Even though no one likes to think about it, aging is an inevitable part of life. Along with it typically comes a gradual – or sometimes sudden – decrease in functionality and independence and increased health care needs. In fact, the Urban Institute and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services estimates a 52 percent chance that the average 65-year-old, whether living in New York or elsewhere, will need some type of long-term care services. Such care is expensive, and without proper Medicaid planning, qualifying to receive benefits can be difficult.

Needs vary a great deal on an individual basis, and the same findings indicate that nearly 15 percent of such individuals will require nursing home or long-term health care services for longer than five years. Some aging individuals expect to be able to rely on Medicare or Medicaid when the time comes, while others hope to have their family in charge of caregiving support. The problems with these approaches are manifold, though.

Even when elderly caregiving is done informally and unpaid by family members, taking over care services almost always becomes a significant drain on household finances. Researchers estimate family members spend over 30 billion hours annually doing so at a cost of $522 billion. On the other hand, Medicare picks up almost no expenses for long-term care.

The Medicaid system that many hope to rely on is a needs-based, means-tested program, meaning that individuals are expected to meet a certain low income and asset threshold before they can qualify for benefits. In effect, this usually means selling off a lifetime of accumulated possessions and assets and spending down any and all savings until near-poverty levels are reached. Families in New York who have an aging loved one may wish to start exploring their options for long-term care preparation as soon as possible to avoid this fate, as an experienced Medicaid planning attorney will likely have the legal knowledge to help reduce the financial stresses that otherwise accompany long-term health care expenses.

Source: startribune.com, “Financial planning needs to include long-term care needs“, Chris Farrell, July 1, 2017