Looking at Continuing Care Retirement Communities? Look Closely.
December 3, 2010
There are a lot of benefits to Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC’s), also called “Buy-In’s.” These are the places where you put down a substantial sum (maybe $250,000 or more) as an entrance fee, and you plan to stay there for life – they have independent apartments, various levels of assisted living, and skilled nursing (nursing home), all on campus. There is definitely something appealing about the promise of being cared for for life.
But will they really care for you for life? There are some big questions right now about the nursing home units at CCRC’s. For example, when describing the nursing home to you, a potential customer, the sales staff will explain that if you run out of money, they will help you apply for Medicaid. Well, as it turns out, sometimes the CCRC makes you spend down even further than the Medicaid rules do.
For example, for a married couple, if one spouse needs nursing home but the other is still in the community (ex. in her own apartment or in the assisted living), MassHealth rules permit the community spouse to keep about $110,000 to live on. But guess what – before letting the husband move into a MassHealth nursing home bed, the CCRC might make the wife spend her own money down even further than the $110,000, maybe allowing her to keep only $50,000 for herself. And what did they have her spend it on? The husband’s private pay bed in the CCRC nursing home. And how much longer can she last in the community with only $50,000 to her name?
The sales team might also tell you that if a couple really runs out of money, there is a benevolent fund that will help you pay your monthly fees. I’d be a lot more comfortable moving into a CCRC if I saw the balance sheet for that benevolent fund – is there really enough in it for all the residents who might need help? And do they ever really expend from the benevolent fund?
Before committing to a CCRC, do your research. Dig around to make sure that what the sales staff is telling you is true. Two sources of hands-on experience with the nursing home units are going to be (1) local families who have been through the nursing home, and (2) local elder law attorneys who have helped clients navigate the CCRC nursing home experience.
Single Elders Who Will Soon Need MassHealth Nursing Home: Act Fast to Set Aside a Cushion
December 4, 2009
To qualify for MassHealth to pay for nursing home care, a single elder can have only $2,000 in his name. A big problem with allowing such a small reserve fund is that MassHealth doesn’t cover many needed services and medical items – like hearing aids, routine dental care, and eye glasses – and the elder is left with no way to pay for those items himself.
For anyone who will need MassHealth to pay for nursing home care, it is usually a good idea to try to set aside some funds to serve as a cushion to provide those necessary items that MassHealth won’t cover. For single elders, the way to set aside a reserve fund is usually to deposit some amount of money with a “pooled trust.” A pooled trust is a trust fund, operated by a nonprofit organization, that pools together the deposits of its many elder and disabled members in order to streamline costs and maximize interest earned. The staff at the pooled trust keeps a separate running balance of each individual’s deposits. We have four pooled trusts in Massachusetts.
Until now, MassHealth has allowed elders to set aside some funds in a pooled trust to serve as a cushion for those uncovered “extras” that will inevitably be needed during a nursing home stay. MassHealth has permitted this transfer without imposing the usual transfer penalty.
But we just learned that this month, MassHealth plans to close this door and will no longer allow elders to set aside reserve funds in this manner. Therefore, if you are an elder or are caring for an elder who you think will need MassHealth nursing home care soon – whether that be in the next few months or the next year – you should speak with an elder law attorney this week about setting up a pooled trust account. In order to preserve a cushion to sustain a person through a nursing home stay, all of the paperwork for enrolling in the pooled trust must be completed before MassHealth changes the regulation, and they intend to make the change some time this month.
If someone you love will need MassHealth to pay for nursing home care soon, and they would like to set aside a reserve fund to pay for those items and services that MassHealth doesn’t cover, then you need to speak with an elder law attorney now. Time is of the essence.
More Reasons to Write up a Caregiver Contract
November 13, 2009
Paying Your Children to Care for You? Put it in Writing.
August 30, 2009
Always Keep Time & Expense Records When Helping Another
August 6, 2009
So many children, nieces and nephews, and good neighbors pitch in to do heavy lifting for an aging or disabled family member or friend. You may be running errands, cleaning out a basement, doing weekly grocery trips. We do these things on a volunteer basis, usually receiving just reimbursement for purchases made. And when the hours pile up – like cleaning out a house or overseeing home remodeling – elders often insist on paying their helpers for their time.
If you are doing this sort of work for an elder or disabled person, it is imperative that the person you are helping (or you yourself, if she can’t), keep good records of expenses and time spent.
While this may feel wrong to you – afterall, you are doing this work out of kindness, it’s not a business arrangement – a lack of records can spell big trouble for the elder or disabled person later. If they will ever be turning to MassHealth (Medicaid) for care, whether at home, assisted living, or in a nursing home, MassHealth will examine the last 5 years of the applicant’s bank records. She will need to explain – and document – why she was paying you.
Without accurate records and receipts, MassHealth will likely reject the elder’s application. At that point, the only way for her to get the care she needs from MassHealth will be for you to return all the funds she paid you.
While it may feel awkward, do yourself and the person you are helping a favor and keep good time records and all receipts. And carry on with your good work.
What Happens to My Special Needs Child’s Health Care Coverage When She Turns 18?
February 6, 2009
The idea of a special needs kid turning 18 can be scary – that is when she is legally an adult and things start to change. In another post I will address her legal decision-making power. This post looks at health care coverage.
If your child is on your private health insurance policy (i.e., the family plan you have through your employer), the good news is that she should be covered through age 25, so long as she is still your “dependent,” meaning that she receives over one half of her financial support from you. After 25, if she is not employed, you will probably need to look at MassHealth.
On the other hand, if your child has been on MassHealth as a minor, her current coverage will end somewhere between 18 – 22, depending on which program she has been enrolled in. The good news here is that there are several MassHealth programs that she can switch over to as an adult.
A word of warning – there are many different MassHealth programs, and they each of different enrollment criteria. The enrollment process itself is long, tedious, and frustrating. (If you’ve dealt with MassHealth in the past, you already know this.) So if you are planning to enroll your child in MassHealth as an adult, get started on that process early. Record-keeping is critical. Keep all receipts related to medical care and medical purchases (doctor’s visits, prescriptions, equipment, even the little things from the pharmacy).
The Boston Children’s Hospital and the Boston Bar Association wrote a good guide on this topic, see chapter 7 here.
MassHealth (Medicaid) Programs for Kids
February 4, 2009
Some children don’t have private health insurance coverage through their parents, as a matter of fact, lots of kids – one in four Massachusetts children is on MassHealth (Medicaid).
Applying for MassHealth is very confusing – there are several programs, they each have different enrollment criteria, and they provide different levels of coverage. Check out this guide, produced by Children’s Hospital and the Boston Bar Association – chapter 3. Scroll down to page 10 for a good overview of several different MassHealth programs. The guide is written for parents of kids with mental health issues, but the insurance chapter applies to all kids.
Being Paid to Care for Your Parents
January 28, 2009
As their parents have needed increased hands-on care and errand-running, many “Boomers” have been squeezed trying to juggle caring for their parents and performing well at work. Our current economy has produced a mixed blessing for some – lost jobs means time to address their parents’ needs, but without economic security.
One solution is a “caregiver contract.” This is a written agreement between the parents and the adult children, laying out tasks the child will perform and a rate of pay. Set up along with worker’s compensation and the usual payroll deductions, this provides an income stream to the caregiver while giving the parent what most elders want – being cared for by her own family. Only an elder law attorney familiar with the ever-changing rules of Medicaid should draft a caregiver contract, so that it will protect the elder in the event she needs nursing home care in the future. If not done correctly, a caregiving arrangement can result in a later denial of MassHealth nursing home benefits.