MEDI-CAL MYTHS: PART I: YOU GOTTA BE BROKE!
Editor’s note: This is the first installment of an occasional series about common misconceptions by consumers about the Medi-Cal Long Term Care program which provides financial assistance in paying for care in a skilled nursing facility.
As many of our clients already know, we regularly assist families who are facing care issues for a family member who may need long term care including advice and assistance in obtaining benefits available under certain Veterans and Medi-Cal programs.
A very common situation that arises when first meeting with families about their planning options is a large amount of wrong information that they have obtained from their friends, the media, the internet, uninformed advisors, and, regrettably, even employees of agencies charged with administering these programs. In this series of reports, we will explore some of the more common myths and misconceptions.
Most people believe that you can only obtain Medi-Cal Long Term Care benefits if you are broke. The root of their belief is Medi-Cal’s requirement that you cannot have assets in excess of $2,000. While that is true, it is not all assets, only what Medi-Cal considers to be “countable” assets.
Countable assets do not include certain common assets such as one home, a car, personal property, jewelry, etc. These items are not a factor because they are considered “exempt.”
Certain other assets can escape the “countable” status depending on their characteristics, such as retirement accounts (e.g. IRAs), annuities and life insurance. With the assistance of an experienced and qualified elder law attorney, lawful strategies can be employed to protect these assets.
Other assets are not “countable” if they are deemed “unavailable”. These include certain assets in which there are joint owners, e.g., a parcel of land owned jointly by the Medi-Cal applicant and his friend. Medi-Cal cannot require the sale of that property due to the presence of the non-applicant on title.
For married couples, there is an extra cushion of protection known as the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA). In 2016, that figure is set at $119,220. This is an amount, in addition to the $2,000 exclusion for the Medi-Cal applicant, that a married couple can have as “countable” assets and still qualify for Medi-Cal. The CSRA requires that only one spouse is qualifying for Medi-Cal.
The above list is far from exhaustive of the various ways that families can lawfully preserve their hard earned assets while applying for Medi-Cal. The best way to ensure that you obtain the best advice about your planning options is to work with an experienced and qualified elder law attorney. While there are other persons out there claiming to have the necessary credentials, unless they are attorneys, they cannot offer all the solutions that are available through an attorney.
In our upcoming reports, we will discuss many other aspects of Medi-Cal Long Term Care benefits planning, including a critical discussion about the Medi-Cal Recovery program, that are important for you to understand to be able to make informed decisions about your family’s future.