Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Is your Planning Stuck in Limbo? (part 2)

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Tue, Aug 01, 2017

How does the debate over health care reform affect you and your estate plan?

35274856603_c2af85ca10_b.jpg In our last post we discussed the importance of keeping up with the constant changes happening in health care reform. We will continue to examine how the on-going deliberations in Washington may affect you, your future health care and your estate.  We at Dennis Sullivan & Associates are keeping up to date on all the changes, and making sure you stay informed on all the important details.  For more information on the current law of the land, you can download our Report: Senior & Boomers Guide to Health Care Reform.   

The Senate has dealt a devastating setback to Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, defeating a GOP "skinny repeal" bill early Friday morning. With the "skinny repeal" bill off the table, lawmakers are unsure of where the health care debate is headed. 

Senate Majority Leader McConnell and his staff are trying to find a balance between conservative Republicans, who want a full repeal of ObamaCare and a replacement that has lower health care costs, and more moderate Republicans who want to preserve its more popular benefits.

The deal-making process is in full swing, with the additions of opioid funding and allowing health savings accounts to be used to pay for insurance premiums. Some Senators are for potentially leaving in some taxes to pay for more generous benefits, after weeks of being criticized by Democrats for offering “tax cuts for the rich and Medicaid cuts for the poor.” Conservatives want to cut more from the regulations and many from Medicaid expansion states are uneasy about future cuts to Medicaid.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has offered an amendment called the “Consumer Freedom Option” that would allow insurance companies to sell any health coverage plan they wish as long as they provide one plan that satisfies the “essential benefits” mandates of Obamacare. While the Cruz amendment appeals to conservatives who want to provide consumers with lower cost options, moderates are concerned it could negatively impact those with pre-existing conditions. Supporters have suggested that federal subsidies could help ensure that premiums don’t increase for those who are seriously ill. The CBO is currently scoring this amendment.  

President Trump, along with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, has even offered to repeal ObamaCare for now and replace it later.

Of course, no one is going to get everything they want so there must be compromises. Majority Leader McConnell has said that if the Senate is not able to pass a bill soon, Congress will have to pass a bipartisan measure to shore up the imploding health insurance markets.

And so, the Civics lesson continues. The process is at work.  As we see here the process can be long, unstable and worrisome.  Luckily for you your estate planning doesn’t have be. We at Dennis Sullivan and Associates make your estate planning and asset protection worry and stress free.  Once you have a plan in place you will feel confident knowing it will protect you, your family and your life savings.  You can enjoy life to the fullest knowing you and your family are protected no matter what unknowns lay ahead. 

 

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we help people and their families protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones.  We provide clients with a unique educational and counseling so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops, call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: long term care, Medicare, Medicaid, life-care plan, Retirement, Estate Planning, Elder Law, Announcements, elder care journey, Health Care, seniors, elder care, health Care act, Financial Planning, enrollment, Affordable Health Care Act, coverage, coverages, medical expenses, unreimbured medical expenses, Medicaid penalties, Health Care Ruling, federal, Affordable Health Care, Obamacare, senior, medicaid qualification, health, care, disenrollment, proposed changes, care costs, applying for medicare

Is your Planning Stuck in Limbo?

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Thu, Jul 27, 2017

How does the debate over Health Care Reform affect you and your estate plan?

Everyone is talking about health care reform: whether it’s the House bill, Repeal & Replace, Skinny Repeal, it can make your head spin.  One question on everyone’s mind is how changes to health care will affect them.  We at Dennis Sullivan & Associates are keeping up to date on all the changes, and will cover the process through a series of blogs to explain where health care reform is now, how it affects you and what the future may hold.  For more information on the current law of the land, you can download our Report: Senior & Boomers Guide to Health Care Reform

 


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Eventually, both the House and Senate must vote on the same bill.

The battle continues in Washington over the repeal or replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and as we are witnessing; this can be a messy process. 

Why Republicans are trying so hard to repeal and replace ObamaCare and how they are going about it:

ObamaCare, you may remember, was passed by the Democrats in 2010 with no Republican support. Ever since, Republicans have campaigned on repealing the program, which was unpopular with many Americans. “Repeal and Replace” was their rallying cry to voters to help them win back control of the House in 2012, then the Senate in 2014, and finally the Presidency in 2016. If the Republicans are not able to fulfill this major promise, some may be in danger of losing their seats in the next election, as they would likely be blamed for the problems with ObamaCare if they don’t fix them. These are the political reasons.

Democrats admit that ObamaCare has problems and needs a major fix to survive. But they are not on board with repeal and replace of such a signature piece of legislation, while Republicans try to find a way to pass new legislation.

The Legislative process:

The normal legislative process is that a bill begins in the House, where it is written, discussed and approved by a committee before the House votes on it. If it passes the House, it is then sent to the Senate. The Senate can vote on the same bill, make amendments to the House bill, or create its own bill. Eventually, both the House and Senate must vote on the same bill, so if there are differences, members of both the House and Senate meet in committee to resolve them. Once a bill passes both the House and Senate, it is then sent to the President who can sign it into law or veto it.

Right now, there is a House bill on health care that has passed the House, and a Senate bill that has not passed the Senate. Discussions and amendments are still occurring with the Senate bill in hopes it will pass soon. The public posture is that this messy legislative process is making the bill better.

Further complicating this process is that while the Republicans have a majority in both the House and the Senate, they only have 52 Republican Senators. 60 votes are required to overcome the filibusters and pass new legislation, so they are attempting to pass health care legislation through the Budget Reconciliation process. It only requires 51 votes, but it limits the legislation to budget-related items only. They would not be able to include provisions some Republicans want in a full repeal and replace bill—for example, letting insurance companies sell across state lines to increase competition, lower prices and create better plans; and allowing the government to negotiate lower drug prices. Issues like these would have to be voted on later.

For the Senate bill to pass in Reconciliation, 50 Republicans must vote for the bill, since no Democrat or Independent is expected to vote for the bill. Vice-President Pence would break the tie if needed.

So far:

The Senate rejected a proposal from Republican lawmakers to repeal Obamacare on Wednesday July 26, 2017, marking a significant milestone in the Republican Party's years-long political crusade to gut former President Barack Obama's legacy health care law.

 

What does the future hold?

We aren’t sure what the future American Health Care Act is going to look like, not sure anyone does, but luckily protecting yourself and your loved ones from expensive long term care doesn’t have to be so uncertain.  With asset based long term care products, there are ways to insure your control over your future long term care and insure you have something left over for your spouse, children and loved ones. Don’t let your long term care plan sit in limbo. Stay tuned we will discuss more about what the future looks like in our next blog post.

 Click here for more information on  Estate Planning and Asset Protection

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we help people and their families protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones.  We provide clients with a unique educational and counseling so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

If you would like more information on Medicaid, the Affordable Care, or the impact of new health care laws on your planning, request your free preview of our guide, the Senior & Boomers’ Guide to Health Care Reform & Avoiding Nursing Home Poverty. 

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops, call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: Medicare, Medicaid, Retirement, Estate Planning, Elder Law, Announcements, Health Care, elder care, Financial Planning, surviving spouse, Affordable Health Care Act, coverage, coverages, unreimbured medical expenses, Medicaid penalties, Health Care Ruling, Obama, Obamacare, Estate Planning Tip, senior, Estate Planning Recommendations, Dennis Sullivan, care costs, applying for medicare

Driving Mobility Affects Seniors' Social Lives, Overall Health

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Thu, May 04, 2017

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According to a recent study, elderly drivers who stop driving and have no transportation alternatives become less socially active and risk isolation. This can lead to declines in physical, mental, emotional health.

The survey found that an increase in driving mobility in seniors lead to an increase in the overall health of a senior, whereas a decrease in driving mobility lead to a significant decrease in overall health.

With a longer life expectancy, older adults can remain socially engaged in later years; leading to better health, lower mortality risk over time, and lower rates of depression, dementia and other cognitive impairments. Social participation is also linked to greater life satisfaction, self-esteem and positive effect. For these reasons, maintaining participation in social, economic, cultural, spiritual and civic affairs is part of healthy, active and successful aging.

Fewer Older Drivers

Driving is a way of life in the U.S. and is often crucial for social participation and having access to services. Physical, mental, and emotional decline in later years eventually lead to a decision to reduce and cease driving. In the U.S., more than 600,000 seniors over the age of 65 stop driving every year and must rely on other transportation.

Limited Driving Leads to Cessation

Most seniors start ceasing to drive by limiting their driving behaviors. They drive less frequently, shorter distances and to fewer destinations, adapt speed, and restrict trips to familiar roads and particular hours.

Some need a little help in making the decision to stop driving, and family members can watch for signs. A driver who becomes disoriented or has trouble following directions may also need to be discouraged from driving. At some point, it becomes a safety issue—both for the senior and for the public at large.

Receiving Rides Can Help Prolong Social Participation

Receiving rides, a component of driving mobility, is a crucial alternative transportation option for older adults as their own ability to drive declines. Family members, friends and caregivers are often best able to provide flexible, supportive, door-to-door service, with escort assistance that best meets the older individual’s changing needs.

Seniors are often hesitant to ask for rides because they fear being a burden to others. When they do ask for help, they tend to request rides for basic needs, like doctor visits and grocery shopping, not for social activities.

Public Transportation

Those who live in metropolitan areas may have public transportation options, including buses, taxis, and Uber or Lyft.

Public and community transportation are often unsuitable for older individuals due to limited schedules during non-peak times, limited service to nonwork destinations, poor accessibility, low availability, inadequately trained drivers and limited personal assistance. Additionally, many seniors and their families are simply not aware these options exist.

Senior Living Centers

Social interaction can also be provided in community living centers, whether for active seniors or for those requiring some assistance with daily living activities. Most provide field trips and outings, in addition to on-site activities and community dining. These can be a good, albeit often costly, choice to encourage social participation if transportation options are limited.

Conclusion

At Dennis Sullivan & Associates, we work with seniors and their families to ensure that independence and safety are preserved as long as possible. To learn more about how you can protect your home, spouse and life savings as well as saving on taxes and preserving your independence, register for a free workshop today.

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we provide a unique education and counseling process which includes our unique 19 Point Trust, Estate and Asset Protection Review to help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones, click here for more information. We provide clients with a unique approach so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops, call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: seniors, safe driving, senior drivers, senior driving, driving mobility

The Costs of Dementia: For the Patient and the Family - Part III What Can be Done

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Mon, Apr 17, 2017

In the last installment of our three-part blog on the Costs of Dementia, we discuss the steps you can take to help alleviate the burden of caring for someone with dementia.

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What can be done?

Planning is important. Challenges that caregivers face include finding relief from the emotional stress associated with providing care for a loved one, planning to cover the responsibilities that could jeopardize the caregiver’s job or career, and easing financial pressures that strain a family’s budget. Having options—additional caregivers, alternate sources of funds, respite care for the caregiver—can help relieve many of these stresses. In addition, there are a number of legal options to help families protect hard-earned assets from the rising costs of long term care, and to access funds to help pay for that care.

Plannng ahead is the best way to ensure you have options if a loved one has dementia or any long term illness. Unfortunately, most people fail to plan ahead. According to the Genworth survey, the top reasons people fail to plan are they didn’t want to admit care was needed; the timing of the long-term care need was unforeseen or unexpected; they didn’t want to talk about it; they thought they had more time; and they hoped the issue would resolve itself.

Waiting too long to plan for the need for long-term care, especially for dementia, can throw a family into confusion about what Mom or Dad would want, what options are available, what resources can help pay for care and who is best-suited to help provide hands-on care, if needed. Having the courage to discuss the possibility of incapacity and/or dementia before it happens can go a long way toward being prepared should that time come.

Watch for early signs of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) has prepared a list of signs and symptoms that can help individuals and family members recognize the beginnings of dementia. Early diagnosis provides the best opportunities for treatment, support and planning for the future. Some medications can slow the progress of the disease, and new discoveries are being made every year.

Take good care of the caregiver. Caregivers need support and time off to take care of themselves. Arrange for relief from outside caregivers or other family members. All will benefit from joining a caregiver support group to share questions and frustrations, and learn how other caregivers are coping. Caregivers need to determine what they need to maintain their stamina, energy and positive outlook. That may include regular exercise (a yoga class, golf, walk or run), a weekly Bible study, an outing with friends, or time to read or simply watch TV.

If the main caregiver currently works outside the home, they can inquire about resources and accomodations at work that might be available. Depending on how long they expect to be caring for the person, they may be able to work on a flex time schedule or from home. Consider whether other family members can provide compensation to the one who will be the main caregiver.

Seek assistance. Find out what resources might be available. A local Elder Law attorney can prepare necessary legal documents, help maximize income, retirement savings and long-time care insurance, and apply for VA or Medicaid benefits. He or she will also be familiar with various living communities in the area and in-home care agencies.

Conclusion

Caring for a loved one with dementia is more demanding and more expensive for a longer time than caring for a loved one without dementia. It requires the entire family to come together to discuss and explore all options so that the burden of providing care is shared by all.

We help families who may need long term care by creating an asset protection plan that will provide peace of mind to all. Attend one of our free educational workshops to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

Click Here To Sign-Up For a FREE Workshop

Tags: Alzheimer's Disease, seniors, caregiver, dementia, caretaker, care costs, alzheimers care, costs of dementia

The Costs of Dementia: For the Patient and the Family - Part II

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Wed, Apr 05, 2017

In Part II of our three-part blog on the Costs of Dementia, we discuss the Financial, Emotional and Physical Costs of caring for someone with dementia.

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Financial Costs for the Family

Women routinely serve as caregivers for spouses, parents, in-laws and friends. While some men do serve as caregivers, women spend approximately 50% more time caregiving than men.

The financial impact on women caregivers is substantial. In a Genworth study, Beyond Dollars 2015, more than 60% of the women surveyed reported they pay for care with their own savings and retirement funds. These expenses include household expenses, personal items, transportation services, informal caregivers and long-term care facilities. Almost half report having to reduce their own quality of living in order to pay for the care.

In addition, absences, reduced hours and chronic tardiness can mean a significant reduction in a caregiver’s pay. 77% of those surveyed missed time from work in order to provide care for a loved one, with an average of seven hours missed per week. About one-third of caregivers provide 30 or more hours of care per week, and half of those estimate they lost around one-third of their income. More than half had to work fewer hours, felt their career was negatively affected and had to leave their job as the result of a long-term care situation.

Caregivers who lose income also lose retirement benefits and social security benefits. They may be sacrificing their children’s college funds and their own retirement. Other family members who contribute to the costs of care may also see their standard of living and savings reduced.

 Emotional and Physical Costs to Caregivers

In addition to the financial costs, caregivers report increased stress, anxiety and depression. The Genworth study found that while a high percentage of caregivers have some positive feelings about providing care for their loved one, almost half also experienced depression, mood swings and resentment, and admitted the event negatively affected their personal health and well-being. About a third reported an extremely high level of stress and said their relationships with their family and spouse were affected. More than half did not feel qualified to provide physical care and worried about the lack of time for themselves and their families.

Providing care to someone with dementia increases the levels of distress and depression higher than caring for someone without dementia. People with dementia may wander, become aggressive and often no longer recognize family members, even those caring for them. Caregivers can become exhausted physically and emotionally, and the patient may simply become too much for them to handle, especially when the caregiver is an older person providing care for his/her ill spouse. This can lead to feelings of failure and guilt. In addition, these caregivers often have high blood pressure, an increased risk of developing hypertension, spend less time on preventative care and have a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease.

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we have helped many clients plan for caring for loved ones with dimentia. To learn more,we encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops, call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

 

Tags: seniors, Alzheimers Disease, dementia, care costs, alzheimers care

The Costs of Dementia: For the Patient and the Family - Part I

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Fri, Mar 24, 2017

A recent report from the Alzheimer’s Association states that one in ten Americans age 65 or older currently have Alzheimer’s. With the baby boomer generation aging and people living longer, that number may nearly triple by 2050. Alzheimer’s, of course, is just one cause of dementia—mini-strokes (TIAs) are also to blame—so the number of those with dementia may actually be higher. A 2011 study by the Alzheimer's Disease International and the World Health Organization found that 50% of people over 80 years old have some form of dementia.

Caring for someone with dementia is more expensive—and care is often needed longer—than for someone who does not have dementia. Because the cost of care in a facility is out of reach for many families, caregivers are often family members who risk their own financial security and health to care for a loved one.

In this three-part blog, we will explore these issues and steps families can take to alleviate some of these burdens.

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Cost of Care for the Patient with Dementia—And How to Pay for It

As the disease progresses, so does the level of care the person requires—and so do the costs of that care. Options for care can range from $40,000 to $140,000 and more. Levels of care include in-home care, adult daycare, assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

 Care for a person with dementia can last years, and there are few outside resources to help pay for this kind of care. Health insurance does not cover assisted living or nursing home facilities, or help with activities of daily living (ADL), which include eating, bathing and dressing. Medicare covers some in-home health care and a limited number of days of skilled nursing home care, but not long-term care. Medicaid, which does cover long-term care, was designed for the indigent; the person’s assets must be spent down to almost nothing to qualify. VA benefits for Aid & Attendance will help pay for some care, including assisted living and nursing home facilities, for veterans and their spouses who qualify.

Those who have significant assets can pay as they go. Home equity and retirement savings can also be a source of funds. Long-term care insurance may also be an option, but many people wait until they are not eligible or the cost is prohibitive. 

However, for the most part, families are not prepared to pay these extraordinary costs, especially if they go on for years. As a result, family members are often required to provide the care for as long as possible. To learn more about how to protect your home, spouse and life savings from the increasing cost of nuring home care, register today for a free educational workshop.

Click on the button below to get our FREE report "The Plain Truth About Alzheimer's Disease" which includes the 9 Steps You Need to Take Right Now to Care for Your Loved One and to Protect Your Family’s Finances.

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At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we provide a unique education and counseling process which includes our original 19 Point Trust, Estate and Asset Protection Review to help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life savings, and legacy for their loved ones. Attend a free workshop to discover where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as you implement plans for a protected future.

You may register now for a free educational workshop - call 800-964-4295 or click the button below, to register and learn more about what youcan do to protect your spouse, your home, and your life savings.

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Tags: Alzheimer's, dementia, care costs, alzheimers care

What to Know Before You Enroll in Medicare

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Fri, Feb 10, 2017

WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU ENROLL IN MEDICARE

 Three critical things to know to keep your healthcare costs in check and make smart decisions.

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  1. The importance of enrolling in Medicare on time

It sounds like a no-brainer, but most people don’t realize that the effects of procrastination in their enrollment can cost them a rise in their part B premiums (these are the premiums that cover medical services) by 10% for each year they were eligible for Medicare but didn’t enroll. The “Initial Enrollment Period” is 7 months long, beginning three months before your 65th birthday and ending three months after. You may still enroll during the “General Enrollment Period” (from January 1 – March 31 of each year), however coverage won’t begin until July and be advised that you may have a late penalty. 

Another item to note: if you’re already receiving Social Security benefits before your 65th birthday, you may be automatically enrolled in Medicare (you’ll receive notification in the mail via a Medicare card in the 3 months before your 65th birthday if you are automatically enrolled) Special enrollment periods are available for  people who are either working as a volunteer abroad or still working at age 65 with employer-provided healthcare coverage.

  1. Which plan is right for you?

There are two main plan choices for a Medicare enrollee – the “original” Medicare plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan. Read on to discover the basic components of each plan and which is best for your needs.

 The “Original” Medicare Plan includes:

  • Part A: hospital coverage
  • Part B: physician/medical insurance
  • Part D: optional, provides prescription drug coverage
  • Enrollees can also opt to add on a private ‘Medigap’ plan which will pay for more of what Medicare doesn’t cover

 Medicare Advantage Plan, sometimes a better option than the Original Medicare Plan, are regulated by the US government although they are offered by private insurers. These plans are required to offer at least as much coverage as the original Medicare Plan and many often include prescription drug coverage as well as vision, dental or hearing coverage.

The Medicare website offers a helpful tool – the Medicare Plan Finder to help you compare your plan options. Whichever plan you choose, be aware that you may choose a different plan the following year.

  1. Take Advantage of the Available Services

Screenings and preventative care may sometimes be available at no extra cost, in addition to the wellness benefits included in your coverage. One annual wellness visit to your primary care doctor is included at no extra charge in your membership. You may also be eligible to other perks such as discounts on gym membership.

 In conclusion, following the tips above to make the most of your Medicare enrollment can enable seniors to live a longer and healthier life.

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones.  We provide clients with a unique educational and counseling approach so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

If you would like more information on Medicare, the Affordable Care, or the impact of new health care laws on your health care coverage, request your free preview of our guide, the Senior & Boomers’ Guide to Health Care Reform & Avoiding Nursing Home Poverty.  

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops, call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

Sources: Fox BusinessNews

Tags: Medicare, Elder Law, Health Care, seniors, elder care, medical expenses, health, care costs, applying for medicare

What will 2017 bring to Seniors and Persons with Disabilities? - Part II

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Tue, Jan 24, 2017

What will 2017 bring to Seniors and Persons with Disabilities? - Part II

In last week's blog 'What will 2017 Bring to Seniors and Persons with Disabilities? - Part I' we discussed some of the key issues to watch out for in 2017 including Medicare and Medicaid reform. In Part II of the blog we continue our review of potential impacts on legislation that affects seniors and persons with disabilities.

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Affordable Care Act

Republicans are already moving to repeal and replace Obamacare. The question is: How much will be repealed? There are several programs included in the ACA, not related to traditional health insurance, that are important to elder law attorneys and their clients. For example, Medicaid expansion, a kind of Medicaid reform, is part of the ACA.

The ACA also includes programs that work toward ending the institutional bias in Medicaid. One is Community First Choice, a state plan that provides home- and community-based services. Currently it has an extremely low-income threshold so it’s a limited population, but it’s a start.

Another is Money Follows the Person, which pays for transition services. For example, it could provide extra funds to help someone leave a nursing home, by paying for a housing coordinator to find an apartment, a roommate, buy basic furniture and so on.

We are moving toward home- and community-based service, which many people favor. How will that interact with Medicaid reforms? Because they are optional, some fear that with per capita caps, these services will be among the first to go. There may be more opportunities to expand these services through block grants because they allow more flexibility in what is offered. Along this line, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has introduced a bill called the Disability Integration Act, which would make home- and community-based services a civil right.

Other Medicaid-Related Issues to Watch

Limiting home equity: This proposal, H.R. 1361, would take away the state option to expand the cap for single individual home owners. It would not impact people who have a community spouse living in the home or if you have a disabled child or a dependent under 21. 

Medical liability reform: This could impact whether individuals get adequate access to personal injury settlements and funds that can be put into a special needs trust.

Long-Term Care Reform

There has been a lot of discussion on Capitol Hill about picking up the pieces on long-term care. After a decade, the market has completely collapsed. John Hancock just withdrew, and Genworth was bought out by a Chinese private equity firm. Republicans and Democrats agree on the problem, but there doesn’t seem to be common ground yet on a solution. The Senate Aging Committee is starting the process, which is a positive step. There are calls for catastrophic coverage, at least on the back end, and probably some sort of front-end coverage for two or three years. There may be some long-term care reform as part of Medicaid reform.

VA Benefit Rules

The new rules have been delayed again until at least April, 2017. Fixing the VA is a Trump priority. An important piece to what will happen with the VA is who Trump names to head the VA and Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA). 

Nursing home binding arbitration rules

Nursing homes must comply with binding arbitration rules to have access to Medicare or Medicaid funds. NAELA has been working with others to push CMS to ban pre-dispute binding arbitration. The for-profit nursing home industry association is fighting it and recently won a preliminary injunction in a Mississippi district court (American Health Care Association et al v. Burwell). We do not yet know if the Trump Administration will appeal this ruling and continue with banning binding arbitration for nursing home contracts. 

In Kindred Nursing Centers Limited Partnership v. Clark in Kentucky, the issue is whether federal arbitration acts overrule the state’s arbitration acts. The state of Kentucky has a law that says in order to waive the principal’s constitutional right to a jury trial, the agent must be given that specific authority within the power of attorney. Whether this is overturned is likely to hinge on President Trump’s pick to fill Justice Scalia’s vacancy on the Supreme Court.

 Conclusion

There are a number of issues that will be addressed in 2017 that can have significant impact on seniors and their loved ones, Veterans, and persons with disabilities. If you have questions or would like to discuss any of the issues raised here, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones.  We provide clients with a unique educational and counseling approach so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops. Call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

 

Tags: Nursing Home Costs, Medicaid, Estate Planning, Elder Law, seniors, elder care, social security, trusts, Nursing Home, Affordable Health Care Act, New estate tax law, Veteran, VA, VA benefits, disabled, new regulations

What will 2017 bring to Seniors and Persons with Disabilities? - Part I

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Thu, Jan 19, 2017

What will 2017 bring to Seniors and Persons with Disabilities? - Part I

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Donald Trump’s election and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress surprised much of the nation. With control of legislative and executive branches of government, the expectation is Republicans will finally be able to push through long-awaited legislation, as well as follow through on promises made by candidate Trump. And they are expected to move quickly.

We will summarize some key issues to watch out for in 2017 that affect seniors and persons with disabilities and continue to provide updates throughout the year.

What the Election Outcome Means in Congress

The House has remained in Republican control—about 45% Democrat and 55% Republican. The majority rules, so while the Democrats may have loud opposition, they don’t have a lot of power. Currently, Republicans are mostly united, but those in the Freedom Caucus (Tea Party Republicans) are deciding how they will interact with the Republican establishment. If they split, votes may be needed from Democrats to pass legislation.

The Senate is 48 Democrats and 52 Republicans. 60 votes are needed to prevent a filibuster (where senators can talk for hours and delay votes). But with budget reconciliation, only a simple majority (51) is needed to pass legislation in the Senate. Because they are all budget-related programs, the Republicans will try to reform Medicaid, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) through budget reconciliation. Individual Republican senators will have a lot of power, as some may insist on additions or deletions to secure their vote. If the Republicans do not stick together for the majority, votes may be needed from Democrats. (Note: Budget reconciliation was used to pass the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 and OBRA 93, which enacted big cuts that changed elder law—the lengthening of the transfer penalty, the change in the time of when that penalty applies, the move from trust.)

One thing to watch is who is going to run Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Social Security Administration, especially considering how much is related to Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The people now in charge of staffing these agencies are conservative. For example, the person in charge of staffing the political positions at the Social Security Administration has called for privatizing Social Security in the past. Donald Trump has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to change Medicare and Social Security, but that may be changing. (See below.)

Tax Policy

Tax changes are expected as part of the budget reconciliation process. We are not sure yet if 2017 will bring major tax reform or just tax cuts, but tax rates are expected to decrease for both individuals and businesses. Candidate Trump called for elder care and child care tax deductions and/or credits. He has also stated his plan to eliminate the federal estate tax, then charge capital gains tax on everything over $10 million, with exemptions for family farms and small businesses.

We may also see some changes to the ABLE Act (Achieving a Better Life Experience), which passed in December 2014 and amended Section 529 Plans. Currently, ABLE allows people with disabilities developed before the age of 26 and their families to set up tax-exempt savings accounts, which can be used to cover qualified disability expenses such as, but not limited to, education, housing and transportation. Revisions in 2017 may raise the age to 46, allow those working to put in more money, and allow rollovers of these accounts. 

Medicare Reform

President-elect Trump started by saying he was going to protect Medicare and Social Security. After meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan, he said he will modernize Medicare. Reince Priebus, incoming chief of staff, recently insisted that Mr. Trump won’t meddle with Medicare or Social Security. Instead, he has said he will focus on 1) improving the economy, which will reduce the debt and ease entitlement concerns and 2) save Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security without cuts while eliminating fraud, waste and abuse. 

But he is already encountering resistance from Republicans, who for years have claimed that a major overhaul to Medicare and other entitlements are needed to ensure they don’t go bankrupt; that entitlement reform is critical to reducing debt; and the longer they wait, the harder it becomes to solve the problems. Obama administration officials warned just last year that a central Medicare trust fund is projected to run out of money by 2028.

Yet Republicans are also encouraged by what some of the President-Elect’s Cabinet picks could mean for future entitlement reform. Representative Tom Price (R-GA), who replaced Paul Ryan as Budget chairman and sought to overhaul entitlement programs, is Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services secretary. Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), a fiscal hawk and Freedom Caucus co-founder, will lead his White House budget office.

So, we will have to wait and see if President-elect Trump, his Cabinet members and leading Republicans will find a way to agree. Some reforming of Medicare may be part of the 2017 budget reconciliation, but with ObamaCare repeal and replace, tax reform and infrastructure as the immediate priorities, solving the decades-long problem of deficits in Medicare and Social Security will likely have to wait until after 2017.

In the meantime, we are seeing a tilt toward Medicare Advantage plans. These managed care plans (offered through HMOs) often have lower costs and provide benefits not covered by traditional Medicare and Medicare Supplement Plans, such as health club memberships and preventative educational programs for those with diabetes and other chronic diseases. 

A long-term goal for Medicare, which has been around since its founding in 1964, is premium support. Basically, the consumer would choose a plan from those offered through an exchange. The government would provide subsidies to companies, they would lower the premiums and then people would choose their plans. It’s not likely that this will replace Medicare as we know it, but it is an idea being discussed.

Medicaid Reform

President-elect Trump has called for block granting Medicaid. House Speaker Paul Ryan has called for it, too, and Republicans are looking at whether they can reform Medicaid through budget reconciliation.

Those who want to reform Medicaid are focusing on the FMAP, the federal percentage match that states receive through federal funding. This is based on per capita income of the state. For example, a rich state like New Jersey is a 1:1 ratio, while a poor state like Mississippi is about a 3:1 ratio. This means for every one dollar that Mississippi spends on Medicaid, they will receive three free extra dollars from the federal government. This can impact states’ budget decisions. For example, if the governor of Mississippi needs to cut costs, he will more likely cut education or infrastructure by one dollar, rather than cut Medicaid spending by one dollar and lose the three free extra dollars.

The idea of block grants has been around for about 30 years. They are attractive because there are fewer federal rules to comply with and the states can use the money however they wish. But block grants shift more costs onto the states, and governors tend to oppose that.

Another idea floating around is a per capita cap, which would give the states a fixed dollar amount per individual, based on Medicaid standard lines (the blind, aged, and disabled children and adults). It was first proposed by President Clinton, who also wanted block grants. A per capita cap may force the states to control Medicaid costs over time, but there is also a demographic shift to consider—the medical needs and costs for an 85-year-old are much greater than for a 65-year-old. Nursing homes and aging disability provider groups have a huge stake in this and would likely oppose it, as would some governors.

The cost changes may not be felt right away, but they will be noticeable ten years from now and that’s what Congress must plan for. There may be increased waiver flexibility for the states and provider taxes to offset states’ losses. We may also see reforms to make it easier to manage care.

We will be following changes in legislation very closely and will keep you informed as to how these changes affect seniors and persons with disabilities. Check back next week for Part 2 of this blog where we will discuss more anticipated changes in the law including the Affordable Care Act and VA Benefit Rules!

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones.  We provide clients with a unique educational and counseling approach so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

To learn more about elder care and how changes in the law may affect you,attend one of our free educational workshops, call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

Nursing home care is more than $180,000 per year! Attend this FREE educational seminar to learn:

  • How to protect your home and assets from the costs of long-term care
  • How to stay out of the nursing home and access in-home care
  • How to make sure your spouse is not left financially ruined if you need nursing home care
  • How to access Veterans benefits to pay for long-term care

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Tags: Nursing Home Costs, Medicare, Medicaid, Estate Planning, Elder Law, seniors, social security, trusts, Nursing Home, Affordable Health Care Act, New estate tax law, retirement plans, disabled, new regulations

An Explanation of Palliative Care and How it Affects You

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, Mar 25, 2016

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     Human life expectancy in the past 100 years has been substantially lengthened as a result of advances in medical science.  However, as we know, the quality of an extended life span isn’t always great.  Many people live with serious illnesses such as COPD, Heart Disease, Cancer, Parkinson’s Disease etc. for many years, often spending those years suffering extreme physical and emotional pain.

     While the medical community continues to focus on finding cures for these illnesses and conditions, an important part of administering medical care is easing a patient’s pain.  This is what is known as palliative care and only recently – within the last 10 years or so – has palliative care become a new discipline of medicine.

     What is palliative care?  It is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses.  It focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness.  The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the patient’s family.

     Palliative care is provided by a specially trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists such as social workers and chaplains, who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide extra support.  Palliative care specialists undergo additional training and certification in order to provide palliative care services.

     Palliative care is often coupled with hospice care, however, they are not the same.  Hospice care is for patients who are terminally ill, and have an expected lifespan of less than six months.  Palliative care is available for any patient with a serious or advanced disease who needs the added support that it care can provide.

     Palliative care specialists can play an important role in helping patients and their families discuss and make important and difficult decisions about their medical care.  That could include evaluating the different treatment options presented to the patient, weighing the pros and cons of each.  They can also assist in focusing on the future, on what the patient may or may not want as his/her condition declines.

     The palliative care team can facilitate this discussion well ahead of an acute medical crisis.  Knowing what the patient wants or doesn’t want helps to reduce the stress level of all involved when that medical crisis does arrive.

     Navigating the waters of palliative care and hospice care can feel overwhelming.  Let us help you to make that trip easier with a Health Care Proxy and Living Will and a Release of Protected Health Information (HIPAA, commonly).

     Learning more about Estate Planning and Asset Protection can protect you now and in the future. Call us or register for one of our workshops today to make your life a little easier down the road.  

Click here for more information on  Estate Planning and Asset Protection

Tags: long term care, Estate Planning, palliative, hospice

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