How Much Money Can You Have and Still Qualify for Medicaid?

In order to be eligible for Medicaid benefits a nursing home resident may have no more than $2,000 in “countable” assets (the figure may be somewhat higher in some states). Note that Medicaid is a state-run program, so the rules are somewhat different in each state, although there are federal guidelines. The spouse of a nursing home resident–called the “community spouse” — is limited to one half of the couple’s joint assets up to $130,380 (in 2021) in “countable” assets. This figure changes each year to reflect inflation. Called the “community spouse resource allowance,” this is the most that a Continue Reading

Medicare Would Cover Dental, Vision, and Hearing Under Senate Democrats’ Spending Plan

The Senate Democrats’ proposal for a $3.5 trillion spending plan includes expanding Medicare to provide dental, vision, and hearing benefits. The proposal is now being negotiated in Congress. Currently Medicare does not offer much in the way of dental, vision, and hearing benefits. Medicare Part A will cover certain emergency or necessary procedures that are received in the hospital. For example, if you are hospitalized after an accident and require jaw reconstruction, Medicare Part A will pay for the dental work required as part of that procedure. Medicare Part B offers very limited coverage of some vision and hearing services. Continue Reading

Can an IRA Affect Medicaid Eligibility?

For many Medicaid applicants, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) are one of their biggest assets. If you do not plan properly, IRAs can count as an available asset and affect Medicaid eligibility. Medicaid applicants can have only a small amount of assets in order to be eligible to receive benefits ($2,000 in most states). Certain assets — i.e., a house, car, and burial plot — are exempt from eligibility determinations. Whether your IRA counts as an exempt asset depends on whether it is in “payout status” or not. At age 72 (or if you turned 70 ½ in 2019 or before), individuals Continue Reading

Finding the Right Hospital Bed Rental

If you are caring for a loved one at home, you may need to rent a hospital bed. Here are the ins and outs of hospital bed rentals. The benefit of a hospital bed is that it adjusts to allow people with limited mobility to more easily get in and out of the bed. The adjustable features include the raising and lowering the head and foot of the bed as well as changing the bed’s height. The beds usually have the option to add side rails to keep patients from falling out of bed. The following are the main types Continue Reading

IRS Announces That Face Masks and Related Purchases Are Tax Deductible

The IRS has announced that the tax deduction for medical expenses includes amounts spent on face masks, sanitizer and other products purchased to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. If you have significant medical expenses, you may be able to deduct them from your taxes. Many types of medical expenses are deductible, from long-term care to hospital stays to hearing aids. This year, the IRS has made clear that “medical expenses” also includes amounts paid for personal protective equipment, such as masks, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes, as long as they were used for the primary purpose of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Continue Reading

Medicaid Recipients Have a Little More Time to Spend Down Their Stimulus Money

The one-year deadline for nursing home residents on Medicaid to spend down their first round of stimulus checks is here, but they may have a little extra time. In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act authorized $1,200 stimulus checks to most Americans, including Medicaid recipients. Another round of $600 checks was authorized in December 2020, and $1,400 checks were ordered in February 2021. The stimulus checks are not considered income for Medicaid recipients, and the payments have been excluded from Medicaid’s strict resource limits for 12 months. While the one-year deadline for spending down the Continue Reading

Issue Brief on Medicaid Estate Recovery

NAELA, along with Justice in Aging and other advocacy organizations, has published an issue brief on the Medicaid estate recovery program. Issue Brief on Medicaid Estate Recovery NAELA, along with Justice and Aging and other advocacy organizations, has published an issue brief on the Medicaid estate recovery program. The brief calls on Congress to eliminate the Medicaid estate recovery program and focuses on how estate recovery contributes to the cycle of poverty. In particular, the brief examines how home ownership allows for generational wealth building for lower-income families. The brief was a collaboration between NAELA, Justice in Aging, California Advocates Continue Reading

Medicaid’s Coverage of Nursing Home Care

For better and for worse, Medicaid is the primary method of paying for nursing home care in the United States. But navigating the Medicaid system is complicated and confusing. Here are the basics. Medicaid (sometimes called by other names, such as “Medi-Cal” in California, “MassHealth” in Massachusetts, and “TennCare” in Tennessee) is a joint federal-state program that provides health insurance coverage to low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities. In addition, it covers long-term care for those who qualify. This coverage has traditionally meant care in a nursing home, although coverage of care in an assisted living facility or at home Continue Reading

Congress Fixes Some, But Not All, Medicare Enrollment Problems

Tucked in the federal spending bill that passed at the end of December 2020 are some changes aimed at simplifying Medicare enrollment and addressing coverage gaps. But Congress chose not to deal with the biggest problem. Currently, Medicare enrollment begins three months before the month of your 65th birthday and continues for three months after your birthday month (for a total of seven months). Medicare Part A has no premiums, but if you do not enroll in Medicare Part B or Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) during the initial enrollment period, you will face penalties (with exceptions; read on). For example, your Medicare Continue Reading

Biden Administration May Spell Changes to Estate Tax and Stepped-Up Basis Rule

A new administration usually means that tax code changes are coming. While it remains unclear exactly what tax changes President Biden’s administration will usher in, two possibilities are that it will propose lowering the estate tax exemption and eliminating the stepped-up basis on death. The first would affect only multi-millionaires, but the second could have an impact on more modest estates and their heirs. In 2017, Republicans in Congress and President Trump doubled the federal estate tax exemption and indexed it for inflation. For the 2021 tax year, the exemption is $11.7 million for individuals and $23.4 million for couples. As long as your estate Continue Reading