Although Medicaid is a national program, it is administered by each state. The rules and regulations are complicated and constantly changing (as evidence by the Deficit Reduction Act). Also, the rules often widely vary from state to state. So, its no wonder there are so many myths and misunderstandings surrounding the Medicaid program. This month, we will take a look at some of the common misconceptions we frequently hear about Medicaid.
"My mother heard about someone who..."
All too often, we meet people who have heard horror stories from well-meaning friends or family members. These stories are often filled with inaccuracies and half-truths that frighten people into making some very bad decisions - such as spending every last dime on nursing home care before turning to Medicaid for help.
Similar stories have also prompted people to assume that what supposedly worked for a friend, will work for them as well. So, they may for example, give their home or all their assets to a child with the hope that they will immediately qualify for Medicaid benefits. Unfortunately, they soon learn the heard truth that all of these transfers have caused them to be unable to receive benefits for months of even years.
This is why it is important to contact an attorney who specializes in elder law. With a clear picture of your specific situation, an elder law attorney can explain the rules that for example, allow a married couple to preserve their assets for the spouse who remains at home.
"My father is already in a nursing home and it is too late to do anything"
While it is true that families sometimes wait longer than they should before taking action, it is rarely too late to begin planning - even if your loved one is already in a nursing home. A good rule of thumb is that the sooner you begin planning, the more effective your planning will be. If you believe a loved one may require nursing home care, you should immediately contact an elder law attorney.
"The Medicaid office will give me the paperwork"
Those who work in the Medicaid office (the Department of Human Services) are dedicated and hard working, yet they cannot offer you legal advice. Nor can they advise you on what legal strategies are best for your specific situation. Medicaid has rules that ensure families won't lose everything. Only an attorney who is familiar with these rules can explain how they can benefit you and your family.
The bottom line: Don't fall victim to the Medicaid myths, seek the help of an elder law attorney who knows the rules of the game.