Medi-Cal planning: A strategy to protect assets from nursing home bills

The cost of long term care is increasing at a staggering rate in America. According to AARP, the average annual cost of nursing home care in the United States has topped $50,000 and is still climbing. In some areas, California included, nursing home care is even more expensive; annual costs in some localities top $180,000.

If you are finding that your health is beginning to decline, or if you have a family member who is or may soon be in need of assisted living, the staggering costs of nursing home care can be a real concern. After a lifetime spent working hard to accumulate a nest egg, a few short months in a nursing home can leave patients completely drained of financial resources.

What can be done about this situation? Medicaid, which is administered in California under the name Medi-Cal, may be one solution.

A thorough plan should be employed to quality for Medi-Cal and shield assets

Medi-Cal is a program that pays health care costs for qualifying patients with no income or a limited income and few assets. Medi-Cal provides all the basic benefits of a normal health plan, and includes vision care, hearing care and prescription drug coverage.

Many nursing home residents pay for their care out of their own personal funds until those funds run dry, and only then qualify for Medi-Cal. However, for some individuals, there is a better way to get the care they need.

Medi-Cal planning is a process by which a patient and his or her attorney devise a legal strategy to keep as many assets intact as possible while still qualifying for the benefits of Medi-Cal. It is not as simple as giving away assets to loved ones until the patient is below the asset threshold for Medi-Cal, because the government can look back at asset transfers for a period of years in determining eligibility.

But, certain types of transfers may still be a possibility. In addition, other Medi-Cal planning strategies, like converting non-exempt assets into exempt assets - your home, personal effects, household items, and certain other assets are not considered in determining Medi-Cal eligibility - can help protect assets that the potential Medi-Cal recipient wants to keep intact.

Talk to a Medi-Cal planning attorney to learn more

Medi-Cal planning can be important at any stage, whether someone is currently receiving nursing home care, may soon be in need of care, or is perfectly healthy but simply looking toward the future. There are more legal options available the earlier someone begins Medi-Cal planning, but even Medi-Cal planning begun after someone has entered a nursing home can be highly beneficial.

Leaving some type of financial legacy to loved ones is far better than seeing the entirety of an estate end up going to pay for nursing home bills. If you are worried about paying for nursing home care out of your personal assets, or if you have a loved one who may require nursing home care, you need to get a Medi-Cal plan in place as soon as possible. Talk to a California Medi-Cal planning attorney today to begin exploring your legal options.