The field of elder law involves helping seniors become prepared for all the eventualities of aging, and of course, as you get older the need for health care generally becomes more pressing. We are all aware of the high cost of medical services, and most people gain some peace of mind from the understanding that they will be qualified for Medicare when they become senior citizens. The fact is that Medicare does not cover everything, so when you are planning for the future it is important to gain an understanding of Medicare and Medi-Cal, which is California’s version of the Medicaid program, what the difference is, and how each respective program can help you.
Medicare is the health insurance program that you pay into throughout your life when you pay payroll taxes. Many people assume that they qualify for Medicare at the same time they qualify for Social Security, but this is actually not the case. If you were born between 1943 and 1954 your full retirement age for Social Security purposes is 66. After this it goes up by two months per year until 1960; those born in 1960 and later become eligible for Social Security on their 67th birthday. Medicare, on the other hand, is available to qualified Americans who reach the age of 65.
Medi-Cal is intended to provide health care to Californians of all ages who cannot afford it. The reason why it is relevant to senior citizens who qualify for Medicare is that Medicare does not cover extended stays in long-term care facilities except for limited short term stays under certain circumstances. So it is possible to “spend down” your resources in an effort to bring your assets within the Medi-Cal limits and have Medi-Cal pay for some or all of your nursing home stay. While the limit is low, certain assets do not count including your home, your vehicle, and your personal possessions.
When you’re preparing for your elder years from a healthcare perspective there is a lot to consider, and some of it is admittedly complex given the intricacies of these programs. The best way to sort it all out and develop a cogent plan is with the assistance of an experienced and qualfied elder law attorney who will evaluate your unique situation and make the appropriate suggestions.
Have questions about one or both programs? Contact us to schedule a consultation!