The older one gets, the more serious the need for planning for the future. It is no longer about vacations and hobbies. Now, it is a question of maintaining a quality standard of living in the golden years of your life. This kind of planning is not easy to do because it often means speculating about the kind of care you may need and how you will pay for it. For many, Medicaid is the safety net that ensures they can afford long-term care. However, understanding how Medicaid works is not always easy, and you may be among the many in Louisiana who have misconceptions about the program. In fact, it is common for people to reach a health care crisis requiring long-term care and be unable to qualify for Medicaid because they have not planned ahead.
Why Medicaid isn’t Medicare
One of the most common misunderstandings about Medicaid is that it is interchangeable with Medicare. This is a dangerous assumption because there are critical differences between the two programs. For example:
- Medicare is a federal program, but individual states handle the Medicaid program with some regulations and funding from the federal government.
- To receive Medicaid, you must pass rigorous eligibility requirements, whereas Medicare insures nearly everyone who reaches age 65.
- To qualify for Medicaid, you must be unable to care for yourself and require assistance with the most basic activities.
- Medicare helps pay for your health care expenses, but it does not cover long-term care, assisted living expenses, nursing home payments or even extended in-home care like Medicaid does.
- Medicaid is for those who have minimal assets or income.
This final point is what makes planning for long-term health care needs so important. You may find yourself in a situation where your family home, retirement savings or other assets disqualify you from receiving Medicaid, but spending down those assets may delay your eligibility. Furthermore, you will want to find a way to protect your assets as much as possible to avoid hardships in the future for you and your loved ones.
Because of these factors and the complicated laws surrounding Medicaid, it is wise to consult with an experienced attorney who understands Louisiana’s Medicaid laws and how to protect your personal assets, such as using trusts, insurance and other options. It is wise to obtain reliable information about meeting your goals as early as possible.