Wow. I cannot believe it has been almost two months since my last blog post. I wrote last time that I had herniated a disk in my back; however, that has not been the end of my woes. The first week in April I tore the Achilles tendon from my heel. Ultimately, both my back and my Achilles tendon required surgery. Currently, I am recovering from both procedures, and my right leg is in a non-weight bearing cast. Fortunately, the numbness from my herniated disk is mostly gone, and I am regaining strength in my left leg. I am grateful to have good health care coverage, but even so the last months have been extremely stressful. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be prepared for the curves we all have thrown at us. I never expected to undergo what I have recently, but it happened nonetheless.
With this in mind now is the time to prepare for our later years. When most of us think of Medicaid we think of a program for poor people. The reality is that many of us will need it in the future because long-term care costs are so high. The problem with waiting until a need arises is that doing so places one’s assets at risk.
But before we get into a deeper discussion understand that Medicaid is a federal program administered by the states. Each state has enacted legislation governing its implementation of Medicaid, and the rules are changing all the time. The reason for the constant state of flux is that as health care costs rise the states are seeking ways to cut their costs. The result is that strategies for protecting assets that used to work may not today.
Accordingly, the key when thinking about Medicaid is to plan early. As most are aware, there is a five year, or 60 month lookback period. What this means is that Medicaid will look back five years from the date of eligibility to determine if any assets owned by the applicant were transferred without receiving adequate compensation for the asset sold or disposed of. If it is determined that an uncompensated transfer did occur then Medicaid can impose a penalty period during which the applicant will have to fund his or her own care. Consequently, as noted, the key is to plan early so that any transfers necessary can be made early enough so they fall outside the look-back period so that no penalty is incurred. This generally means beginning Medicaid planning as one approaches retirement age.
Next time: What are countable assets and what constitutes an uncompensated transfer? Take care until then, and if we can help please contact us.