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The Heritage Law Center, LLC Blog

Why You Need to Plan for Long-Term Care Expenses

POSTED ON: May 30, 2018

Fact: the majority of people over 65 will need long-term care.
It’s estimated that 70% of people over the age of 65 will require some type of long-term care (LTC) services during their lifetime. That could mean needing assistance with at least a couple of activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, or bathing, and possibly even a higher level of care.

LTC is expensive and the costs continue to go up.
In the Boston area in 2017, approximate costs for assisted living were $5,975/month and $12,120/month for nursing homes. The annual median cost of long-term-care services increased an average of 4.5 percent from 2016 to 2017. Costs are increasing due to higher labor costs and tightened Medicare rules, which cause shorter hospital stays resulting in sicker patients being sent to rehab nursing homes.

Medicare doesn’t cover LTC costs.
Most basic health insurance policies also don’t cover these expenses. Your options are to pay out of pocket, have a separate LTC insurance policy, or hope you qualify for MassHealth (Medicaid in Massachusetts).

It’s possible that your assets will disqualify you for Medicaid.
You have to meet both an income and asset threshold in order to qualify for MassHealth. If you’re married and live with your spouse, both of your incomes and assets count in deciding if you can get MassHealth. The basic rule for MassHealth long-term care eligibility is that if you apply, whether single or married, you can have only $2,000 in countable assets in your name. If your spouse plans to continue living in the community, your spouse is allowed to keep approximately $119,000 in their name. If you apply to MassHealth with more assets than this, you’ll be required to spend down those assets to the applicable limit, usually on healthcare costs.

If you don’t plan for LTC, your assets will be at risk.
Once you need LTC, your options to protect your assets become limited. MassHealth has the right to examine an applicant’s bank and financial records for up to five years immediately prior to the date of application. If they discover a transfer of assets during that period, whether to a trust or to another person, they’ll impose a disqualification period on the applicant’s eligibility.

By planning ahead, we can utilize strategies such as irrevocable trusts, gifting, converting countable assets into exempt assets, legal spend downs, and purchasing annuities and long-term care insurance. We can help arrange your assets to protect them from long-term care costs and qualify you for MassHealth assistance without losing your life’s savings. The sooner you start planning, the more options will be available to you.

Call us today at 617.299.6976 or send an email to mkarr@maheritagelawcenter.com to schedule a confidential, no-cost consultation to discuss how we can help you maximize your legal strategies to protect your assets. We can also help you through the burdensome and often confusing application process for MassHealth benefits.