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Medicaid planning could protect a family's life savings

Aging Florida residents who want to make arrangements for the possibility of long-term nursing care might investigate a process known as Medicaid planning. Medicaid is a government run program for low-income people that could pay for hospital bills, nursing home care, at-home care, prescriptions and other medical expenses. Nationwide, the Medicaid program assists about two-thirds of nursing home residents. Medicaid planning describes the process of qualifying for Medicaid benefits down the road. This generally requires redefining income and assets so that they do not count against Medicaid eligibility.

State laws determine the exact requirements for receiving Medicaid. An application for benefits will direct a caseworker to evaluate a person's income and assets. Some assets will not be counted against a person's eligibility, but some will. A caseworker will also analyze finances going back up to five years in search of money or property that might have been given to someone else. These gifts might count against eligibility because the government could view them as assets that could have been used to pay for medical care. If a caseworker makes this determination, then the person might have to wait longer for benefits.

Legal methods exist that can prepare a family to pass a caseworker's review. Various strategies that involve trusts, Medicaid annuities and other tools allow people to reduce their personal assets enough to qualify for benefits.

Because Medicare does not pay for long-term care, a person might want to explore Medicaid care planning with an attorney. Legal research could inform a person about how to protect assets and qualify for Medicaid if the need to move into a nursing home arises. After evaluating the person's financial situation, an attorney could prepare the documents necessary to transfer assets or create trusts.

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