It is no doubt true that most people don’t spend their lives wondering how they’ll pay for long-term care should the need ever arise. Frankly, it’s doubtful that too many people ever bother to wonder whether they’ll ever need such care in the first place. Human nature being what it is, most of us assume that such things happen only to other people. Unfortunately, assumptions like that seldom end up being correct. More than half of us will likely one day find ourselves in need of nursing home or other long-term care, and that means we’ll eventually confront costs that seem to rise with each passing year. And if you eventually find yourself requiring such care, there’s a good chance you’ll end up asking the same question so many other Floridians end up asking: can I qualify for Medicaid benefits for nursing home care?
Can I just Pay for My Care?
Naturally, you can just pay for your own care if you have the means. However, it is important to recognize that most seniors lack that ability. In Florida, nursing home costs are more than $200 per day near the lower end of the price spectrum. As you might expect, few people have had an opportunity to save the sort of resources needed to cover those costs for any extended period. And even those who can are often reluctant to just watch as their entire estate is consumed by those incredible costs – leaving them nothing to leave behind to their loved ones. Moreover, when they spend all their resources on long-term care, those seniors can end up totally dependent upon the government for their every need – a position that denies them the dignity they so richly deserve.
Why Does It Cost So Much Anyway?
It’s only natural to wonder why nursing homes cost so much, since that expense features prominently in most seniors’ efforts to figure out how to pay for care. The simple reality is that nursing homes cost a lot of money precisely because of the amount and type of care that they provide. The typical nursing home is staffed by professional nurses who provide around-the-clock care for patients whose medical needs cannot be met in any other environment. And nurses command relatively high salaries – and deservedly so.
In addition, these care facilities have access to other medical resources as well. Expensive prescription medicine and treatments, costly medical devices, and services like dental and eye care all add up quickly. Meal service, laundry, and housekeeping add to the expense – as do administrative services and personnel. The bottom line is clear once you start evaluating the level of care that you can receive at one of these homes: when compared to the care you eventually receive at a nursing home the cost can almost be considered a bargain. While that doesn’t make the expense any easier to accept, it should at least help to mitigate any notion that the charges are unwarranted.
What About Medicare?
For seniors, the natural question to ask when it comes to financing care is why Medicare doesn’t cover it. After all, workers end up paying into the Medicare program their entire lives, but then find that it’s not there for them when they need it most. Some seniors can become agitated when they discover this fact, since they assumed that their medical needs would be covered by this important safety net program. The fact is, though, that Medicare doesn’t have much to do with long-term care at all.
To be sure, you can get some of your care paid for by Medicare under certain circumstances, but that coverage only lasts for about three months – no more than 100 days total. After that, you’re either on your own or left to rely on other benefits like those provided by Medicaid. The wise thing to do is to assume that Medicare won’t be of much help to you, and plan to rely on Medicaid for your long-term care needs.
What’s it Take to Qualify for Medicaid?
When it comes to Medicaid, it’s important to understand what it is. It’s a joint state-federal program for low-income individuals. That alone should provide a clue about the most important thing that you must do to qualify for benefits: have low income and only a few assets. In the state of Florida, those limits are as follows:
- You are permitted to have no more than $2,000 in countable assets; and
- Your income must be $2,163 or less (you can keep $35 each month for a personal allowance).
Now, there are some exemptions to those asset limits. For example, your home isn’t counted for eligibility purposes if you either plan to return to it at some point or have a spouse or dependent family member still living there. In addition, you can exclude one car and certain other belongings. However, if your assets and/or income exceed those limits, then you cannot qualify until you take certain actions to reduce your wealth.
That’s where Medicaid planning can be an invaluable aid in your efforts to qualify for benefits. A Medicaid planning attorney can help you to make use of Florida’s available qualification techniques to ensure that you reach the eligibility limits. Of course, there are also ways to protect some portion of your assets by planning for Medicaid eligibility well in advance of your senior years. Your attorney can assist you in crafting strategies to make use of that planning as well.
At Kulas & Crawford, Medicaid & Estate Planning Attorneys, our elder law and estate planning attorneys understand how frustrating it can be to wonder whether you can qualify for Medicaid benefits for nursing home care. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to help people just like you do what needs to be done to achieve eligibility for those important program benefits, while assisting you with asset protection that helps you to still maintain some wealth for your family and heirs. If you’d like to know more about how our experts can help you to meet your Medicaid eligibility goals, visit us online or call us today at (772) 398-0720.