What Does an Elder Law Attorney Do?
Elder law attorneys help families plan for long-term health care costs. Studies are consistent in showing fifty percent of people will need some type of long-term care during their life. The type, frequency, and percentage of people who will need long-term care increases significantly for persons over age seventy. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that seventy percent of all people over age sixty-five will face a long-term care event during their lifetime.
How Will These Long-Term Care Costs Be Paid?
The national average annual costs of assisted living amounts to over $40,000, and nursing home costs exceed $80,000. The average costs of a nursing home in Oregon in 2021 is higher than the national average and amounts to $9,551 each month.
After meeting with an elder law attorney, the options available to plan for long-term care costs will become clear.
Long-Term Care Insurance
One option is to begin a long-term care insurance policy. However, these policies are expensive and often do not make sense unless the policy is started when the individual was young and healthy.
Medicaid or Veterans Benefits
Another option is to apply for Medicaid benefits or benefits available through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
Medicaid is a needs-based Federal program enacted in 1065 that pays for both medical and long-term care costs. Each state interprets the Federal law and has their own unique eligibility rules. Before becoming eligible for Medicaid applicants, the individual must apply and is subject to a “means-test” and a “medical test.” Medicaid is a “means-tested” government program, which means that to qualify you must meet strict financial requirements. In Oregon, a single person may retain up to $2,000 of assets to qualify for Medicaid. However, many assets are exempt and are not counted in determining the $2,000 allowance. For example, a person’s home (up to an equity limit of $603,000), personal property, and vehicle are all exempt and are not counted towards the $2,000 allowance.
Although the home may initially be an exempt asset, each state is required to enact an “estate recovery” program. Estate recovery is a federal Medicaid rule that requires each state to recover the Medicaid costs or the bill for the services provided during the Medicaid enrollee’s life. The estate recovery rules allow the state of Oregon to place a lien on the home or any property that is left after the Medicaid enrollee and the enrollee’s spouse (if applicable) pass away.
Oregon is an “expanded estate recovery” state which means that the state of Oregon may reach assets beyond the probate court. Oregon’s rules provide that Medicaid may recover from property in which the Medicaid enrollee had “any interest in” whatsoever.
For United States Veterans and their surviving spouses, there are also long-term care coverage options through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”). The most known VA benefit is the Disability Compensation Benefit, and it is available for Veterans who suffered a service-related injury. The VA will determine the Veteran’s injury and it is rated as a percentage of loss. For example, the VA may confirm that the injury sustained during service resulted in a 50% loss, and the percentage of loss will directly determine the monthly benefits provided by the VA. This is not a “means-tested” benefit, and the VA will not review the applicant’s income and assets to determine if they qualify.
Oregon Estate and Elder Law Can Help
If you or a loved one need help planning for long-term care, call the experienced elder law attorneys at Oregon Estate and Elder Law.