By Elizabeth Wynn
Long-Term Care Myths
Modern medicine has ensured a much longer lifespan for most of us. People are living longer, but not always “better,” which often requires an extended stay in a healthcare facility. The cost of nursing home care in the State of Mississippi averages between $6,000 and $8,000 per month, or $75,000 to $100,000 per year. Very few people are equipped to pay these costs out of retirement and Social Security income alone.
The average nursing home stay in Mississippi is three years, more than enough time to lose your life’s savings. If you don’t have unlimited funds, how will you cover the cost of a nursing home? If you don’t want to lose everything you’ve worked your entire life to attain, you will want to plan accordingly.
Everyone should seriously consider long-term care insurance. This is an excellent way to avoid the hassle and stress that come with nursing home planning. Mississippi rewards people for obtaining this type of insurance.
First, you may be entitled to a state and federal income tax credit. Second, beginning July 1, 2014, the state increased the amount of assets you are allowed to keep when entering a nursing home on Medicaid benefits.
However, long-term care insurance is often too expensive for older people and, if the applicant is already sick, may be uninsurable.
If you can’t qualify for nursing home insurance, or can’t put it in your budget, what options do you have regarding payment for nursing home care?
Mississippi Medicaid is here to provide help for eligible individuals. Unfortunately, because they are misinformed, many people believe they will never qualify for this assistance. Many common mistakes or myths regarding state assistance can quickly get you in trouble. These usually sound correct, but only because you’ve heard them so many times.
- Thinking it’s too late to plan. While planning well in advance of the need is certainly ideal, it’s not necessary. It’s almost never too late to do some planning, even after one has entered a nursing home.
- Applying only when there are no assets left. You are not required to spend it all, and certainly not only on your care. You need to be aware that there are some exceptions.
- Applying too soon. This often results in a longer ineligibility period.
- Applying too late. This can mean needlessly losing eligible months and wasting precious assets.
- Giving away assets and immediately applying. Timing is critical in this context. You will be disqualified from receiving benefits, but for how long? There are circumstances when the disqualification period can be reduced with just a little analysis and planning.
- Failing to protect the spouse at home. The rules do not require the community spouse to be impoverished. The spouse at home is actually allowed to keep a significant amount of assets. Also, the income of this spouse is not needed for the nursing home spouse. However, in some cases some or all of the nursing home spouse’s income can be given to the spouse at home.
- Not getting help before applying. This is a complicated field, and thankfully most people will only deal with it once in their lives. It’s imperative to get advice from those who focus on helping clients through the process of legally and ethically preserving the maximum amount possible.
Unfortunately, many people hear a discouraging statement or get improper advice and abandon their attempt to receive benefits. This is unfortunate, because so much can be gained from accurate information and good legal advice from an experienced attorney. The quality of our lives is important from beginning to end.
With a just a little planning early on, we can be assured of a comfortable life when we need it the most.
Elizabeth Wynn is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and practices law in Ridgeland. She and her family live in Madison.