We have all heard of Alzheimer’s disease, but when you understand all the facts, the wide reach of the disease may surprise you. It is actually the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and it impacts a very significant percentage of senior citizens.
As a Charlotte, North Carolina elder law firm, we understand the importance of Alzheimer’s education. If you would like to learn some facts about the disease, you may want to visit the Alzheimer’s Association website. You can also take things a step further if you develop a relationship with the North Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The chapter is always looking for volunteers, and there are local events that you can participate in. If you would like to check out the current state of affairs within the chapter, you can visit their webpage.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Medicaid Planning
You may naturally tune out discussions about the Medicaid program if you are going to qualify for Medicare coverage as a senior citizen. Indeed, if you pay into the program sufficiently, you will become eligible for Medicare coverage at the age of 65.
Medicare coverage is earned through the accrual of retirement credits. In 2016, you get one credit for every $1260 that you earn. You can a accrue as many as four retirement credits per year.
Once you have 40 retirement credits, you will qualify for Medicare coverage when you reach the age of eligibility.
Even if you have Medicare coverage when you are a senior citizen, the Medicaid program may well be relevant to you. This is because Medicare does not pay for long-term custodial care.
The majority of senior citizens are someday going to need help with their activities of daily living. In fact, the figure is 70 percent according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Clearly, many Alzheimer’s disease sufferers are going to require nursing home care, and the Alzheimer’s Association tells us that 45 percent of people who are at least 85 have contracted the disease.
If you want to reach into your pockets to pay for long-term care, you better have pretty deep pockets.
We practice law in the state of North Carolina. A year in a private room in a North Carolina nursing home averages over $80,000, and people often spend multiple years in these facilities.
Medicaid will pay for long-term care, and this is why the program is relevant to seniors who were never poor throughout their lives. In fact, Medicaid pays for most of the long-term care that is received by seniors in the United States.
Since Medicaid is a need-based program, there is a limit on countable assets. This limit is just $2000, but the “countable” qualifier is quite relevant. Some things that you own do not count, including your home, but there is an equity limit of $552,000 in North Carolina in 2016.
Your wedding ring, your engagement ring, and your heirloom jewelry are not counted, and one vehicle is not considered to be a countable asset. Unlimited term life insurance policies are allowed, you can have up to $1500 in whole life insurance. Your personal belongings and the things that you have around your home are not countable for Medicaid purposes.
In many cases, one spouse will need long-term care while the other spouse is still capable of independent living. Under these circumstances, the healthy spouse is referred to as the community spouse in Medicaid lingo.
The healthy spouse is entitled to a Community Spouse Resource Allowance. This is equal to half of the shared countable assets. The maximum allowance is $119,220 for the rest of 2016. The minimum Community Spouse Resource Allowance in North Carolina is $23,844. But with planning, the Medicaid rules may permit a Community Spouse to keep significantly more assets.
Under Medicaid rules, most of the income that is drawn by a person who is using Medicaid to pay for long-term care must be contributed toward the cost of the care. However, this requirement does not apply if the community spouse is relying on all or some of this income to maintain a minimum standard of living. This is called a Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance.
In North Carolina in 2016, the maximum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance is $2,980.50, and the minimum is $1,991.25.
We should also point out the fact that the community spouse would not lose ownership of the family home if his or her spouse was to apply for Medicaid, regardless of the equity, although without planning it may be subject to Medicaid Estate Recovery.
Medicaid Planning Consultation
When you consider the widespread nature of Alzheimer’s disease, you can see why Medicaid planning is important. If you are ready to get started, call us at (704) 944-3245 or send us a message through our contact page to set up a consultation.