No one ever believes they will really grow old: that is, until one day it happens. The U.S. Census Bureau has determined that individuals aged 85 and up currently comprise the country’s fastest-growing demographic group, and the 79-million-strong baby boomer generation is waiting in line behind them. Needless to say, Elder Law is on the rise.
How Elder Law Applies
The specific needs to which mature Americans lay claim may seem to apply to them and them alone. Many fear above all:
- That ever-escalating health care costs will lead them down the road to destitution.
- That incapacitation will rob them of the ability to manage their finances, their medical needs and their personal interests.
Surrendering these things to control of the courts is the last thing any self-respecting human being wants. Fortunately, it need not come to that. At San Diego Legacy Law, we know that a properly constructed and coordinated legal and financial plan can help minimize or entirely avoid potential catastrophe. Here’s how.
Dealing with Potential Incapacity
As the passing years mount up, your odds of becoming physically or mentally enfeebled increase. Whether they germinate slowly or appear without warning, certain disabilities result in a complete loss of control over your circumstances. If you have failed to previously appoint qualified people to make your healthcare and living decisions, a court-appointed judge will be making them for you, leaving your fate in the hands of a person who knows nothing about your wants and needs. Proper legal planning can save you from this unthinkable end. It will also cost you less while protecting your privacy and saving your loved ones from hardship.
The Considerable Burden of Long-Term Care
Statistics are telling. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, any single American currently over the age of 65 has a 66 percent chance of needing long-term care at some point in the future. Twenty percent of this group will require it for more than five years.
The average stay in a long-term care facility lasts two and one-half years with the cost of one year alone averaging $90,000. For half of all married couples in which one spouse must undergo long-term care, impoverishment often results. For singles in this situation, as many as seven out of 10 will face financial destitution.
If you think Medicare will save you, think again. It covers only the costs of acute care, and even then, it limits coverage to no more than 100 days with copays kicking in at just under three weeks.
Where long-term care is concerned, Medicare drops the ball entirely. It will not disburse one cent for costs related to chronic health needs. If you should develop Alzheimer’s disease or require daily assistance with such everyday needs as eating, bathing, dressing or using the toilet, you’ll be paying these expenses on your own.
Covering Health Costs Where Medicare Leaves Off
Although Medicare does have its limitations, there are other insurance programs available. The most common include:
- Medigap policies. Although they also fail to deal with long-term care, Medicare supplement policies will sometimes cover the costs of copayments incurred during the 21st through 100th day of acute medical treatment.
- Medicaid. Known as Medi-Cal in California, this program operates on a state-by-state basis with 50 percent federal aid applied to those that adhere to national guidelines. Because it is meant as assistance for low-income individuals, eligibility is sometimes a problem.
- Long-term care insurance. This alternative means of paying for chronic health needs is always a choice for any healthy person who can afford the premiums. With appropriate legal planning, it can often help cover costs during periods of ineligibility for those seeking coverage through Medicaid or Medi-Cal.
While both Medicaid and Medi-Cal are viable alternatives for low-income families, not everyone is in sufficiently dire financial straits to take advantage. Some people will attempt to qualify for Medi-Cal by transferring their assets to family members. Unfortunately, unless they do this at full market value, they are giving a gift, and thanks to Medi-Cal’s complex and confusing set of regulations, the effort may only prolong their period of ineligibility.
Fortunately, proper legal planning can help you to qualify for Medi-Cal while still protecting your assets. By taking care to plan ahead, you can save your family from untold future hardships.
Although it’s something no one wants to imagine, there is always the possibility of someday finding yourself incapacitated and in need of long-term care. Why wait until the unthinkable happens? Contact San Diego Legacy Law and schedule a consultation today.