If you or someone you know has needed long-term care or nursing home care, you have probably heard horror stories about Medicaid applications. Unfortunately, reports of how difficult, lengthy, and burdensome applying for long-term care Medicaid are often all too true. Long-term care (nursing home, assisted living, and in-home care) Medicaid has strict financial limits, and requires providing up to five years of financial history. The caseworkers at the county Department of Jobs and Family Services must thoroughly review your case to confirm your eligibility. This takes a tremendous amount of time, which can often result in Medicaid applications taking many months to process. But there are ways to make your case easier to get through.
- Make Your Finances Manageable. Medicaid is permitted to ask for up to five years of bank account and other financial history – that’s 60 months! That could mean having to provide 60 statements for every bank account you have. So, someone who has a checking account and two savings accounts might need to provide 180 monthly statements. This is true whether thousands of dollars are in that account, or there’s been $100 sitting in there untouched for the last five years. Be selective in how many accounts you open and keep them consolidated at one or two banks. You may have heard advice to spread your money around in case a bank fails, but since 2010, the FDIC insures up to $250,000 on deposit per bank.
- Keep Good Records. When the caseworker goes over the hundreds of pages of financial history, they are looking to see how your money has been spent. Has anything been given away? Where did that big deposit in 2019 come from? What did that check for $5,000.00 last March pay for? Keeping good records of your major purchases and expenditures will make it easy to answer questions like that. When paying by check, write a note on the memo line about what you are purchasing. Avoid using cash – cash withdrawals will always catch the eye of the caseworker. If you sell a big item like a car or appliance, write up a receipt (you can find receipt books at any office supply store) and keep a copy. It is also good to set up online access to whatever you can. Just be sure to keep your log-in information up to date! The more information you can provide to the caseworker so they can fill in the gaps will allow them to get your application processed and approved.
- Save Everything. Well, maybe not everything, but anything you get from your bank, insurance company, financial company, etc. Keep anything you get from Social Security, your pension provider, or other income sources. Save your tax returns, car titles, annual life insurance statements, and health insurance coverage notices. If you have a hospital stay, save your admission and discharge records. Keep receipts and invoices for major purchases. To keep everything safe and secure, you can have documents scanned and digitized at an office supply store with copy and print services. You can save them to a USB drive or secure computer to ensure that your records remain private.
- Have Your Personal Papers Ready. Medicaid also requires non-financial verifications. These include a photo ID, Social Security card, proof of citizenship or legal residence (birth certificate, passport, green card), marriage certificate (if married), and health insurance/Medicare cards. If you are missing any of these items, it is a good idea to work on getting replacement copies now. If you named someone as your Power Of Attorney to act on your behalf, you can make photocopies or digital copies for them. It can be difficult or impossible to obtain some of these items once a person has lost capacity or is in poor health, so make sure that you have these items ready just in case.
- Get Help from Professionals. It is one thing to keep track of your checking account and purchases yourself, but what about your 401(k), investments, life insurance, or other managed money? Having a good relationship with a financial advisor or other professional can help you keep track of these assets, as well. Very often a person is applying for Medicaid after using these accounts to pay for care. Having a good connection with your financial managers can make it easy to obtain and provide the five-year history of these accounts, too.
Perhaps most important of all, get help navigating the overwhelming and intimidating world of Medicaid by working with an experienced and knowledgeable Elder Law attorney. They will have the experience to make sure that your case gets handled as smoothly as possible. They can help collect any missing information, review it, and get the right verifications to the caseworker in a way that is clear and easy to understand.