information you’re providing.

Benefits of hiring an attorney

Expert advice

Elder care attorneys do this for a living.

They successfully navigate a bureaucracy and use that knowledge to get the best possible outcome for their clients.  An experienced lawyer also knows the rules and regulations in your state.

If there are ways to legally obtain and keep benefits, an elder care attorney will identify those ways for you.  

Avoid penalties

Unless work or experience requires it, most of us have no clue about Medicaid rules and regulations.

For example, name an exemption to the gifting rules.

Ummm…what the hell are gifting rules? Exactly.

An attorney can explain them.

Many people dump their assets in reckless ways thinking that will help them qualify. Here’s something to think about: if you make a transfer of assets that’s a no-no, the penalty might be that you don’t get any Medicaid benefits for a certain period of time. Who wants that?

(You’d need all your fingers, toes and a math degree to figure out some of these penalty time frames. It’s a mess to calculate. I’ve tried.)

Timing

Many experts suggest you get everything in order five years before long term health care is needed. Unfortunately, few people work things out that far in advance.  

Most of us get hit with a need for health care and then determine a way to obtain it. Or not.

We don’t generally do this the other way around because life almost always gets in the way. Therefore, when we need these benefits, time is of the essence.

A solid attorney helps plan a strategy to get this hammered out sooner rather than later.

Spouse protection

Sometimes people find themselves in a situation where they need long term care, but their spouse is healthy and doing fine. Or perhaps one woman has veterans benefits, but her wife never served in the military. 

A lawyer will devise a plan for you to qualify for Medicaid but still retain enough assets so your partner can continue living in the house. They can still buy groceries, pay bills, that sort of thing, without jeopardizing your benefits.

Proper reorganization

Sometimes a person can rearrange their assets in a way that allows them to live independently, keep their money in the family and still qualify for Medicaid.

This is the best case scenario, right?

For example, some families create a personal care agreement. They pay a relative who’s also a caregiver and, at the same time, spend down to qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid can then help pay for respite care for that caregiver who needs a break every now and then or a good night’s sleep.

Attorneys help determine whether this approach, and many others, works for your family.

What’s the process?

Unless you’re five years out with time to research and understand the process, a reputable attorney is a good choice.

They look over your income and assets, ask questions about recent financial transfers that might be a red flag and suggest a plan of action. This can help you qualify for Medicaid much sooner than if you go it alone.

Of course, you can legally request help from anyone when applying for Medicaid. But for urgent needs, an experienced attorney is best.

Check Facebook for local pages that feature recommendations, read reviews and ask around.

Not all elder care attorneys are knowledgeable about Medicaid. Some are experts at probate issues. Others specialize in estate planning and will preparation. You want an attorney familiar with Medicaid regulations in your state.

Costs

Yes, it costs money to hire an attorney. Of course, the hope is that they’ll save you money down the road.

This is money you won’t have to spend on co-pays and other items Medicare won’t cover.

You want a good lawyer who will help you retain as much of what you own as possible. All while qualifying for needed long-term care.

Starting the process now means far less stress ahead for yourself and loved ones. If you need an ethical attorney in Tampa, don’t hesitate to contact your favorite death doula for referrals.  

(*I am not a lawyer, nor do I work for lawyers. I don’t get any commission or even theatre tickets for referrals. I simply meet with attorneys and recommend those who work well with others. Especially if they have excellent reputations. This post is the result of recent questions and needs from loved ones and clients.)

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