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Importance of health care planning for elders

The need for retirement planning is something most residents from Texas understand. Such plans are subject to catastrophic failure, however, when they fail to account for the medical expenses associated with old age. Successful care planning is best done well in advance. Assets can be placed in a trust or otherwise protected, long-term care insurance or Medigap plans purchased, and financial resources identified to ensure a smooth transition that doesn't place a heavy emotional or financial burden on family members.

For those who did not engage in advance planning, accessing last-minute resources may still be possible. Medicare will cover a nursing home stay for the purposes of rehabilitation for up to 100 days. The only requirements are a facility approved by Medicare and a prior hospitalization for three days. Medicaid offers another option for single individuals with less than $2,000 in cash or cash-equivalent assets. If a married individual utilizes Medicaid resources, the other spouse may hold up to $115,920 without penalty.

As a spokesperson for Genworth Financial put it, the best method of covering elder care expenses is to plan well in advance of the need. Even if it's simply transferring assets out of the individual's name or purchasing long-term care insurance, advance planning can relieve worries and preserve the estate for beneficiaries.

Some types of planning seem simple enough for individuals to handle alone. Medigap insurance, for instance, provides specific types of coverage to close holes in Medicare. Predicting specific needs is impossible, so this may not be sufficient. An attorney with care planning experience may be able to help individuals construct a plan that provides coverage for many needs without sacrificing savings or property.

Source: U.S. News, "How to Pay For Nursing Home Costs," Emily Mullin, Feb. 26, 2013

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