Applying for Medicaid
I am asked often if it is possible to apply for Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California) on one’s own and without the assistance of an attorney. The short answer is “yes; however, it is not the wise answer. This article explains why.
It is possible to obtain the necessary forms to apply for Medicaid in every state; the state Medicaid department has them available to the public. And, while it is not a bad idea to review a copy of the forms in order to familiarize yourself with the kind of information requested, it is still advisable to seek the counsel of an attorney experienced with Medicaid to assist with the actual application process.
The forms may not look so difficult to complete at first glance and you may feel you understand the questions. Understanding the questions and understanding the impact of the questions are very different things. For instance, the question may ask if you made any gifts or other transfers of assets in the past 60 months. Doesn’t seem too difficult to grasp and answer, but know that what the state wants to determine is whether you a subject to a penalty for having made such transfers. Such a penalty could render you ineligible from receiving Medicaid benefits for a period of time, even if you have no other resources for which to pay for your care. An experienced Medicaid attorney will be able to help you answer the questions in the best light for your receiving benefits. This is simply one example of many where an attorney can help you get the most out of your application and benefits.
The attorney should also help you with actual timing of your application. Applying too early could mean longer periods of ineligibility; applying too late could mean months of lost benefits. Work with the attorney even before you believe you are ready to apply; often there are mechanisms available that can help protect assets and still result in you being eligible for Medicaid. These can be complex and more often than not, people who attempt to Medicaid plan on their own wind up in a worse position than they were before the planning.
When seeking out legal counsel, make sure you are working with someone well-versed in the area of Medicaid. It is a very tricky area of law and working with someone who practices this area of law all the time will help ensure you get the best counsel and an application that is approved.
To read the full article:
Applying for Medicaid: An Elder Law Attorney Can Help