The recent nationwide debate about whether or not Medicaid should continue to receive funding should have had special resonance for people of retirement age.
Here are 9 things you might not know about Medicaid and your chances of needing it in the future:
1. You Have a High Percentage Chance of Winding Up on Medicaid
About 70% of people who turn age 65 will need some type of long term care in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
However, very few of us are ready to pay for that care. In fact, a full 64% of all nursing home residents are covered by Medicaid.
2. Long Term Care is Even More Expensive than You Think
Genworth found that Americans underestimate the cost of long term care by a full 50%.
Costs vary dramatically nationwide, but Genworth’s study estimates the medical annual cost of long term care to be:
- $92,378 for a nursing home (private room)
- $82,125 for a nursing room (semi-private room)
- $45,760 for homemaker services
- $46,332 for an in home health aide
- $43,539 for assisted living
- $17,680 for adult day care
3. Even Well Prepared Retirees End Up on Medicaid
Long term care costs are so high that it is common for retirees who have hundreds of thousands in retirement savings to spend everything they have left on healthcare and still need Medicaid in the years before they die.
The total costs incurred by an individual will vary depending on the length of time long term care is required.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the bulk of entitlement program spending goes to the middle class. These are not programs that are for the poor. Fifty eight percent of all entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) goes to payments to the middle 60% of the U.S. population.
4. Need for Services Will Double and U.S. Not Prepared to Fund these Costs
As baby boomers retire, record numbers of retirees are expected to require long term care services and also qualify for Medicaid.
The Bipartisan Policy Center says that the number of Americans needing long term support is expected to more than double by 2050. In 2010 there were 12 million needing support. By 2050 that number will be 27 million.
This increased demand for services will completely strain the system. The Bipartisan Policy Center says, “States will not be able to sustain spending for long-term services and supports as baby boomers begin to need these services and supports.”
5. It is Legal to Manipulate Your Finances to Qualify for Medicaid
Qualification for Medicaid varies from state to state.
However, the basics of qualification are fairly universal, you generally qualify for Medicaid when you have run through your assets and have income that is somewhere around less than $2,200 a month. (It is also important to note that neither the value of your home nor your home equity count for qualification.)
To accelerate Medicaid qualification, some retirees work with legal and financial specialists to gift money to family members, purchase annuities, put money into different kinds of trusts and do various other tricks to shield assets from being part of the Medicaid calculations.
Sometimes these strategies need to be deployed years and years ahead of applying for the Medicaid program.
6. Medicaid Planning is a Whole Mini Industry
There are a cadre of lawyers, consultants and advisors who help retirees manipulate their finances so that they can qualify for Medicaid and avoid spending their own money on assisted living or other long term care options.
7. Many Consider it Unethical to Manipulate Finances to Qualify for Medicaid
There is significant debate about whether or not it is ethical to manipulate your own finances to qualify for Medicaid sooner rather than later.
- Those against it say that manipulating finances in order to qualify for Medicaid is akin to fraud.
- Those in favor of say that it is no different from manipulating tax code to minimize payments to the government.
K. Gabriel Heiser is a lawyer and author of ebooks that outline Medicaid planning strategies. He is quoted in the New York Times saying that “he’s heard from colleagues over the years who wanted no part of this work. This confused him, he said in an interview this week, given that many of them handled estate planning for wealthier clients. There, they helped people avoid paying millions to the government, whereas Mr. Heiser’s work merely helps clients get the government to pay a few hundred thousand for care on their behalf.”
8. It Can Be Difficult to Financially Qualify for Many Long Term Care Facilities — With or Without Medicaid
Not every one knows that you must pass a financial assessment to be admitted into many long term care facilities.
These homes want and need to know that you have the financial resources to pay for their services now and well into the future.
And, many many homes do not accept Medicaid at all — the funding from Medicaid does not nearly cover their costs.
9. If You Use Medicaid, Officials May Tap Your Estate After Your Death
Another big secret about Medicaid is that if you received Medicaid, state officials can go after your estate after your death for repayment of services.
What Can You do to Prepare for a Long Term Care Need
Reading this article and understanding all of the various costs associated with healthcare and aging is a good start.
While retirement financial planning may seem overwhelming, there are numerous options for dealing with the seemingly impossibilities of having enough money. Here are a few resources:
Talk with a Financial Advisor: If you are interested in Medicaid planning, you might want to get matched to a financial advisor who can steer you in the right direction.
Create a Solid Retirement Plan: Creating and maintaining a retirement plan is critical to your financial well being. However, many well meaning online tools do not factor in out of pocket healthcare expenses — especially the potentially massive bill for long term care.
The NewRetirement retirement planning calculator is different. You can model different ways of planning for and funding a long term care need.
Start by entering some basic information and get some initial feedback on where you stand. Then you can add a lot more detail and really get an accurate estimate for how much you need and can try an infinite number of scenarios.
What’s your plan for long term care and covering medical expenses in retirement?
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