Although we would all prefer to grow old in out own homes without needing help from anyone, the reality is that by the time each of us enters our “Golden Years” we already stand about a 70 percent chance of needing some form of long-term care before we reach the end of our lives. Knowing that, it only makes sense to plan for the possibility within your estate plan. Specifically, you need to be prepared to cover the high cost of long-term care. For many seniors, that means qualifying for Medicaid. To get you started with your planning, a Murfreesboro Medicaid planning attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains 10 things every senior should know about Medicaid in Tennessee.
10 Things to Know about Tennessee Medicaid
- Medicaid programs vary by state. Medicaid is primarily funded by the federal government but is administered by the states. Consequently, both eligibility requirements and benefits available can vary somewhat from one state to another.
- Medicaid may be your only option. At an average cost of over $7,000 per month in Tennessee for 2022, most people cannot afford to cover nursing home care out-of-pocket. Since Medicare does not pay for LTC, Medicaid may be your only option for assistance.
- Medicaid has income and asset limits. Both your income and your assets are considered when applying for Medicaid. As an individual applicant your income cannot exceed $914 per month for regular Medicaid or $2,742 per month for Medicaid waivers or nursing home Medicaid. The value of your countable assets cannot exceed $2,000 for all programs.
- Some assets are exempt. Fortunately, some assets are exempt for Medicaid eligibility purposes, including personal belongings, household furnishings, an automobile, and irrevocable burial trusts. If you have an “intent to return,” your primary residence is exempt up to an equity limit of $688,000 (as of 2023).
- You could be put into Medicaid “spend-down.” If your income exceeds the limit, you may be put into Medicaid “spend-down.” In short, this involves you “spending-down” excess income on medical expenses after which Medicaid will kick in and start helping with healthcare bills.
- Medicaid uses a “look-back” period. When reviewing an application for benefits, Medicaid uses a 60 month “look-back” period. Assets transferred for less than fair market value during the look-back period may be counted against an applicant and Medicaid may impose a waiting period before benefits begin.
- Your spouse will not be left destitute if you need help from Medicaid. Income and assets are treated differently when only one spouse needs long-term care benefits. The Spousal Impoverishment Rules ensure that your “community” spouse will not be left without income and resources.
- You might be able to pay a family caregiver through Medicaid. Through Medicaid waiver or the TN Choices program you may be able to pay a family caregiver who already provides care to you. Not only will this help your family member but it may delay the need for nursing home care.
- Your assets could be at risk after you are gone if you receive Medicaid benefits. The Medicaid Estate Recovery Program (MERP) allows Medicaid to pursue a claim against your estate after your death if Medicaid paid for LTC for you while you were alive.
- You can apply for Medicaid online. Applying for Medicaid is easy! You can apply online anytime by navigating to the TennCare Connect website.
To make sure that you are eligible for Medicaid if you need to pay for long-term care during your retirement years, talk to your estate planning attorney about incorporating a Medicaid planning component into your estate plan now.
Contact a Murfreesboro Medicaid Planning Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding Medicaid for seniors in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro Medicaid planning attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.
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