Medicaid Myths and Misperceptions

My husband, being a rabbi (see, often attends meetings with religious leaders of different faiths. At a recent meeting, the subject of nursing home care came up.  One pastor in the group opined that, in order to get Medicaid to pay for such care, a person must have spent all his money. My husband (who’s been enlightened by his elder-law attorney/wife!) immediately corrected the pastor, advising him that this was not true. He then also advised him to get Nursing Home Medicaid advice from an elder law attorney.

Incidents such as these are, unfortunately, not rare. In fact, many seniors (or near-seniors) still maintain outdated – and dangerously inaccurate – views as to exactly what Medicaid can and can’t do, and how to become eligible for it. And many end up paying a severe price for believing in what are, essentially, myths.

Clergy, of course, answer to a higher authority than the rest of us. And, justifiably, we put a lot of trust in them. But clergy, too, are only human. And the incident at the meeting proved that they can be as vulnerable to Medicaid Myths and Misperceptions as the rest of us.

When my husband told me about this incident, I began to think about the powerful influence of the clergy in our lives…and how they can inadvertently harm people when they give out inaccurate information. We put trust in our clergy that we don’t put in anyone else. After all, this isn’t the same as getting advice from a neighbor who “knows someone.” This is someone we rely on, a person with wisdom, a person with vision, and a person whose advice we’ve come to trust.

But – clergy or not – this is also very dangerous.  Everyone in my office can recite horror stories of families spending down thousands of dollars needlessly, because they received bad advice and believed it.  (Thankfully, everyone in my office can also recite stories about all the money we’ve saved our clients!)

Take a minute to think about it. Would you trust your health care to an accountant? Would you trust your tax planning to a writer? Would you trust your estate planning to a teacher? (Or, conversely, would you trust your children’s education to a lawyer?) 

My message is simple: Don’t take elder-care advice from someone who “knows someone.” Don’t take it from a clergyman. Don’t take it from anyone, in fact – no matter how well-intentioned – who’s not an elder law attorney.  Get your advice on Medicaid and Veteran’s benefits from people who know – elder law attorneys.  That’s what we do. And it’s the only thing we do.

It’s one investment you’ll be glad you made. And you’ll be happy with the results for years to come.

Posted in Alice Reiter Feld Florida Elder Law Monday Memos, Veteran; veteran's benefits; mediciad; elder law; estate planning; special needs; trusts; medicaid; Alzheimer's; support; memory

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