Yes, many people are reluctant to consult attorneys with respect to issues related to Medicaid coverage for nursing home care for the following reasons:
• Inexperience in working with attorneys.
• The cost of consulting with an attorney.
• Medicaid eligibility is seen as a non-legal matter that should be straightforward and not require legal assistance.
• Nursing homes often offer to prepare Medicaid applications for residents.
• Discomfort with using a public benefits program.
Let’s discuss each obstacle to legal representation in turn.
There is no getting around it. Lawyers are expensive and insurance doesn’t cover fees. But the bottom line—since that’s what we’re talking about here—is that they’re a lot less expensive than nursing homes. In the Lower Savannah area, nursing homes generally charge $5,000 or more a month. Unless your situation is very complicated, the legal fees will not approach this figure. A consult typically runs $300. If the consultation with the lawyer saves even a month of private nursing home fees, approximately $5000 per month, the legal costs will be more than justified. At stake can be a lifetime of hard work and saving.
Certainly, public benefits should be available to those who qualify without having to resort to hiring an attorney. Unfortunately, this aspiration and the reality of the Medicaid rules are far apart. The eligibility requirements are defined in a conflicting set of state and federal laws, regulations, bulletins and practices that make it impossible even for attorneys to fathom unless they specialize in the field. Your case may be simple and may not require the depth of knowledge needed to plan for a more complicated estate. However, you cannot be sure of that without first meeting with a specialist. Social workers do not have the training to advise you on the law. A knowledgeable Elder Law Attorney will put you at ease with the hard decisions you have to make. Again, a lot’s at stake and given the cost of nursing homes, it’s not difficult for a qualified attorney to save the client more than the attorney’s fee.
Disclaimer: Information contained in this column is meant to be of general information on frequently asked questions concerning disability, elder law, estate planning and probate law, and does not contain specific legal advice to a client. No attorney-client relationship is created by reading this column.