November 1, 2014










Medicaid Redesign team Proposes Changes to Medicaid Eligibility in New York

Governor Cuomo recently accepted proposals from New York’s newly created Medicaid Redesign Team (“MRT”). While it is early in the process, and the proposals may not be implemented in their present form or at all, budgeting pressures at all levels of government make it likely that some changes in the Medicaid program will occur. Here are a few of the particularly troubling features of the MRT’s proposals:

Elimination of Spousal/Parental Refusal

Currently, a spouse may refuse to support their spouse who is an applicant for Community Medicaid or Medicaid Home Care. When this occurs, Medicaid is obligated to provide care or services to the applicant, assuming he is eligible (under $13,800 in resources), even if the spouse can afford to pay. The MRT is proposing that the resources and income of the spouse should be considered in determining whether the applicant is eligible for Medicaid. This means that spouses, and parents of disabled children, will be required to spend down virtually all of the household’s assets, and contribute a share of their income, before their ill spouse or disabled child will be eligible to receive care.

5-year “Look Back” for Community Medicaid and Home Care

Currently, the 5-year look back and transfer penalties apply only to applicants for Institutional Medicaid (for Nursing Home Care). Currently, applicants for Community Medicaid or Home Care are able to transfer their assets to family members, friends, or trusts, and thereby become eligible for Community Medicaid benefits. The MRT’s proposal would extend the 5-year look back to Community Medicaid and Home Care, which means that many potential applicants will find that they are ineligible for Medicaid, or subject to a lengthy penalty period before benefits can be obtained.

Estate Recovery

Currently, it is difficult for Medicaid to recover from the estates of medicaid recipients where the recipient has effectively transferred their assets during life to a family member or trust. The proposed law would allow medicaid the ability to seek recovery in these cases.

Impact of these proposals

If these proposals become law, many Medicaid applicants and their families will be severely affected. Some will find their financial situation and lifestyle significantly diminished, and others may find it difficult to pay for even basic living expenses. Many may to apply for food stamps, another program funded by the government.

What to do? Now, more than ever, people who need, or may need (even if they think they will never need it), long-term care should make it a top priority to consult a Long Island Elder Law attorney. Planning may need to be taken earlier than previously seemed necessary. As always, with proper planning, t will still be possible to improve your situation, even if these new measures find their way into law.

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Community Medicaid in New York State

How to Stay at home and protect your assets and income

In New York, the Community Based Medicaid program will pay for the cost of a home health aide. When applying, the local department of social services considered the applicant’s income and assets and whether the Medicaid applicant requires the assistance with the activities of daily living. The following is a breakdown of how DSS evaluates each for a New York Community Medicaid application.

Activities of Daily Living

An individual over the age of 65 is considered “disabled” and therefore entitled to Community Medicaid benefits if they need assistance with the activities of daily living, These include bathing, dressing, toileting and feeding. For most that are interested in Community Medicaid, this is not a difficult a difficult threshold to reach. Any applicant with the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s or with physical disabilities that limit their ability to live on their own, is sufficiently “disabled” enough to receive Community Medicaid benefits.

Income

Income is calculated by adding the following: Social Security, Pensions, income from rental properties or other investments, and require minimum distributions from retirement accounts. Under Community Medicaid rules in New York, the Medicaid recipient is entitled to keep $787 per month of their income. The remainder of the recipients income is called a “spenddown”. The Medicaid recipient is required spend the remainder on the cost of the aide. Medicaid will pay the difference.

Most of those who can stay at home will have expenses far exceeding the $787 limit. Medicaid understands this and allows for an exception. The often used exception is called a “Pooled Income Trust”.

Clearly, for many recipients of Community Based Medicaid, loss of income would prevent them from remaining in their homes. Enter the Pooled Income Trust. A Pooled Income Trust is similar to a bank account, however it administered by a Non-profit Trust Company, such as NYSARC Trust Services or AHRC.

If Mr. Smith has a monthly income of $2,787 in Social Security and pension income, and he is receiving Medicaid benefits for home care in her Long Island home, he has $2,000 in “excess income” under the current Medicaid rules. As a result, Mr. Smith is required to send a check each month in the amount of $2,000 to his home care agency as a contribution to the cost of his care.

However, when Mr. Smith joins a qualified pooled income trust, his $2,000 check will be sent to the trust instead of his home care agency. The trust will then be able to pay any of Mr. Smith’s expenses, such as his utilities, his food, or his clothing, from his own funds or even the taxes on his Long Island home. Mr. Smith will continue to receive his Medicaid home care, as well.

The pooled income trust contains the funds of many disabled persons and is managed by a non-profit organization that maintains separate accounts for each individual. In order to participate in the trust, the disabled person (or his representative acting under durable power of attorney) signs an agreement with the trust. Under this agreement, upon the beneficiary’s death, if there are any remaining funds they are kept by the trust.

Those who wish to participate in a pooled income trust will have to establish that they are disabled, but findings of disability by the Social Security Administration or by Medicaid are valid for this purpose.

Assets

For Medicaid purposes in New York, assets include any real property owned by the applicant or savings in the form of money markets, CD’s, stocks, bonds, cash values in insurance policies, and other non-retirement investments. When applying for Community Medicaid in New York, the applicant’s total assets must be under $13,800. Clearly, most individuals in New York City, Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island, are worth more than $13,800.

Many have heard of a five-year look-back period on asset transfers when applying for Medicaid. It is true that a five-year look back period exists – but only for Institutional Medicaid application where the applicant is residing in a nursing home. When applying for Community Based Medicaid applications in New York, there is no five-year look back. Therefore, an applicant can transfer their assets in month and apply for benefits the following month. The best way to transfer assets can only be determined on a case by case scenario. While in some cases it may be appropriate to transfer assets to other family members, including adult children, in other cases it would more advisable to transfer the assets to an Irrevocable Trust.

Most people are not aware of the eligibility requirements for Community Based Medicaid in New York. This is unfortunate because many individuals who could be eligible are spending down their savings on the cost of a home health aide. Whether an individual requires an aide for the first time (perhaps they are leaving a rehab facility) or have had an aide with them and are paying privately, many can eligible for Community Medicaid benefits with the proper planning.

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Pooled Income Trusts

How to protect your excess income when receiving community Medicaid

A Pooled Income Trust is an option for a disabled individual who has excess income while receiving Community Medicaid Benefits.

Here is how it works:

Recipients of Community Medicaid – those who receive the assistance of a home health aide – are allowed to keep $787 per month of their income. Any additional income, called a “Spendown”, is supposed to be spent down on the individuals care. Therefore, if a Medicaid recipient has income of $1,500 per month, they would be allowed to keep $787 and the remainder would go to the home health aide – with Medicaid paying for any additional costs of the care.

However, for many recipients of Community Based Medicaid, loss of income would prevent them from remaining in their homes. Enter the Pooled Income Trust. A Pooled Income Trust is similar to a bank account, however it administered by a Non-profit Trust Company, such as NYSARC Trust Services or AHRC.

If Mr. Smith has a monthly income of $2,787 in Social Security and pension income, and he is receiving Medicaid benefits for home care in his Long Island home, he has $2,000 in “excess income” under the current Medicaid rules. As a result, Mr. Smith is required to send a check each month in the amount of $2,000 to his home care agency as a contribution to the cost of his care.

However, when Mr. Smith joins a qualified pooled income trust, his $2,000 check will be sent to the trust instead of his home care agency. The trust will then be able to pay any of Mr. Smith’s expenses, such as his utilities, his food, or his clothing, from his own funds or even the taxes on his Long Island home. Mr. Smith will continue to receive his Medicaid home care, as well.

The pooled income trust contains the funds of many disabled persons and is managed by a non-profit organization that maintains separate accounts for each individual. In order to participate in the trust, the disabled person (or his representative acting under durable power of attorney) signs an agreement with the trust. Under this agreement, upon the beneficiary’s death, if there are any remaining funds they are kept by the trust.

Those who wish to participate in a pooled income trust will have to establish that they are disabled, but findings of disability by the Social Security Administration or by Medicaid are valid for this purpose.

Veteran’s Aide and Attendance Program

An additional pension for qualifying veterans

Recently I have had many clients come to my office with a similar problem. They have had to hire a home health aide for their parents or place them into an assisted living facility. The problem that my clients, typically the adult children of a disabled senior, have is that their parent’s income does not cover their living expenses with an aide or the monthly cost of the assisted living facility. When I am confronted with this problem, I have been asking my clients whether one of their parents was a veteran. If one of the parents was in fact a veteran and require the assistance of a home health aide or reside in an assisted living facility, they may be entitled to an additional pension via the Veterans Administration’s (VA) Aid and Attendance Program.

The Aid & Attendance pension provides benefits for veterans and surviving spouses who require the assistance with the activities of daily living (ADL’s). This includes regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing and undressing. Assisted care in an assisting living facility also qualifies.

The requirements to qualify are as follows. First, it must be established by your physician that you require assistance with the above mentioned activities. Importantly, you do not need to show that you require assistance with all of these activities – only that you cannot function completely on your own.

Second, you must provide the VA with proof of your net worth, net income (including social security, other pension and IRA distributions) and complete breakdown of your monthly expenses, including the cost of the aide, assisted living and other medical expenses.

Qualifying applicants may be entitled to receive up to $1,632 per month to a veteran, $1,055 per month to a surviving spouse, or $1,949 per month to a couple. It should be noted that not every applicant will receive the same pension. The VA will compute the actual needs of the applicant in determining the pension amount. The pension is not contingent on a “service related” injury or condition.

The VA has made it illegal to hire someone to file the application on your behalf, but you can hire an Aid and Attendant Consultant to offer you advice on how to file the claim. You can also contact this office for questions about the program and advice on how to file a claim.

Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 – Impact on Medicaid

By Andrew M. Lamkin, Esq.

On February 8, 2006, President Bush signed into law the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA). The Act reduces federal entitlement spending for Medicaid, among other federal programs. The Medicaid program pays for services for disabled seniors who meet the eligibility requirements. Most commonly, Medicaid pays for the cost of home health aides and nursing home care.

The effects of the Deficit Reduction Act on Medicaid are significant, especially when applying for nursing home benefits. First, the look back period on asset transfers has been increased from three to five years. When an uncompensated transfer, or gift, is made during this look back period, Medicaid will impose a “penalty period.” The “penalty period” is the length of time during which Medicaid will not pay for the cost of nursing care, during which time the family of the applicant is responsible. At the end of the penalty period, Medicaid will pick up the cost of care. Due to this change in the law, the goal when establishing an estate plan is to protect assets five years before having to apply for Medicaid. Unfortunately, it is difficult to anticipate when a family member may be forced to enter a nursing home. To ensure you are eligible for Medicaid should the need arise; it is advisable to plan well ahead of time.

The second major change as a result of the DRA, is in regard to the start of the penalty period. Under the old law, the penalty period began on the date when the assets were transferred. Depending on the fair market value of the transfer, the penalty period may have expired by the time the application was filed. Therefore, an applicant who transferred assets within the three year look back may have qualified for Medicaid before the time they apply.

Under DRA, however, the penalty period begins when the applicant applies for nursing home benefits. Therefore, any transfer made within the 5 year look-back period will certainly result in a penalty period. This is a drastic change and many applicants will be ineligible for a longer period of time. This will require applicants to pay for the cost of the nursing home with their savings, and perhaps require the sale of the family home.

A common misconception is that if proper planning has not occurred by the time a person enters a nursing home; there is no option other than to exhaust his savings. In reality, this is not the case. The opportunity to protect all of the assets may be lost, but by utilizing a strategy known as “Reverse Rule of Halves,” it is possible to protect up to one-half of the applicant’s assets. In order for this strategy to work, it is vital to transfer assets as soon as the person enters the nursing home.

It is also important to note that there are a few exceptions to transfers made during the look-back period. Transfers made within the look back period to a spouse or disabled child do not result in a penalty period. Furthermore, an applicant can transfer his home to a “caretaker” child. This exception applies only in a situation where a child of the applicant has been residing with the applicant in the applicant’s home for at least two years. In this situation, the applicant can transfer the home to the “caretaker” child while, retaining a life estate.

Fortunately, the eligibility requirements for Community-based Medicaid, where a home health aide is provided, are more lenient than nursing home based applications. Most importantly, there is not a look-back period on assets transfers. Hence, an applicant for Community Medicaid may transfer assets for the purposes of qualifying without the imposition of a penalty period. Therefore, an applicant can transfer assets to anyone in March and be eligible for Community Medicaid in April.

A big concern with community based applications is the “spenddown” requirement imposed on income over $767.00 per month. Any income over this amount must be “spent down” on the cost of care and Medicaid will pay for the remaining cost. For example, if an applicant receives Social Security benefits and a pension totaling $2,500 per month, he is allowed to keep only $767.00 per month. He is required to contribute the difference of $1,733 per month to the cost of the home care aide. If the aide costs more than $1,733 per month, Medicaid will pick up the difference. However, with proper planning and the use of a Pooled Income Trust, it is possible to protect 100% of the applicant’s income and he will not have to contribute to the cost of the home care aide. Therefore, by utilizing a Pooled Income Trust, Medicaid will pay for the entire cost of the home care aide.

Overall, the Deficit Reduction Act makes it more difficult for those in need to qualify for Medicaid benefits. The new provisions are complex and can be difficult to navigate. With these changes, it is even more important for the protection of your family to have a plan in place.

Taking time to speak with an Elder Law attorney can help to devise a plan that will insure that your loved ones receive the necessary care they need, while at the same time protecting their income and assets for their use.

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Client Case Study: Be Organized, or else

A few months ago, I met with a client who wished to update his Last Will and Testament and learn how to protect his assets against the cost of Long Term Care. He was widowed, had a partner of 10 years and two children from his previous marriage. He was 85 years old. His assets included his primary residence and modest savings, mostly in the form of CD’s.

He wished to leave his assets to his partner and one of his daughters – disinheriting the other daughter. Because of this – and because he wanted to protect his assets – I suggested that he create an Irrevocable Trust. This would help protect his assets in case he had to be placed in a nursing home or require the assistance of a home health aide. More importantly, perhaps, it would allow his estate to avoid the probate process – especially important when disinheriting a child.

Probate is the process of proving the validity of the will and administering the estate. During this process, all children are asked to be involved by consenting to the appointment of the named Executor – including those who are disinherited. Because he wanted to disinherit a child, I thought that the probate process could be difficult for his partner and other daughter.

He decided to take my advise and create a Trust and then transfer his assets to the trust, including the deed to the house. We began the process by drafting and executing the Trust agreement. Unfortunately, he could not find the deed to his house. He took more time to try and locate the deed, but to no avail could not locate it. We eventually found the deed with the assistance of a Title company.

Unfortunately, before we had time to draft and sign the deed, my client passed away. The house, therefore, was not owned by the Trust. Accordingly, the house would pass through the Will, forcing probate. Because the Will states that one of his daughter is not to inherit, we expect there to be a contested proceeding.

It is all too common for individuals not to know exactly where their important documents are located. Whether they be Wills and Trusts, Powers of Attorney and Health Care Proxies, Deeds and Health Insurance information, or a list of bank accounts, it is important that you be organized and know where everything is located so that when the time, comes there are not unnecessary delays that cause unnecessary problems.