Bad News For Seniors and Widows In Particular

28569716It has been called the State Budget Busting Act, the Charity Chilling Act, the Nursing Home Bankruptcy Act, the Boon To Private Insurance Act and many more. This is because the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) of 2005 dramatically impacts various sectors of the economy and society as a whole. Of course, seniors will suffer the most from these new changes. Your elderly clients or friends will find it much more difficult to qualify for Medicaid assistance for nursing home stays, and will be subject to harsher penalties for gifting.

Some of the most alarming changes brought about by the DRA include:

• The waiting period for asset transfers has been increased from three years to five years. If it is determined an asset was transferred (given away) for less than fair market value during the new five year look-back period, a penalty will be assessed, making the applicant ineligible for Medicaid for a number of months, even years. This means a nursing home stay will have to be paid for privately. How many of your elderly clients or friends have the ability to predict the state of their physical and mental health three years from now, let alone five?

• The penalty period for giving assets away now starts at the time the person enters a nursing home and is otherwise eligible rather than at the time of the asset transfer. Obviously, this change can dramatically increase the amount of time an applicant will be ineligible for assistance.
• A cap of $750,000 has now been imposed on the value of an exempt residence, beyond which there will be no exemption for a homestead—the average person’s most valuable and cherished asset.

• If you don’t understand these, you better call me now, since there are other changes just as confusing.

Each of these changes severely compromises the ability of elderly citizens to qualify for nursing home or in-home assistance from Medicaid without losing most, if not all, of their assets. When you look at them all together, it’s all but impossible for seniors to receive the long term care they need without losing everything they have worked a lifetime to achieve. Helping your clients or friends navigate the maze of changes resulting from the DRA requires an attorney who specializes in Medicaid pre-planning and crisis planning.

Thomas R. Mullen
Thomas R. Mullen has been an attorney since 1977 and has devoted his practice exclusively to elderlaw since 1988. He is nationally recognized as one of the foremost experts on Medicaid planning. His additional Practice areas include estate planning and trusts for disabled people, as well as assisting attorneys with Medicaid lien allocations and the Medicare Secondary Payer Act. In the Spring 2013 issue of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) Journal, Attorney Thomas R. Mullen of Quincy, Mass. was described by the Academy’s Massachusetts past president and law professor William J.Brisk as being “a prominent and innovative elderlaw attorney.”