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Medicaid is central to the caregiving picture of seniors and the disabled in the United States.  There’s no getting around it: if you’re a senior who needs long-term care, you are very likely to end up on Medicaid, no matter what you do.

My conclusion comes from a few pieces of data I’ve come across.  A recent ‘rule of thumb’ I ran across regarding Long Term Care Insurance stated that if you have $500,000 or less, and if you have long-term care needs, you are likely to use up all your savings and end up on Medicaid.   And a recent chart I saw showing the financial assets of seniors appears to indicate that about 75% of all people 65 and over had $500,000 or less.  So that means that millions of seniors (yes, millions) will need and receive Medicaid benefits at some point in their lives.

People are finally coming to grips with this idea.  Medicaid is or will be part of the picture for most of us, and I discovered that the New York Times agrees with me.  I Googled “Medicaid New York Times,” and a list of Times articles that refer to Medicaid came up.  One was titled, “You’re Probably Going to Need Medicaid.”  In it, the authors say that most people will run out of money paying for their care.  They also say that a nursing home will cost almost $100,000 per year.  Maybe in Alabama you can find a nursing home for under $100,000, but in New York many nursing homes cost up to $200,000 per year.  And since people are living longer with serious health issues, the total cost becomes stratospheric.

The cost of long-term care has often been described as ‘ruinous’ – because it is.  It eats up retirees’ assets and income completely, and in many states, children are then required to take financial responsibility for their parents.  So not only does it ruin the parents financially, it harms the spouses and the children.

In New York, children are not required to take financial responsibility for their parents, so Medicaid can be accessed more easily.  Children often wind up paying some of their parents’ bills, but at least they are doing so voluntarily and are not burdened with the entire cost.  And New York law permits people to access Medicaid much more readily than in most other states.

So when you are thinking about Elder Law strategies that may mean you will get Medicaid-paid services, don’t be put off.  It’s a program for most of us.  We’ve paid into government programs with our taxes all our lives, and we shouldn’t feel bad that we need those programs when we’re older.

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