Installment 9 of 10
In Our Series:
“Long Term Care Costs for the Middle Class: 10 Steps to Asset Protection through Medicaid in Illinois, for Middle Class Seniors and Boomers”
Generally the Medicaid application process involves many steps generally described as follows:
- Projecting Medicaid eligibility by categorical reference,
- Establishing eligibility based on resources consisting of both countable assets and exempt assets,
- Determining income eligibility,
- Establishing the treatment of transfers and penalty periods that are result of the Medicaid applicant’s history, and
- Anticipating whatever estate recovery and lien rules there may be and then applying.
There are a myriad of steps that have to be taken to file a Medicaid application. Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) and Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) websites have a list of documentation that applicants are to gather in order to file a proper Medicaid application. For example, 60 months of statements for all accounts, copies of the applicant’s birth certificate, Social Security Card, Medicare Insurance Supplement Card, etc.
The gathering of documents is a long process, and even after the collection, Medicaid eligibility is not definite.
What can help ensure your Medicaid eligibility is making sure that the application is prepared by the right person at the right time.
Who should file the Medicaid application?
You can prepare your own Medicaid application. However, this is not advisable because there are many planning opportunities that you would overlook, and there are many items of information that you may incorrectly provide.
You can also have a nursing home prepare the Medicaid application for you, and some even do this for free. This is not advisable either, unless the family is unable to afford professional help. Although the nursing home employees will try to file the application to the best of their abilities, they will not be well versed in the Medicaid rules the way professionals in our firm are. Rather, a nursing home will fill out a Medicaid application by filling in biographical data, factual information, and attach financial statements and hope for the best. But, they will not do any asset protection planning for the Medicaid applicant because they are prohibited from doing so by law. Only lawyers can do asset protection planning for Medicaid.
Finally, that leaves utilizing the services of a firm that specializes in Medicaid asset protection for seniors who are going into long-term care. Utilization of a firm well versed in Medicaid will likely result in more savings for seniors in the future.
When to file the Medicaid application?
You can prepare a Medicaid application too soon, too late, or right on time.
Preparing a Medicaid application too soon will mean that you will be forced to spend down assets that could otherwise have been saved. It may also mean that you may be filing prior to an expiration of the prior penalty period that will penalize you in your eligibility status.
You can also file for Medicaid too late, which means that you will have lost Medicaid eligibility, you may be out of money, and the facility that you’re looking to either go into, or are already in, will be extremely perturbed that there is no source of payment for them, while they are delivering their worthwhile services.
That leaves the right time to apply for Medicaid application. When is that time? It depends on the facts of the case. If a client is out of money you need to file immediately, however if a client still has money you need to start planning for the Medicaid application filing once the protection of assets is accomplished, or during the asset protection process. This will vary from case to case.
As I indicated above, it is very easy to take the list of items that are required to be included in the Medicaid application, slap them together, and send the application in. If, however, you’re looking for Medicaid eligibility, and you are trying to protect assets at the same time, the process is much more complicated and merits the retention of a law firm that engages in Medicaid asset protection planning for seniors who are going into long-term care.
Please remember that these Medicaid applications are thoroughly audited by DHS, and sometimes the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for DHS, and they have high standards as to what must be included into the Medicaid application and how the information is submitted.
Seek professional help in order to file your Medicaid application.