Thursday, June 23, 2011

Medicaid disparities: children with public insurance wait longer, denied more frequently

It is hard to imagine sick children could be seriously implicated and affected by public insurance disparities...federal law, after all, prohibits discirminatory treatment between patients who receive public vs. private insurance. But what about acceptance into such facilities, before they are patients? 

A new study examining facilities in Illinois claims "Sick children covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) must wait twice as long as youngsters with private insurance to get an appointment with a specialist." (Reuters Health).

According to one of the authors, "this [study] is the first to take a comprehensive look at specialty care in children."

The study tracked actors – female callers posing as mothers – who called specialty clinics for serious conditions afflicting their children.

These “callers” even went so far as to list specific conditions that their children were suffering from, like seizures and diabetes, which presumably these clinics had no reason to doubt the legitimacy of.

Two-thirds (66%) were denied appointments when the caller indicated the child was covered by Medicaid.  On the other hand, the clinics denied about one-tenth (11%) of callers claiming to have private insurance.
It doesn’t end there.  Children supposedly receiving Medicaid-CHIP insurance received a 22 day extra waiting period, on average,  as opposed to when these clinics *thought* the caller had private insurance.  MSNBC reported that the disparity was seen across numerous fields: "The trend was seen across all seven specialties tested -- orthopedics, psychiatry, asthma, neurology, endocrinology, otolaryngology and dermatology."
We've reported on the growing number of young people in nursing homes and the problems that can arise. We noted in our January 10 post, "[that]more than 200,000 people living in such facilities under the age of 65."  Let's hope this study serves as a wake-up call. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans

Good news for veterans!

On April 6, 2011 a new statute was made Virginia law, awarding a real property tax exemption for permanently service-related disabled veterans and their surviving spouses. Originally approved by voters in November 2010, this statute will positively affect an estimated 7,350 disabled veterans living in the state of Virginia, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The exemption applies to the sole dwelling and land (not more than one acre) of the veteran, but not to any vacation homes or rental properties. For most people living in the city or suburbs this will be a sufficient and appreciated break. However, if your locality exempts more than one acre under its tax relief program for the elderly, then veterans will receive this new property tax exemption for the same number of acres as allowed for the elderly.

The application is a fairly simple one-time process that does not need to be re-submitted annually, unless you move or have another change in circumstance. First, you must obtain the required disability documentation from the VA by submitting VA Form 21-4138. Second, after you have received the appropriate paperwork that proves your 100% service-related disability, download the "Disabled Veteran Exemption Application" from your county website and submit to your county’s Department of Tax Administration along with your VA documentation for approval. Lastly, once approved, make sure to alert your mortgage company (if applicable) so that they may adjust your monthly mortgage payment according to this property tax break.

The Farr Law Firm and the Elder Law Institute for Training and Education appreciates the military service of our veterans and are proud to offer a 15% discount on our Level 1 and 2 packages to all active duty, reserve and retired military members. Our Level 1 and 2 packages include incapacity protection planning documents and living trusts, as well as optional add-ons like wills and child protection plans. This is a substantial savings of up to $1000! If you’re a veteran in need of estate planning services, please contact us at 703-691-1888 to see how we can help.

Photo by Maggie Smith.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

$2.9 billion vaporized by elder financial abuse in 2009.

On-Board with Elder Justice?

What is the Elder Justice Act? “The act authorizes federal funding for adult protective services in each state, demonstration projects, forensic centers and training for long-term care providers,” according to the ABA. Unlike Child Protective Services, Adult Protect Services is not federally mandated.

The Elder Abuse Act (EAA) was introduced this year by the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and would support the formation of specially selected elder justice positions in local jurisdictions. The EAA calls for the creation of an office of Elder Justice within the Justice Department itself.

The EJA mandates direct reporting to law enforcement for crimes occurring in long-term care facilities, and would impose civil penalties for failure to report.

MetLife Study: "Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation Against America's Elders," a follow-up to a study in 2009 named "Broken Trust: Elders, Family, and Finances." This new study broadens the scope of the preceding study to match the growing problem of fiscal abuse against the elderly.

The annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion dollars, a 12% increase from 2008.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What the American Middle Class Needs to Know: How to Protect the Family Home From Medicaid Recovery

Because the home is the largest asset a couple can keep while still qualifying for Medicaid, it is also usually the main target of estate recovery.

Meet Sidney and Rachel

Sidney and Rachel had lived in their home since it was new. They built it just after Sidney got a promotion to regional sales manager for a shoe distributor. Through the years, the house was remodeled twice and expanded to add a loft bedroom. Even when their children were grown with families of their own, they all remained close, with frequent family gatherings for holidays and birthdays.

Sidney and Rachel had paid off the mortgage and two second mortgages before Sidney retired. So in addition to being the center of family life, the house had also become the couple's biggest asset.

Rachel always hoped the house would remain in the family when she and Sidney were gone. She often talked about leaving it to their oldest son, Mark, who promised that he and his wife would continue the tradition of hosting the family for holidays and birthday dinners. However, as Sidney's Alzheimer's disease progressed, Rachel worried that Sidney would need to move into a nursing home. With the high cost of long-term care, Rachel knew their savings wouldn't last long. Sidney would eventually need to qualify for Medicaid to pay the bills.  

Side note:

If you or a loved one is struggling with Alzheimer’s, you may find this story to be inspirational.  “[The] true life story of an Alzheimer’s sufferer and his contribution towards understanding and dealing with [the disease].” You may find this program, Seven Second Memory, to prove beneficial

Rachel’s biggest question was, "Will I lose my home?"

For a great many people who need Medicaid benefits for long term care, the home makes up most of their life savings.  Often, it's all a couple has to pass on to their children.

You may not know that the home is an exempt asset according to Medicaid. It continues to be exempt as long as the community spouse lives there.  However, after both the ill spouse and the healthy spouse pass away, the property may no longer be protected.

What Is Estate Recovery?

According to the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (OBRA-93), the state has the right to take back whatever it paid for the care of a Medicaid applicant. And because you have to be "broke" to qualify for Medicaid, usually the only property of substantial value that a person on Medicaid is likely to own when they die is their own home. When OBRA-93 was passed, each state established an Estate Recovery Unit (ERU) to go out and find what assets they can take back from those that received Medicaid benefits!
Because the home is the largest asset a couple can keep (while still qualifying for Medicaid), in most states it is also the main target of estate recovery.

After both the community spouse and the ill spouse die, the state's estate recovery unit has the authority to take just about any property that the Medicaid recipient had their name on.  In most cases, that means going back to the house.

For example, if Sidney dies before Rachel after living in a nursing home for two years and Medicaid has paid the nursing home $3,000 per month, the state will have paid $72,000 for Sidney's care ($3,000 per month times 24 months). If the family home where Rachel lives is worth $100,000, the state would have a claim for the first $72,000 that comes from the sale of the house.

So, the house is protected while Rachel is alive. However, when she passes, the state may force the sale of the house. Whatever's left over after Medicaid is paid back ($100,000 minus the $72,000 taken out to repay Medicaid) would go to their children.

A Married Couple Strategy For Protecting The Family Home From Recovery

According to federal law, a married Medicaid applicant is allowed to transfer the home to his or her spouse - without any penalty. Once the transfer is made (meaning the ill spouse no longer has any interest in the house), the community spouse may be able to make some changes to that asset. In some states the community spouse can even give the house away!

That sort of gift, of course, would create a period of Medicaid ineligibility if the community spouse needs nursing home care within the five-year look-back period.  

The family home remains one of the most difficult assets to protect because of timing, but there are proven strategies that make it possible to protect the home from Medicaid Recovery.

The Society of Medicaid Planners offers a free download of their report “Medicaid Secrets Revealed by Dan Stemen. The report offers information on qualifying for Nursing Home Medicaid without losing the family home to recovery or spending down your life savings. 

Healthy couples may be interested in protecting their assets by using an income-only, self-settled asset protection trust.  Visit to locate an attorney.  For attorneys who want to offer this form of asset protection, click here.

The National Care Planning Council provides a resource for long term care planning with educational information and lists of professional elder care service providers.

Image: dan /

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What Costs Billions per Year and is the Leading Cause of Traumatic Brain Injury?


Each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls, according to Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  These falls can cause devastating consequences; falls are the most common cause of Traumatic Brain Injuries, according to a study cited by the CDC.  The cost of falls exceeded $19 billion in 2000, and with a growing Senior citizen population, this number is expected to rise.  

How can you prevent a catastrophic fall?

Exercise is important, but need not be rigorous.   Interestingly, the CDC lists “Tai Chi” as an optimal exercise.  Tai Chi is known for its calm and relaxing methods, as opposed to more traditional, rigorous exercise.  If you are interested in learning more about Tai Chi, you should checkout this program by James Pang, Tai Chi expert.  

If you or a loved-one has experienced a fall, ask your doctor whether it is possible medication has played a role.  Not only can medications cause dizziness but they can also affect mood, which can in turn lead to a different pattern of mannerisms and behaviors.  

Declining vision can lead to catastrophic falls.  Your first resource should be your doctor who can assess your eyesight, prescription lenses, and balance.  Natural vision correction solutions do exist and have gained popularity in recent years, but there is no substitute for an in-person evaluation.

Image: Ambro /