Getting Past “Medicaid is for Poor People – Not Me”

Many seniors who saved money for retirement, and who are living comfortable lifestyles, reject the idea of applying for Medicaid assistance to pay for long-term care. Medicaid carries a stigma, because they believe that it’s for “poor people” or that they would receive inferior care.

Any fear that Medicaid provides inferior care is entirely misplaced. Most people who receive Medicaid benefits keep their Medicare insurance as well. That means they can keep their regular doctors and other providers. In New York, the agencies that are licensed by Medicaid to provide home care are also providing care to private pay patients. Similarly, virtually every nursing home is providing care to both Medicaid and private pay patients, and most of their patients are receiving Medicaid benefits.

When facing the ruinous costs of long terms care, those who decline to apply for Medicaid assistance often put themselves, and their families, in financial jeopardy. We’ve seen situations where the children end up paying for their parents’ care because the parents don’t want to apply for Medicaid. One friend, whose mother has been ill for over ten years, pays for her mother’s aides. I asked my friend whether her mother was on Medicaid. She said her mother would be appalled if she suggested it, because “Medicaid is for poor people – I’m not poor.” But in fact, her mother had completely run out of money several years ago.

The world of long-term health care for seniors is dramatically different from where it was at the time Medicaid was first established. Advances in medicine mean that conditions that used to be fatal within a year or two can now be treated as chronic. Dementia, COPD, diabetes, many cancers, even heart failure can be managed for long periods of time – but at an enormous cost. Most seniors today are totally unprepared for the ruinous costs of long-term care, and unaware that they could end up requiring assistance for years, or even decades.

If you are the “comfortable” senior who starts needing assistance in your home, and the need for additional assistance is on the horizon, it’s time to take a serious look at what that is going to mean for you financially. Do you have an extra $5,000 per month (or more) to pay for aides, adult day care, or special therapies that manage, but do not cure, whatever conditions you may have? And if you need to go to a nursing home, do you have an extra$180,000 per year to pay for it? Very, very few people are in this situation.

Many people think Medicare will pay – but they’re wrong. Medicare only pays for short term rehabilitation, not long-term care. If you do nothing, the issue is usually not if you will need Medicaid, but when.

Medicaid is the only government program that includes assistance for people who have long-term care needs. There should be no stigma at all about accessing a program that you have helped support for years with your tax dollars. Think of it as a return on your investment.

Putting your money in a place where it can be used for your day-to-day expenses and other needs, and having Medicaid pay for your long-term care, makes all the sense in the world. Community Medicaid, which encompasses care in the home or in an assisted living facility, has no five year “look back” in New York. By taking the proper steps with the assistance of an Elder Law attorney, you can access Medicaid very quickly in this situation. Think about Medicaid as the program that would allow you to remain in your home and in your community far longer than if you allowed health care costs to devastate you financially.

If your choice is to go on Medicaid now, with your assets in a place where they can still be used for your benefit, or to go on Medicaid when you will have almost nothing left in the world, the answer seems compelling.

If you are facing the need for long-term care in New York, don’t wait until you are impoverished. The Elder Law attorneys at Lamson & Cutner can help you gain Medicaid eligibility with a plan that’s right for you, and include an effective estate plan at the same time. Contact us now, and find out how you can protect yourself, your assets, and your lifestyle.

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