Medicaid is About More than Just the Finances
Something we always seem to need to remind clients of when we talk about Medicaid eligibility is that Medicaid isn’t just about the finances. Meeting the income and asset limits are not the only requirements when applying, applicants also need to be medically eligible for Medicaid assistance.
What does that mean? It means an applicant must establish the need for nursing home level care, needing assistance with the activities of daily living. It’s one of the reasons why the planning that we do is so vital. If you run out of money before your health is bad enough to require long-term care, you won’t be able to get MassHealth to help you. Unfortunately it is an all too common scenario, one which we were reminded of last week.
We received a call from Jane regarding her dad, Donnie, who has been living with Jane for the last several years. Donnie is bipolar but he functions well when he takes his medications. It often is a struggle, however, to get him to take that medication. Jane works during the day so she can’t always at home to monitor her dad.
Jane explained that her dad becomes somewhat agitated and occasionally wanders when he hasn’t taken his medication. When I asked about his ability to walk, eat, bath, dress and toilet on his own, Jane replied that this isn’t Donnie’s problem.
Jane called because she wants to move her father to an assisted living facility, feeling that he now needs more supervision than she can provide on her own. Donnie has only a few thousand dollars to his name, and he is planning to apply for Medicaid to pay for his care.
There are several problems with Jane’s plan. She hasn’t even begun to look at facilities but when she does, she will likely find the choices very limited since it is not easy to get into a facility on Medicaid right away. Most assisted living facilities try to use their Medicaid “slots” for their longtime residents who have spent down assets while at their facility. Although there are a few that will take a person on Medicaid right away, none happen to be in Jane’s immediate area.
I told Jane the best solution for now is to hire someone to come to her home for a few hours a day when she is at work to keep an eye on Donnie. The cost won’t be covered by Medicaid, but that’s one of the reasons that getting government benefits is so tricky. The rules are complicated and the government – not you – decides whether it will provide you with assistance. And in Jane and Donnie’s case, the answer is “not yet”. The’ll have to go it alone for now.
Don’t Forget About Rover
Who Will Care For Your Pets When You’re Gone?
If you have a dog, cat or other pet, you know that the unconditional love and affection our pets devote to us improve the quality of our lives in ways nothing else can. This is why they deserve our respect and dedication even after we pass away or become incapacitated.
Unfortunately, if a pet owner becomes unable to care for his or her pets, they often end up living on the street. Thousands of pets are orphaned every year in the United States. To prevent your pets from adding to this sad statistic, you need to plan now for their care in the future.
One way to do this is to include your pets in your estate plan. This can be as simple as incorporating provisions for them into your Will or Living Trust. A Durable General Power of Attorney will allow an agent of your choosing to spend funds that have been allocated to your pets as he or she sees fit in the best interest of your pets.
The income is made available as ongoing Trust funds or as a gift given directly to the agent.
The first, and often easiest, way to make sure your pets are cared for is to include a request that your pets be placed with a willing friend or family member. This is done in the same way you would appoint a guardian for a child. In addition, most states allow for money from your estate plan to be set aside for the benefit of pets so that there is minimal, if any, expense for your pets’ caretaker.
Another option is to appoint a Trustee to care for your pets. This Trustee can either keep the pets in his or her own home or find someone else with a suitable, loving home to serve as caretaker. This type of “Pet Trust” also provides the Trustee with funds to be used for the pets’ benefit.
If a suitable Trustee is not available, you may want to research local animal shelters and adoption centers. If sufficient funds are allocated for the care of the pet, some locations will accept pets that are donated through Trusts and care for them until a devoted home can be found for them.
Considering Pet Insurance?
You may have noticed that in recent years veterinary science has advanced by leaps and bounds. Veterinarians today offer treatments that were unheard of only a few years ago. Treatments, such as organ transplants, once only used on humans are now available for pets. Veterinarians also have access to more advanced technology that can detect problems that, in the past, would have gone untreated. For pet owners, this means higher costs per visit and possibly expensive procedures.
Pet insurance can help you cover these new costs. It is best used to protect against unseen catastrophic expenses, not procedures you can easily pay for on your own. Pet insurance allows you to worry about your pet’s health and not how you are going to pay for it.
Some good advice when looking for pet insurance is to shop around and find the policy that best fits your needs. Remember to not only pay attention to the monthly or annual cost, but to note the differences in deductibles, co-pays and caps, which may limit payouts by incident, annually or the animal’s lifetime. Make sure that you understand the exclusions. The conditions most likely to afflict your pet are often the ones most likely to be excluded from your policy.
A few things to consider:
- It is possible to spend more money on your pet if you have insurance than if you did not have insurance.
- One alternative to pet insurance is to put the money you would spend on premiums into a savings account.
- Dogs tend to wind up in the veterinarian’s office twice as often as cats.
- Purebreds tend to have more hereditary weaknesses than the average pound puppy or cat.
- Free-running animals have more accidents and contract more illnesses than pets that are kept under control.
Regardless of whether you decide to get pet insurance or not, it is always a good idea to think about the future. Put yourself at ease and know that you will be able to take care of your pet no matter what happens.