Don’t become devastated by financial fiascos

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Don’t become devastated by financial fiascos

Loneliness is but cutting adrift from our moorings and floating out to the open sea; an opportunity for finding ourselves, our real selves, what we are about, where we are heading during our little time on this beautiful earth.— Anne Shannon Monroe, American Lecturer, Novelist and Journalist (1877-1942

The following article, Do I Need a Lawyer to apply for Medicaid? is by Maryland attorney William M. Gatesman, and is used by permission.  Similar articles and advice are available on his very educational web site, gatesman   

“Mr. GoodSon is in a bind. His mother has been in a nursing home for over a year. He applied for Medicaid when mother first entered the facility, and although the Medicaid caseworker indicated to him that the application was fine, she ultimately denied the Medicaid application because mother had a few hundred dollars too much in her bank account. So GoodSon reapplied for Medicaid. This time, he could not get all the bank statements requested by the Medicaid caseworker from the bank. GoodSon again got the message not to worry about it, but in the end the Medicaid application was denied for failure to submit all the requested information

You’ve heard the old adage, “the third time is a charm”. So it was in this case, too. However, while the third Medicaid application was successful and Medicaid was granted, it was granted with a 6 month penalty period, or period of Medicaid ineligibility as a consequence of mother having made gifts to family members in the years prior to entering the nursing home.

By the time Medicaid started to pay, there was well over $100,000 in outstanding charges at the nursing home, and mother had no money to pay it. Mr. GoodSon is retired with only his house and barely adequate retirement savings. Nevertheless, the nursing home sued both mother and Mr. GoodSon. However, it is GoodSon who is at risk of losing everything — mother already is destitute.

To make matters worse, Mr. GoodSon did not seek my assistance until a few days before the court was to enter summary judgment — in other words, the nursing home was about to get a judgment against mother and Mr. GoodSon for the outstanding debt because Mr. GoodSon had been pursuing his legal defense without a lawyer.

We quickly ascertained that GoodSon had a number of defenses to the lawsuit, and we were able to defeat summary judgment notwithstanding the short time I had to do so. We next educated the lawyer for the nursing home about the reasons his client could not collect the entire outstanding balance from Mr. GoodSon. Indeed, Medicaid and nursing home collection law is highly complex. Having done so, we were able to persuade the nursing home to settle the matter for a fraction of the outstanding balance.

Fortunately for Mr. GoodSon, he sought out competent legal assistance not a moment too soon. Had he not done so, he could have suffered financial devastation.

While Mr. GoodSon and his mother are an extreme case, many people find themselves paying tens of thousands of dollars more than they have to by attempting to navigate the complex matter of paying for nursing home care without proper guidance.

Don’t let yourself fall into the trap that caught Mr. GoodSon — seek out competent counsel as soon as possible if you or a loved one will require nursing home care.”

If you are looking for a lawyer to help with Medicaid issues, be certain to ask whether they have handled Medicaid cases and applications before, and if they are conversant with current Medicaid law.  Your lawyer should have meaningful experience in handling Medicaid appeals and working within Maryland and Federal Medicaid rules.

On another topic, if you are a caregiver and often feel weary and frustrated, let me remind you that Caregiver support groups are an invaluable resource.  I participated in one myself during the years I cared for my mom.  I was unable to attend every meeting, but found the ones I did attend to be super helpful.  In these meetings, you will learn a variety of self-care tips and strategies to reduce your stress and help you provide better care for your loved one.   It is comforting to be able to talk with others who understand your challenges because they have also experienced them.  Additionally, it is a good place to find out about research, new products and services, to learn coping mechanisms and best of all, it is an opportunity to say those things not productive to say at home in a confidential and supportive environment.

Care giving support groups are available in Bowie and in Greenbelt. The Greenbelt group will meet the second Wednesday of the month starting this week (October 9) at the Greenbelt Community Center.  Call 301-345-6660 for more information or to sign up. The Bowie Caregiver support group meets at the Bowie Senior Center, 14900 Health Center Drive, twice a month.  For more information, contact Rosemary Allender at 301-262-5082.

Thank you for reading.  Stay well.  See you next week

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