Q: I hear that elder law attorneys charge a lot to prepare a MassHealth application for long-term nursing home care costs. My friend said that when her cousin was in a nursing home there was a service that prepared the application for free. Why would anyone pay for something that they could have for free?
A: That’s an excellent question and the answer is sometimes they shouldn’t. For example, a single person who has assets that are at, or close to, the program eligibility limit of $2,000, does not have an irrevocable trust, and who has not made any gifts of assets during the 5-year period preceding the application, does not need to pay an elder law attorney to prepare a MassHealth application for long-term care benefits.
The reason that single individuals who have assets in excess of the program limit and married couples where one spouse needs nursing home care, should consult with an elder law attorney is that an elder law attorney can provide advice about options for preserving their assets from having to spent down on long-term care. The savings that can be achieved through planning can be far in excess of the legal fee paid to prepare the application.
For people paying privately for long-term nursing home care, the out of pocket monthly cost in Massachusetts ranges between $10,000 and $15,000 (or more!) per month. The sooner MassHealth eligibility is achieved, the sooner that monthly outlay will cease or be significantly reduced.
When you engage an elder law attorney you are hiring an advocate who is working for you. When you use a service recommended by the long-term care facility, you will not receive legal advice about your planning options such as how to preserve your assets or how to achieve eligibility more quickly, nor are you engaging an advocate for your application. In fact, many of these ‘free’ services are actually paid by the nursing homes. Keep in mind that it is in the nursing home’s best interest that residents pay privately for their care versus becoming eligible for Medicaid (MassHealth). That is because the monthly fee that the facility receives for a Medicaid resident is much less than the amount they receive from a person who is paying privately.
If you have questions about whether you should hire an elder law attorney to prepare and file a MassHealth application for long-term nursing home care costs, please contact us to speak with one of our attorneys.