What’s the Middle Class to Do about Rising Nursing Home Costs?

The Problem

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, someone turning 65 today will have a 70 percent chance of requiring some long-term care service and support during his or her life. A woman’s average nursing home stay is 3.7 years. For men, it is about 2.2 years. Of the 70 percent that will need long-term care, 20 percent of those will require it for more than five years.

Unfortunately, Medicare will only pay for nursing homes in specific circumstances. For example, it will only cover a

skilled nursing facility for the first 20 days. For days 21 through 100, it only pays a portion. After 100 days, Medicare will not pay anything. Most cannot afford long-term care insurance.

With the average nursing home cost in Louisiana exceeding $5400 per month, most Americans don’t have enough savings to handle it.  Costs can run hundreds of thousands of dollars over a few short years.  Most retirement will be depleted very quickly with nothing to pass on to the next generation.  So, what is the middle class to do?

There is another way – Medicaid LTC.

Because Medicaid LTC is a needs-based program, many mistakenly believe that one has to get rid of (“spend down”) everything they own to qualify. Although the general rule is that one is not allowed to keep more than $2,000 in assets, there are many exceptions.  Often an elder law attorney can preserve more than half of a single person’s assets. Moreover, there are even more exemptions available for married couples, allowing the elder law attorney preserve a much higher percentage – in some circumstances all — of a couple’s assets.

However, it is very important that you tread carefully. There are many traps for those without a thorough understanding of the nuances of the rules. One misstep, such as getting a lawyer to draw up a document to put property in a child’s name, having a CPA utilize the “federal gift tax exemption,” or letting a financial advisor tie your assets up in the wrong kind of annuity or insurance product, can cost you tens of thousands of dollars in care costs. The regulations have too many “exceptions to the exceptions” to rely solely on those types of professionals. An elder law attorney experienced in Medicaid long-term

care planning can preserve a surprisingly large portion of the wealth that a person has worked so hard to accumulate and can work with your other advisors if they’re needed.

Chances are you will need long-term care during your lifetime. It is important that you understand what legal options are available. So, choose your guide wisely.

To learn more about how you or a loved one may be able to qualify to have some or all of your or a loved one’s nursing home costs deferred, please contact Ruston elder law attorney Add Goff by clicking the links on this page.