What is Elder Law? Part 2: Medi-Cal Planning
A highly specialized part of Elder Law is Medi-Cal planning. Medi-Cal is California's version of Medicaid. In the context of Elder Law, an attorney can not only help you to qualify for Medi-Cal, but also help you keep your assets upon passing. This ensures your home and life savings are passed to beneficiaries of your choosing, and not the state of California through a Medi-Cal Estate Claim. A lawyer who specializes in Medi-Cal can also assist when a Medi-Cal Estate Claim has already been issued. The state has several legal routes, such as the hardship waiver, that allow qualified beneficiaries to pay less. An Elder Law Attorney can also be of assistance when there is a trust or estate litigation matter that involves a Medi-Cal issue or claim.
Clients most often seek the help of a Medi-Cal attorney when they are faced with large, ongoing medical expenses such as a nursing home or long term care center. While most of us prefer not to think about what will happen when we are much older, the reality is that many elderly people find themselves placed in nursing homes, either to recover from surgery, or receive long term care. Unfortunately, nursing homes have become prohibitively expensive for most Americans, ranging in cost from $2000 to over $6000 per month. In California, Medi-Cal pays for the care of many elderly persons who are receiving long term care. However, two issues arise here. First, the person receiving Medi-Cal benefits must qualify for said benefits. This is extremely difficult as one has to be essentially "broke". Specific requirements and applications can be done through the county you live in. For example, Medi-Cal Contra Costa County and Medi-Cal Alameda County each have websites and service centers devoted to helping citizens gain access to Medi-Cal. They cannot, however, help you qualify for Medi-Cal if you do not already meet the eligibility requirements. This is where a Medi-Cal planning attorney often steps in.
The second issue around Medi-Cal and your finances has to do with the state's claim against your assets. If one does qualify for Medi-Cal, and has taken advantage of their help for long term care, the state of California can recover the money paid out upon their death. This typically means that the state will take a large portion of the beneficiaries' inheritance. In this instance as well, an experienced Elder Law attorney who specializes in Medi-Cal can help the family to rearrange assets to essentially impoverish the person needing care, thereby ensuring their assets will not be taken by the state.
Issues around Medi-Cal are complex and amorphous. Every year a new bill passes before the California legislature regarding Medi-Cal and/or Estate Claims. Coverage under Medi-Cal is also subject to numerous caveats and exceptions, and issues relating to it are constantly coming up in California Politics. The statutes change nearly every year as well, and having a Medi-Cal Planning attorney guide you through this process is essential.
I assist clients with Medi-Cal issues in Contra Costa County and Alameda County. To find an attorney in your county, visit CANHR.