Archive for June 22nd, 2009|Daily archive page

Going on government assistance

I applied for Medicaid on Mom’s behalf today. The appointment took three hours. I like the caseworker, and she and I are stuck with each other for the duration, so that’s a good thing. I think she liked me OK, too. These case workers have to be skeptical, have to look everywhere for hidden money, must become highly cynical over time. But at the end of the appointment, she told me I had done a good job about bringing in the required documentation. That meant a lot, since I still have about six other things to produce for her. And I had fretted about gathering everything and selecting the proper paperwork. We even found a little money during the application that I have to track down – something associated with Mom’s retirement, perhaps another Roth IRA for which I have never seen a statement. “Sometimes, they don’t send you a statement if you don’t ask for it,” my case worker said. I guess so.

So I had collected Mom’s birth certificate, driver’s license, insurance cards, bank statements, income statements from retirement and Social Security, assisted living bills, check stubs from closed annuities, statements for annuities that still exist. The assisted living facility gave me a list. The Medicaid staffer who called me last week gave me a list. I looked online and found a list. So I had the information, and thankfully I was able to find everything that is absolutely required. And yet based on her telling me I did a good job, these case workers must experience all kinds of less complete first attempts at the Medicaid application. Now the case worker would like some evidence of our sale of Mom’s car in either late 2007 or early 2008; I can’t remember. And three bank statements from 2007, after Mom moved into assisted living. And this mystery Roth IRA info. I have to contact the Veterans Administration because apparently, since Dad was in the Air Force while Mom and Dad were married in the 1960s and it was during an actual war, Mom is eligible for a higher monthly allowance than the $40 Medicaid allows. And there is something else I have to produce that I can’t remember. She wrote out a tidy list of things for me to do. And I learned along the way, from her occasional asides, that she has been in this exact same spot. Her mother had dementia. She was in a nursing home. She died in 2007.

I had assumed that once Mom moves into the nursing home, and Medicaid covers her care and medication costs, that the money associated with her care would take care of itself. Not so. I will have to carefully maintain Mom’s checking account. I will still be billed monthly by the nursing home and will have to send a check every month. The amount I send will be Mom’s income minus her $40 allowance (or maybe higher allowance based on what the VA says). The amount will be set by the government, and will be adjusted each time her income changes – either the calendar year or her retirement anniversary. And every time I buy her something, such as personal care items or underwear, I will have to save the receipt to prove I used her money to buy something FOR HER. I have to keep all of these records from when she becomes eligible until five years after her death. In case I am audited. What a joyous thought, to be audited after draining Mom’s accounts dry, placing her on Medicaid and in a nursing home, keeping track of every penny of her measly $40 each month that I spend, and then having her die.

So now, the clock is ticking. I have 45 days to take care of these various things – find paperwork, surrender two annuities, get the details on a third possible retirement account, and then, once all that is straight, we (I’m thinking my siblings and I) have to spend all of her money down so she has no more than $1,500 so she can be eligible. And forever more, she cannot ever have more than $1,500. That is the Medicaid rule. I understand it, but I didn’t know I’d have to hit that level so quickly. The good news is there is still a credit card we can pay off. And we can prepay for at least part of her funeral expenses. My sister has said she will pay for this, but I think we could apply some of Mom’s own money toward it and we probably should. That will be no fun, to make decisions, pick a casket if we go that route, or opt for cremation, think about what kind of service we will want, decide whether to bury her or her ashes. My siblings and I have not talked about this, so that conversation has to take place. I don’t think Mom ever really expressed her wishes. But maybe when I go digging through her things again, I’ll come across her thoughts about all this.

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