Articles & News 2006

From the March 31, 2006 Williamsport Sun-Gazette. LLA member Jeffrey Marshall comments on Medicaid law changes:

Attorney: New law bad news

Seniors who give gifts will lose federal funding for nursing-home care

By MIKE REUTHER

Jeff MarshallSenior citizens and their children may have to rethink the need for nursing care thanks to a new federal law.

Jeffrey A. Marshall, an attorney with Marshall & Associates, city, said the Deficit Reduction Act changes the penalty provisions for gift-giving by seniors.

As result, those planning to pay for their nursing care with Medicaid will have to find other means of funding, he told members of the local chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of Retired Employees at their Thursday luncheon.

So, it’s bad news that I bring you to day,” he said.

Under the old law, seniors stood to lose Medicaid for a period of time after giving gifts, including those to relatives. Now, they will lose the benefits when the nursing care begins, or the time they most need the money to pay for it.

The law, he said, makes no restrictions on amounts of gifts.

For example, a $100 gift from a grand parent for a grandchild’s birthday would be treated the same under the law as would a generous donation for a building fund.

The law includes any gifts given by the donor within five years of his entering the nursing home.

Medicaid is often used by low-income seniors who have no other means of paying for their medical expenses,, Marshall said.

With the average cost of a year’s stay in a nursing home at $72,000, it’s a benefit few can afford to pay for out of their own pockets.

“I think there will be a lot of people in nursing care who can’t pay for their care,” he said.

Marshall predicted that the law will create a lot of litigation, with nursing homes suing children of patients to seek reimbursement for care.

Under a long-standing state law, nursing homes have long had the ability to go after children for the money.

However, in some cases that may no longer be necessary. Under provisions of the Deficit Reduction Act, properties of seniors with at least $500,000 in equity are no longer exempt from being seized.

“If I’m in a nursing home, in the past they couldn’t take my home. Under the new law I have to sell it.”

The good news is that save, for farmers with large land holdings, the new law will not affect a lot of local people, said Marshall.

The Deficit Reduction Act went into effect Feb. 8 when President Bush signed it into law, but it’s unclear when the actual changes will occur.

Marshall said the state can change provisions of the law. He urged seniors to contact their state and federal lawmakers about their concerns.

For those considering nursing home care, either for themselves or their others, good legal advice should be consulted, he added.

“Be very careful in signing paper work for your loved one,” he said.