In other posts on this blog, we have discussed the reasons why people may benefit from purchasing Long Term Care insurance, the various alternatives to this insurance, and the Veteran's Administration benefits that could help you pay for assisted living or nursing home care.
What if none of these options will work for you? Perhaps you cannot afford long term care insurance or poor health prevents you from passing the physical. You may not have served in the military, at least not when a war was going on, so you do not qualify for VA benefits.
In addition, Medicare is not an option because it will only pay for short-term care, such as when you need to spend a few weeks in a rehabilitation facility after you have surgery.
Do not give up on your ability to find affordable long-term care, however. If none of the above programs are an option, there are other choices which can help the low-income elderly pay for permanent care, once they reach a point in their lives when they are declining physically and/or mentally.
First, a significant number of the elderly are eligible for long-term care through Medicaid.
Who is Eligible for Medicaid?
In order to be eligible to receive long-term care and have it paid for by Medicaid, you need to meet these criteria:
- You have to be willing to apply all of your existing assets towards your care. This is usually not an issue for people who have few remaining assets and are approaching the end of their lives.
- You must have a low retirement income, which applies to nearly everyone living solely on the average amount of Social Security. Even if your retirement income is greater than the median Social Security payment, you may still qualify if you have high medical expenses.
- In the case of a married couple, they do NOT need to exhaust all their financial resources in order for one of them to have their long-term care covered by Medicaid. In most cases, the healthy spouse can keep their home and certain other assets, although they may still have to make significant sacrifices in order to contribute to their partner's care.
Medicaid for Ailing EldersMedicaid is designed to be a safety net for Americans who need more care than they can afford to pay for privately. Medicaid can be used to pay for long term nursing home care in all states. In a number of states, Medicaid will also pay for assisted living communities or other options such as in-home care.
In some states, residents can even access Medicaid through a program called PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly). PACE will cover all of the senior's care and medical needs through a single agency. The goal of PACE is to help people who have traditionally been sent to nursing homes to stay at home, with support. You can learn more about that program at www.medicare.gov.
State Medicaid Guidelines
Every state has its own guidelines, requirements and paperwork, so you will need to contact your State Medical Assistance office for more details about how their programs work. Here are two websites that can help you:
- Call 1-800-MEDICARE: www.medicare.gov
- Visit the Medicare and Medicaid Services website www.cms.hhs.gov
Veteran's Aid Can Help Both Veterans and Their Spouses
Don't forget that there are also programs to help Veterans who have served in the military during a time when our country was at war. Many widows and widowers of veterans are not aware that they may also be able to receive benefits to help cover long-term care.
How to Apply for VA Benefits
Like Medicaid, the application process for your VA benefits can be extremely complicated. To get help, you may want to contact a Veteran Services Officer. They are volunteers who are located throughout the United States, and you can find them through organizations like the American Legion, or Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) lodges.
To apply for VA health care or determine eligibility,
- Call (877) 222-VETS: Health Benefits Service Center
- Contact your local Veterans Benefits Office or Medical Facility
- Visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website www1.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp
How to Find the Right Assisted Living or Nursing Home Program
How can you find the right program or facility to take you or your loved one? Where do you start? How can you get help completing the complicated applications necessary in order to get Medicaid or MediCal to pay for your care? There are companies that will help you find an available bed in the appropriate facility and they will often assist with the application process, as well. Here are two well-known companies:
A Place for Mom
California Nursing Home Solutions
(They handle the Medi-Cal Applications, etc. for you)
In addition, you may want to contact nursing homes, assisted living facilities or senior centers in your area and ask if they can help you with the MediCal or Medicaid application process. Many of them can walk you through the process or they can refer you to a specialist who can help you.
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