6 Do’s and Don’ts of Long-Term Medi-Cal Planning
I write a lot about long-term Medi-Cal, because there’s a lot to say. The rules are detailed and complex, so it’s easy to get lost in the weeds sometimes. Today, I want to take a big-picture look at qualifying for long-term Medi-Cal with this list of six do’s and don’ts.
- Do plan early for Medi-Cal eligibility. The earlier you start planning for long-term Medi-Cal, the more flexibility you’ll have, and the easier the process will be. Remember that Medi-Cal looks back over a 30-month period to see if you’ve made any inappropriate transfers of non-exempt property. If you have, you’ll have to wait through a period of ineligibility before you qualify for long-term Medi-Cal.
- Don’t forget about your spouse! Often with married couples, only one spouse needs long-term care, and the other will continue to live in the community. When this happens, Medi-Cal’s asset limit is increased, and the community spouse is allowed to keep up to a certain amount of the Medi-Cal spouse’s income each month. But some of the benefits available to the community spouse aren’t provided by default, which means that there are planning opportunities here as well.
- Do spend down smartly. Just because you start out with too much non-exempt property to qualify for long-term Medi-Cal doesn’t mean you’re shut out of the program for good. There are strategies for recharacterizing or disposing of your assets that will make you eligible for Medi-Cal without impoverishing your family.
- Don’t make mistakes on the Medi-Cal application. Mistakes on the Medi-Cal application can force you to wait longer than you should to start receiving your long-term-care benefits. That’s unfortunate, because the application can be confusing, and mistakes are easy to make. To illustrate, you might need as many as 30 different documents to support your application!
- Do plan for estate recovery. Keep in mind that qualifying for Medi-Cal is only part of the story. After you die, Medi-Cal can seek reimbursement out of your estate for the benefits it provided you. Fortunately, the estate-recovery law was changed earlier this year, making it easier to protect your property (like your home) with proper planning.
- Don’t apply for long-term Medi-Cal without consulting a Medi-Cal planning attorney. Let’s face it: Qualifying and applying for long-term Medi-Cal is complicated! The process is full of traps for the unwary applicant, from figuring out eligibility all the way to the application itself. You don’t want to have to navigate this maze of rules and exceptions (and exceptions to the exceptions!) on your own.
Fortunately, you don’t have to. You can contact us here at the Law Offices of Bridget Mackay, and we’ll be happy to walk you through the entire process.