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Fifty years ago, in July 1965, the government enacted legislation to ensure that Americans over 65, disabled people, and people without adequate means, would have access to health care. Medicare is a federal program that provides medical insurance, and it is the major reason why only 2% of Americans over 65 are without such insurance.

Medicaid is a joint state-federal program. It was designed to provide long-term care and health insurance to those who lack the financial means to pay for it. One of Medicaid’s biggest issues is that federal rules allow states tremendous discretion about whom they help. Some states are very stingy with benefits. Happily for New Yorkers, our state relative to others is extremely generous regarding access to Medicaid benefits.

This is fortunate, because one of the serious unsolved problems with our health care system is the ruinous cost of long-term care. Many people reach their senior years with a house or apartment and a modest level of savings, and think they’re doing okay. Yet if, as is often the case, they need long-term home care or nursing home care, and have not taken any steps to protect their assets, they can use up their entire life’s savings within a short period of time and become impoverished. They still need care but now are completely dependent on family members and what Medicaid will provide. They have no ability to supplement their care, nor do they have a penny to leave to their spouses or heirs. In fact, sometimes children or relatives end up financially assisting the elderly relative, in order, for example, to enable the person to remain in their home.

Fortunately, in New York, seniors and the disabled are permitted to protect their assets and still receive Medicaid for their health care needs. The protected money can be used to help them maintain their dignity, remain in their homes, and supplement Medicaid if they feel the need to do so. In this way their remaining years can be enjoyed with peace of mind. The alternative is facing the real prospect of spending their entire life’s savings in a brief period of time, losing everything, and then, with years still left to live, becoming completely dependent on the government and possibly a burden to their families as well.

This is Lamson and Cutner’s main area of professional practice helping people protect their assets, obtain quality long-term care, and gain government benefits, so that the years they require long-term care can be spent in peace and comfort.

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