Lengthening life spans and soaring health care costs are increasing the chances that seniors will need Medicaid to pay for nursing home care.

The 2019 Genworth Cost of Care study found that 10,000 Baby Boomers a day will be added to the ranks of senior citizens (those 65 and older) between now and 2030. The study concluded that 7 out of 10 seniors will require long-term care¹ at some point in their lifetime.

The cost of care at assisted living facilities and nursing homes is outpacing the U.S. inflation rate, according to the study, causing seniors to quickly deplete their savings.It was found that the average cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home in Savannah is $6,007, nearly triple the average senior income. Accordingly, it is not surprising that 72 percent of nursing home residents in Georgia rely on Medicaid, according to a 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation study.

Medicaid

Once the safety net of the poor, Medicaid has quickly become the only option for solidly middle class retirees who have exhausted their insurance and outlived their relatives and resources. With the high likelihood that Medicaid may be in your future, it is prudent to speak to an elder law attorney about your options.

Long-Term Care

It is important to speak to an elder law attorney about long-term care possibilities before you or your spouse require treatment.

  • First, long-term care is often required for an illness or an injury that may render the patient incapable of making decisions about his treatment.
  • Secondly, the stress or immediacy of the illness or injury may limit your capacity for making wise decisions.
  • Finally, Medicaid is a complicated government program that many people misunderstand and you could unknowingly render yourself or your spouse ineligible without proper council.

Speak with an Elder Law Attorney

If you speak with an elder law attorney now while you and your spouse are healthy you can explore all of the possible options based on various scenarios. Depending on the severity of an illness or injury, you may want to consider the much less expensive option of an assisted living facility or home health aide rather than a nursing home. Planning now will allow you to visit different facilities and compare prices, something that may not be possible in a crisis.

Your elder law attorney can also discuss the difference between Medicare and Medicaid, and different long-term care payment strategies including long-term care insurance, reverse mortgages, and Medicaid planning.

As with anything, time always gives you more options. If you think you may need Medicaid in the next five years you need to be very careful about financial decisions. Medicaid has a five-year look-back period and any financial moves that appear to divert your savings to qualify for Medicaid could hurt your eligibility. Something as innocent as taking out a home equity loan or giving a child money to pay for college expenses could result in a penalty.

Strict Income and Asset Limitations

Medicaid has strict income and asset limitations. The maximum allowable income to qualify for Medicaid in Georgia is $2,313 and the maximum asset limit is $2,000 for countable assets. Countable assets include banks accounts, and a second home, but do not generally include a primary residence or vehicle. A spouse that does not require nursing home care is allowed $123,600 in assets as a community spouse resource allowance.

Because everyone’s financial situation is different, it is important to consult with a qualified elder law attorney to determine whether or not you qualify for Medicaid and how you may want to structure your assets to preserve your spouse’s resources without affecting your eligibility.

¹Long term care is the care you may need if you are unable to perform daily activities on your own. That means things like eating, bathing, dressing, transferring and using the bathroom.