It’s no secret that resources for government-sponsored programs are dwindling. When it’s a program like Medicaid, where each state is responsible for a portion of their costs, then the budget crunches are even more pronounced.
This article from the Wall Street Journal discusses how the landscape for qualifying for Medicaid is changing, and getting harder. In many states, many of the planning strategies that were once available are going away as state regulators, in charge of administering that state’s Medicaid program, tighten the reins on what kind of techniques are allowable. The articles goes on to discuss how some states are even going after the estates of Medicaid recipients (read: after they’re dead) to recoup some of the money spent in their care.
What I found instructive from this article wasn’t the report on how hard the road is getting. As a New Jersey elder law attorney, I know precisely how the state agency can put the screws to clients (and planners). Instead, I was struck by the tremendous advantage that clients who seek professional help have over those who don’t seek the right counsel.
Many times, I meet with clients who come to our first meeting armed with information (from the Internet, or friends in similar situations). Often that information is just plain wrong, or applicable in a different state. Sometimes people have information that was correct for New Jersey six months ago, but changed at the whine of a county supervisor. Elder law planning is not for people who don’t like change.
It’s said that there are two tax systems. No, not one for the rich and one for the poor — more like, one for the informed and one for the uninformed. The same is true for long-term care expenses.
Only those people who seek out, and heed, competent legal advice will find advantage in a system that does not seek to help them. The State is not in the business of telling you how you can save your money, and qualify for benefits sooner. In fact, it’s in exactly the opposite business. The way you protect yourself is by having an advocate on your side who knows the rules, understands the landscape and is ethically bound to have your best interests in mind.
Posted by Victor Medina, Medina Law Group & The New Jersey Estate Planning Center