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The Keys to Staying Mentally Sharp

Age comes with wisdom. Unfortunately, it also comes with some forgetfulness. Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep the brain sharp, small daily habits which can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Exercise is one such daily habit. It increases blood flow, and thus oxygen to the brain; it also protects brain cells against destructive chemicals in the environment. Exercise also supports the production of new brain cells. Furthermore, research in the 2000s showed a relationship between cardiovascular risk factors and Alzheimer’s. Anything which can impair blood flow can cause strokes leading to cognitive decline, otherwise known as vascular dementia. The same activities that one would consider as beneficial to the heart, such as regular exercise, can therefore also be effective in protecting the brain. And, of course, there are other benefits to exercising regularly: it helps with energy levels, decreases anxiety and depression, and can help with sleep.

Sleep is another factor in maintaining a healthy mind. But as many as half of adults 60 and older are affected by insomnia, which can result in memory loss, depression, and other symptoms. It’s important, then, to pay attention to sleep hygiene and sleep schedules to ensure sufficient duration and quality. If it takes more than 45 minutes to fall asleep, or you have trouble staying asleep, it may be worth looking into treatment.

Eating well is another way to protect the mind. It’s important to ensure you’re getting enough vitamins A, B, C, D, E, folic acid and niacin. The USDA and the HHS describe two eating plans: the USDA food patterns or the DASH Eating Plan. Foods like nuts, fish, and wine have also been linked to a healthy brain.

Art, music, reading, writing, learning, and puzzles… these are also good for keeping the brain sharp. Art has been used as an Alzheimer’s treatment and to restore memory, and arts maintain and improve dexterity and fine motor skills! Adult coloring books have become popular in recent years and can be found in many stores and online; watercolors and pastels are also relaxing.  Meanwhile, music has been linked to improved memory and cognition, and can both elevate your mood and lower blood pressure. Learning and intellectual challenges like puzzles exercise the brain and improve its capacity. Mental exercise is thought to maintain and stimulate brain cells. This includes the pursuit of a hobby, learning new skills, using brain training apps, or taking on other new kinds of projects at work.

Read more at:

If you or a loved one live in the Reno, Nevada area and need help in establishing a long-term care plan, contact the Schulze Law Group by sending us a message here, or calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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Powers of Attorney: A solution or a problem?

A durable power of attorney is one of the most important estate planning documents you can have.  It allows someone who you appoint (your agent) to make decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated. If you have not appointed an agent then your friends and family may not have the authority to make decisions on your behalf. In that case, a judge may have to appoint someone for this task, which can require a court process that is expensive and tedious. 

While a durable power of attorney (POA) is one of the most common estate planning documents, it is also one of the most misunderstood. This article will break down some of the common misconceptions regarding POAs and help you understand what you need to create a valid POA.

Misconception:Technology is so great now, there is no need to speak with an attorney, I can just create my own POA online. 

Truth: POAs are not one-size-fits-all. Each person’s situation is unique.  If you use a cookie cutter program it may not cover specific transactions.  In order to conduct many financial transactions specific language must be used to grant proper authority.  Elder law attorneys create these documents regularly which gives them valuable experience in unique situations and can make sure you have all your bases covered. 

Misconception:POAs are one-and-done documents. Once I create it I will never have to touch it again.

Truth: POAs are documents that should be updated regularly. Laws change and if you have not regularly updated your documents you may find out too late that your POA is not valid. Further, some financial institutions may not accept a POA that was not updated in the last few years for fear of a lawsuit. 

Misconception: I shouldn’t make my POA active until I become incompetent (a “springing” POA).

Truth: While the timing of granting agency through a POA is a matter of personal preference an immediately effective POA should be considered.  A springing POA usually requires a finding of incompetency by at least one doctor and sometimes two.  However, there may be an emergency where a doctor will not sign off that you are incompetent. Making your POA effective immediately removes the need for a doctor to declare you incompetent.  

Misconception: I don’t need a POA, I’m young and healthy, plus I don’t have many assets.

Truth: Every single person over the age of 18 should have a POA. You never know when something catastrophic may happen.  You need to have a plan in place to take care of you in the event you become incapacitated unexpectedly.  If you do not have these documents in place then you have no control who will be making decisions on your behalf.  It can be expensive and time consuming for your loved ones to go through the court to have one of them appointed by a judge.  POAs are absolutely essential documents that everyone should have. It is important to consult an elder law attorney who can examine your unique situation to create your POA and to keep it updated. Please do not hesitate to contact our office if you would like to speak with an attorney about creating your own POA.

Elder Law

Living Trusts Can Help Seniors

It’s an unfortunate fact that seniors can be prime targets for financial abuse and scams. Sadly, the elderly are often taken advantage of by strangers — and sometimes even their own family members. That’s why it’s important that planning is in place to help seniors protect themselves and their assets.

As we age, it can become increasingly difficult to manage our assets. Most of us will, at some point, need assistance with these details to help ensure that our financial and other assets aren’t depleted. If you or an aging loved one are looking for ways to safeguard assets, a Living Trust is often the best way to do so. Living Trusts allow seniors to rest assured that their finances and assets are managed by a trusted person.

What is a Living Trust?

Living Trusts help to protect and manage the assets of those who cannot do so themselves due to age, illness, or disability. Many seniors assume that a will is the only protection they need. However, trusts are designed to safeguard the assets of the living, while Wills only outline what happens to a person’s assets when they pass away. Furthermore, wills must go before a probate court and taxes must be paid on inheritances, while Living Trusts allow beneficiaries to avoid probate after their loved one’s passing.

To establish a Living Trust the owner, or grantor places assets within the trust. The grantor then appoints a trustee to manage it and names beneficiaries to receive the assets of the trust when the time comes.

There are different types of Living Trusts. Let’s take a look at each and the ways these trusts can benefit seniors.

Testamentary Trust

A Testamentary Trust protects an elderly person’s assets when a spouse dies. Assets of the deceased are transferred into a trust — enabling the appointed trustee to make all financial decisions regarding those assets. This helps a surviving spouse by protecting him or her from fraud or mismanagement of assets. Trustees can help the surviving senior generate income from remaining assets via sales or investments and take advantage of tax benefits.

Revocable Living Trusts

A Revocable Living Trust safeguards seniors by making it more difficult for non-trustee family members to mismanage money or assets. The grantor (senior) can amend or revoke the trust at his or her own discretion without the consent of the beneficiary. This type of trust allows the grantor to stay in control of assets by either serving as a trustee or appointing one. In this case, the grantor, serving as trustee and beneficiary of the trust, appoints a successor in the event he or she becomes incapacitated or dies. This appointed person is then responsible for disposal of the trust’s assets.

Irrevocable Living Trusts

An Irrevocable Living Trust is one that cannot be changed or revoked by the trust maker. This means that the grantor/trust maker gives up his or her rights to the assets once they are transferred. Seniors over 65 who are eligible for Medicaid often choose to transfer assets into an Irrevocable Living Trust to avoid having to dispose of assets in order to remain eligible for Medicaid coverage or long-term care benefits.  Once assets are in an irrevocable trust, they cannot be counted for Medicaid eligibility purposes, but there could be a penalty for transferring assets to an irrevocable trust.

An elder law attorney can assist in determining the best way to set up this type of trust and how to best transfer assets based on Medicaid stipulations. An Irrevocable Living Trust can provide income for seniors and their spouses. It also protects their property and other assets from being seized to pay for medical costs, without impacting Medicaid eligibility. This type of trust can also remain in place for a surviving spouse after the grantor’s death.

The sooner assets are placed in an Irrevocable Living Trust the better, as a penalty will be assessed by Medicaid during the first 5 years the trust is in existence (if Medicaid is required during that time).

Ultimately, Living Trusts give seniors more control over their assets than a will, allowing them to set parameters and stipulations and appoint a trusted advisor to help them make decisions.

If you or your loved one would like more information about setting up a Living Trust, we can help.

Contact our firm today to discuss how we can tailor a trust to your specific situation and needs. Or give us a call directly at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law, Elder Living, Healthcare

Lawmakers Discuss the Future of Healthcare

In June, Washington, D.C. political publication, The Hill hosted a Future of Healthcare Summit to address critical issues in healthcare, from the Medicare for All proposals made by Democratic presidential hopefuls to the opioid crisis. Speakers included policymakers, health officials, and industry leaders, on both sides of the aisle.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), for example, took a critical stance on the idea of Medicare for All at the summit. His statements are summarized here. His concerns are practical; “We can’t even pay for Medicare for some,” he said, referring to an earlier report that Medicare will exceed its hospital insurance fund by 2026. Manchin, accordingly, prefers to fix the Affordable Care Act rather than create an entirely new system.

Another issue discussed at the summit was that of data security. As health care becomes increasingly digitized, the risk to people’s privacy rises, as evidenced by recent data breaches. Lawmakers are responding to these breaches, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) by reaching out to health care groups for input on strategies to improve cybersecurity, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) by introducing the Protecting Personal Health Data Act. Read more about this here.

High-cost drugs are another upcoming issue in the health care world, discussed in this The Hill article. Innovative cures may merit a high price, but some companies are asking such massive sums for potentially life-saving solutions that they are inaccessible to the people who need them. Accordingly, lawmakers are trying to come up with solutions to make these drugs more affordable, such as Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has considered allowing Medicaid to pay for drugs over time.

In the same vein, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY.) called for the cost of insulin to be lowered in an op-ed in The Hill, available here; he notes that insulin prices have doubled in the last seven years, and tripled in the decade prior, that out-of-pocket insulin costs can exceed $300 a vial, and that patients are often racking up debt or skipping doses with serious health consequences. Reed is pushing for transparency from insulin manufacturers and has introduced the SPIKE Act, which would require justification for price hikes. Likewise, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) has expressed his concern in a recent op-ed about the prices for drugs which treat cancer and is also pushing for transparency to lower costs.

Meanwhile, Reps. David Trone (D-Md.) and Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) wrote into The Hill, responding to issues of addiction raised at the conference. Trone drew attention back to the opioid crisis and its ongoing effects and described the steps being taken to combat it. Norcross called for enforcement of the 2008 requirement that insurance cover mental health and substance-use disorders to the same extent physical ailments are covered, and for continued funding and new strategies to deal with substance abuse.

Finally, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) criticized the Trump administration as “sabotaging our health system” by destabilizing the health care market and creating difficulties in accessing it. She cites specific efforts the administration has made to reduce access, including supporting attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Baldwin has responded by supporting the ENROLL Act to restore funding for the Navigator, which had previously been reduced by the Trump administration and by introducing the No Junk Plans Act to reel back the administration’s expansion of junk insurance plans.

From data security to drug prices, The Hill’s Future of Healthcare Summit covered a lot of ground. These issues in health care and the responses proposed to solve them continue to develop.

The Schulze Law Group can help you or a loved one create a thorough medical plan for the later years in your life. If you live in the Reno, Nevada area, and you have any questions, please give us a call at (775) 853-5700, or click here to message us through our website.

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Drug Abuse is on the Rise for Seniors

Many seniors are from a generation that, on the whole, still scorn drug abuse and stigmatize those people who engage in such activities. However, as the baby boomer numbers increase in senior living environments, they bring with them a more freewheeling attitude about drug use and misuse rooted in the culture of the 1960s and onward. Many of the senior baby boomers have experienced illegal drugs first hand, and because of a sense of nostalgia, their views may be more tolerant to the overuse or abuse of drugs.

The opioid epidemic in America is now firmly rooted in the senior population. Statistics indicate that opioid addiction has been growing as fast or even faster among seniors compared to other age groups. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates 115 Americans die every day from overdosing on opioids and according to 2014 report by the government Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the rate of hospitalization for opioid overuse among those people 65 and older has increased over five-fold since 1993 and continues to worsen.

The crisis has grown mainly from doctors prescribing opioids like OxyContin much more frequently beginning in the mid-1990s under guidelines and assurances from pharmaceutical companies that opioid pain relievers were not as addictive as previously reported. However, this opioid class of drug is highly addictive, and many patients prescribed the medication end up abusing their prescriptions. Based on controversial research in 2009, the American Geriatric Society (AGS) announced that they were in favor of prescribing opioids, asking doctors to consider opioids for any senior with moderate or severe pain. Since seniors often have multiple chronic pain conditions, it is easy to see how addiction rates can skyrocket among the senior population. But, it is more than just opioids.

According to the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal, of the 63% of senior study participants who had an alcoholic drink over the course of one month, 13% had engaged in binge drinking, which is defined as having five or more drinks in a single session of imbibing. Bars and pubs are becoming one of the new normal amenities in life plan communities, and it can put seniors at significant risk. Stumbling and falling after having too much to drink or driving a small golf cart while impaired can have disastrous consequences. There is also a danger of mixing prescription medications with alcohol, which can be fatal.

Beyond opioids and alcohol, there is marijuana. As more and more states legalize medicinal (and recreational) marijuana and provide them in edible forms, more seniors are turning to pot as a painkiller and anti-nausea treatment. Contrary to what many believe it is not harmless, especially in a geriatric patient. The strains of marijuana available are potent and can create confusion, delirium, and even psychotic episodes in seniors and their interactions with legally prescribed medications are often hard to assess.

Professional staff in the aging services industry are trained to look for signs of drug misuse and abuse. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is now recommending doctors to opt for short-term, fast-acting medications instead of long-lasting drugs and prescriptions.  But seniors who experience multiple, chronic pains may find this means they take more pills as their conditions are usually degenerative.

The best way to solve the problem is through education. As a senior, one should be aware of their medications and the proper doses to take. Encourage each doctor to prescribe the lowest necessary dose and look to alternative options to address pain. Never exceed the recommended dose as prescribed and follow the instructions given by the doctor.  Do not take prescription medication with alcohol. If a senior is having trouble understanding their medications or gets confused with the dosage, encourage them to talk to a trusted family member. Consider drafting a medical power of attorney document that will allow someone the senior trusts to be their advocate for a safe and happy senior life.

Call our office today at (775) 853-6700 to schedule a consultation, or click here now to send us a message! Let’s discuss how we can help you with your planning.

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Why You Should Be a Tech-Savvy Senior

Although the “digital divide” is closing, there are still many senior citizens who remain apprehensive about jumping into technology use. However, technology can be a very useful tool in the hands of seniors. Let’s discuss the benefits of becoming a tech-savvy senior.

Social Connections

Technology is an excellent way to maintain social connections, even when seniors may not be able to get out and about. Social media is an excellent way to keep in contact with family and friends. Many seniors are finding their way to online social media sites like Facebook. Family and friends can share photos and videos and send messages. Texting is another excellent way to stay connected to family and friends. In fact, many grandparents are realizing that if they want to communicate more with their grandchildren, they must learn to embrace texting. Another excellent way to preserve social connections is to use video communication like FaceTime and Skype. These allow the senior to see the person while talking to them.

Safety

Technology provides many options for the safety of senior citizens. Medical alert technology helps seniors in trouble to access the help they need in the event of an accident, such as a fall. Of course, security systems provide safety for seniors against break-ins and home invasions.  Apps that provide medication reminders can be very beneficial to seniors. For example, if a senior has an app to remind them to take medication, they do not run as much risk of forgetting to take the medication or forgetting they have taken the medication and overdosing himself or herself. Technology that provides safety for seniors helps them maintain their independence.

Convenience

Technology can make tasks easier for senior citizens. Let’s take, for example, online grocery shopping services. These services allow seniors to order groceries and household needs online. Then the senior can go to the store, pull into the designated area, and the groceries are brought right to their car and loaded for them. This cuts down on the amount of lifting and can help those who have mobility issues. Online shopping is another use of technology that brings more convenience to the lives of seniors. Many seniors are unable to get out and about or just prefer to avoid crowds on the road and in stores. For this reason, online shopping can be very appealing and convenient.

Exercise

Technology is a useful tool for seniors who want to stay active. Devices like the Fitbit or other step trackers can motivate seniors to get up and get moving. There are also a number of apps for cell phones and iPads or other tablets that provide seniors with exercise programs and tracking. In addition, the internet also offers many programs to help seniors get exercise.

Entertainment

Technology provides entertainment for people of all ages, including senior citizens. Services provide access to movies and music. Devices have apps for many kinds of games that seniors can play. Many of these activities can be done virtually with friends and family as well. Kindles and other e-readers can make books more readily available to senior citizens. Many books are available in electronic format for free through libraries and others are available to buy online. The print is adjustable which helps with poor eyesight. Not only do many of the apps provide entertainment, but they can also keep the minds of seniors sharp. Crossword, Sudoku, and other puzzle and brain games can be entertaining and keep seniors’ minds alert.

Seniors should not be afraid of technology. It can make life easier, more convenient, and more fun. Seniors can find new ways to keep up with busy family and friends. If technology makes you or a senior you love apprehensive, look for free classes at your local library, senior center, or through community education.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us for a consultation.

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Giving Gifts While on Medicaid Can Be Risky

Mabel’s children were concerned that Mabel would need long-term nursing-home care in the near future. It was the holidays, and Mabel always got a lot of joy out of generosity. But her children had heard that people in Mabel’s circumstances should not give gifts.

The concern is real. For Medicaid to cover the huge expense of nursing-home care, Mabel would have to show that she owned nothing more than around $2,000. And she must also show that she had not given away money or assets over the prior five years (2.5 years in California). That Medicaid rule – the “look-back period” or the “transfer penalty” – would charge Mabel dearly for her generosity. Depending on the size and number of gifts, the penalty could be substantial.

Many wrongly think that there is no penalty for gifts of up to around $15,000 annually. That misunderstanding confuses tax law with Medicaid law (and it also misstates tax law, but that’s another subject). The Medicaid rules are entirely different from the tax rules. In the Medicaid context, gifts of any amount that are given during the look-back period can be penalized.

There are exceptions. These include gifts to spouses and siblings under certain circumstances, disabled children, and children who are caregivers and who live at home with the elder for a span of time. But overall, gifts and Medicaid do not go together. The Medicaid rules are complicated and the consequences for mistakes can be very costly. There are a number of options to protect assets and still qualify for benefits, but these options must be weighed with great care. This is why it’s best to consult attorneys who, like us, are qualified by experience and expertise in Medicaid law.

There is one harmless deception Mabel’s children might consider, to keep Mabel happy and still satisfy the Medicaid rules. The children might help Mabel fill out checks for all the gifts she’d like to give, together with a greeting card for each gift. Everybody could thank Mabel, tear up the check later, and tell her what they “bought” with that amount. It may be that that little device would be worth it, so Mabel could enjoy the holidays too.

Otherwise, the sooner you consult a qualified elder law attorney, the more other options may be available. If we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a consultation.

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How Seniors Can Give Care When They Need it Too

When Jeanette’s mother was hospitalized, Jeanette’s father begged her, with tears in his eyes, to take care of mother if he ever couldn’t. Of course, Jeanette said “yes.”

Years later, when Jeanette’s father had gone and mother’s hearing and eyesight failed, she could no longer drive, and she had fallen several times, Jeanette remembered that promise.

Jeanette’s first step in keeping that promise is to make sure that if mother hasn’t already done so, she should visit us, your friendly elder-law counselors. We will check to see that mother has done the financial planning and powers of attorney that every adult needs, especially older adults, particularly those in mother’s situation.

As Jeanette keeps her promise, she will join a community of millions who are taking care of aging parents. The challenge is enormous. Caregivers can feel the loss of freedom keenly.

Family emotional issues left unaddressed for years, may re-emerge. Jeanette might be spending money she’s not sure she has. She can’t sleep for worry. She is wrestling with the demands of caregiving, at the same time she’s striving to meet commitments to her own family and workplace. Her or another family member’s health can act up. Time off from work is harder and harder to come by, yet she may face daily demands and frequent emergencies.

The great numbers of people in Jeanette’s situation pose a substantial public-health issue. Congress has recently passed the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, to establish a national strategy to provide assistance to so many of us.

It’s very important that caregivers also take care of themselves. Time-honored flight attendants’ advice is good here, too: Put on your own oxygen mask first. For advice on self-care and how to manage caregiver stress, visit the Mayo Clinic website, here.

Then, take full advantage of the numerous resources listed below. Remember:

Keep the home fires burning – but don’t you burn out yourself.

Area Agencies on Aging

This is a national association of nonprofit agencies serving as a clearinghouse for information on public long-term support and benefits. Services include elder transportation, emergency assistance, respite care (temporary supervision of the elder to provide rest for the caregiver), individual counseling and support groups, and caregiver education classes and training.

Caregiver Action Network

This website provides advice organized by the stage of the process the caregiver is in, helpful care checklists, and advice on cost management and juggling work and family obligations with caregiving responsibilities.

Caregiving.com

Here find podcasts, a story-telling project, a directory of caregiving consultants, an extensive free webinar library covering numerous topics including “decision fatigue,” plain old fatigue, boundary-setting, respite care, and many others.

Family Caregiving Alliance

This is the first community-based nonprofit in the country to address the needs of families and friends providing long-term care for loved ones at home. The site provides information, support, and resources state-by-state, as well as sponsoring research initiatives for caregiver programs and policies.

National Alliance for Caregiving

This site provides a long list of resources, including government programs for family caregivers, care locators, caregiving calendar to coordinate group volunteer efforts, financial information, and organizations that address caregiving for specific conditions like cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Parenting Our Parents

Peer-to-peer networking, family coaching, videos, and website compendiums.

If you have questions on anything you have read or would like additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation.

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Medicaid and Planning for When Your Ill Spouse Leaves Home

You may see it coming: Much as you want to and hard as you try, you just can’t take care of your ill spouse at home anymore. At this emotionally difficult time, the last thing you need is the stress of not knowing where to find the money to pay for the steep costs of institutional care.

Advance planning is a must. As as soon as you can – ideally at least five years before serious health problems arise – take advantage of many elder attorneys’ willingness to talk with you for free, or for a modest initial-consultation charge.

We are here to help you navigate the complexities of the Medicaid program. This is a governmental fund available to meet the staggering expense of institutional care, but the ins and outs of the qualification rules are complicated and mistakes can be costly. Here’s a thumbnail to help you grasp what your attorney will be telling you.

The Difference Between Resources and Income

Medicaid assistance is available only to those who own very little. The Medicaid rules determine what “owning very little” actually means. A person can only own around $2,000.00 of what Medicaid calls “resources.”

Resources include cash in the bank, CDs, the cash value of insurance policies, investments, and the like. Income includes regular paychecks, Social Security, or payments received for child support. Both income and resources are potentially “counted” by Medicaid as “available.” To qualify for assistance, available income and resources must be carefully spent or transferred away.

Exempt Resources

Some resources are not counted or, in other words, are exempt. This means the Medicaid rules exclude them from adding up to the $2,000.00 limit. These resources are sheltered from Medicaid’s requirement that the applicant must spend down almost everything before assistance will be available.

A married couple’s residence, one motor vehicle, household goods and furnishings, medical equipment, jewelry, and other items are exempt. This means that an ill spouse can still qualify for Medicaid assistance even if the couple owns those resources. There’s no need to give them away or sell them to qualify.

The distinction between “exempt” and “non-exempt” assets can be tricky, though, and should first be assessed by a qualified elder-law attorney before any action is taken.

What the Well Spouse Can Keep

The Medicaid rules permit a spouse who remains at home to keep a portion of the couple’s resources. This is known as the “community spouse resource allowance” (CSRA). Of course, you’d like to see the healthy spouse keep as much as possible within the CSRA limits. Planning can arrange the distribution of resources to make that happen.

Here is where the difference matters between “resources” and “income.” Medicaid distinguishes between the healthy spouse’s income and the couple’s resources. Resources over the CSRA limit must be spent down or carefully transferred. As to income, the healthy spouse can keep it up to a certain level, so he or she will have enough money to live on. The Medicaid rules call this the “monthly maintenance needs allowance” (MMNA).

For example, if the healthy spouse gets Social Security benefits of only $500.00 a month, but her allowed MMNA is as high as $2,000.00, it makes sense to convert some of the couple’s resources into raising her income up to the MMNA limit. This is not a simple matter, though, and should be done only on the advice of a qualified elder-law attorney.

Planning for Medicaid eligibility can be complicated. Please consult an elder-law attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you plan, the more strategies are available to protect your resources. An initial consultation with a qualified elder-law attorney, for free or for a modest amount, could save you many thousands of dollars.

Don’t delay. If you’re in need of a long-term care plan, or maybe you’ve started and don’t quite know what to do next, contact our office for a consultation today.

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Medicare Launches App to Help Beneficiaries Find Out What’s Covered

At the doctor’s office and want to know if a procedure is covered by Medicare? There is an app for that. Medicare has launched a free app that gives beneficiaries a quick way to see whether the program covers a specific medical item or service. 

The “What’s Covered” app allows you to search or browse to learn what’s covered and not covered under Medicare Parts A and B, how and when to get covered benefits, basic cost information and other eligibility details. You can also see a list of covered preventive services.  The app does not give results for extra benefits that Medicare Advantage plans may cover but that Original Medicare does not, such as certain vision, hearing or dental benefits. 

Examples of the types of questions the app can answer include:

               When are mammograms covered?

               Is home health care covered?

               Will Medicare pay for diabetes supplies?

               Can I get a regular cervical cancer screening?

               Will my Medicare benefits cover a service to help me stop smoking?

Although the app provides beneficiaries with basic information, it doesn’t provide personalized information. It doesn’t ask details about each user’s specific insurance information, so it doesn’t take into account the user’s supplemental insurance, co-insurance, and deductibles. Essentially, the app provides another way for Medicare beneficiaries to get the same information that is available online and in the Medicare handbook.

The app is part of an initiative by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) focused on modernizing Medicare and empowering beneficiaries. Other initiatives include:

  • Enhanced interactive online decision support to help beneficiaries better understand and evaluate the coverage options and costs of original Medicare compared to Medicare Advantage plans.
  • New price transparency tools that let consumers compare the national average costs of certain procedures between settings, so people can see what they’ll pay for procedures done in a hospital outpatient department versus an ambulatory surgical center. 
  • A new webchat option in the Medicare Plan Finder.  
  • New easy-to-use surveys across Medicare.gov so consumers can tell CMS what they want.

To get the new “What’s Covered” app, go here: https://www.medicare.gov/blog/whats-covered-mobile-app.