Attorneys concentrating in elder law know that in order to effectively represent their elderly clients and their families, intimate knowledge of government benefits is not only required, it's crucial. When faced with the possibility of losing an entire lifetime of savings due to the exorbitant costs of long term care, seniors may have no other option but to pursue Medicaid eligibility. However, as most other government programs, the Medicaid system is complex and frustrating. Not only is the application and recertification process demanding, it is constantly changing, as are the applicable elibility rules.
In 2002, in order to be eligible for Medicaid coverage for nursing home care, an applicant can have assets totaling no more than $3800 (up from $3750 in 2001). In addition, a person seeking Medicaid can also have a pre-arranged funeral, as long as it is in the form of an irrevocable funeral contract.
In the case of married persons, both federal and New York State law provides that the "community spouse" may retain a community spouse resource allowance (CSRA) to prevent impoverishment. That amount has been increased to $89,280 (from $87,000). Seniors should keep in mind that the community spouse still has the "right of spousal refusal" and also the opportunity to seek an increase in the CSRA, depending on the facts and circumstances. In addition, the community spouse is entitled to a minimum monthly income allowance. In 2002, the new monthly amount is $2232 (raised from $2175). These new figures are important not only for those families which are contemplating Medicaid eligibility in the near future, but also for existing cases where spouses at home need increases in both income and resources in order to meet monthly expenses.
Elder law is an extraordinary area of legal practice, not just because of the special nature of the issues and clientele. It is challenging because it is every-changing. Constant changes in the law, rules and procedures require that seniors and their families look to qualified elder law attorneys to help make sense of their rights and planning opportunities.