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Medicaid Warns of Dangers of “Medicaid Planners”

The Mississippi Division of Medicaid has issued a warning "advising seniors, their families, and caregivers there is no fee associated with applying for Medicaid benefits" and asking that "so-called Medicaid 'planners' who charge to fill out Medicaid
applications" be reported to the Medicaid fraud division.

What the Division of Medicaid fails to state is that skilled planners are able to save their clients tens of thousands of dollars through lawful planning services that the Medicaid case workers either do not know about, or will not tell you about.  True, quality planning costs are significant, generally equal to about the cost of one to two months private pay in a nursing home.  However, such planning almost always results in asset preservation many times that fee, saving hard earned assets so families can better care for their loved one in a nursing home, or ensure that the at-home spouse is not impoverished.  True, there are some planners out there that do nothing more than sell annuities that will ultimately be exhausted during the Medicaid recipient's lifetime or be used to repay Medicaid at their death.  However, planners with a comprehensive knowledge of the law can almost always save significant assets, ensure a better quality of life for the applicant, and reduce the period of time that an applicant must wait to receive benefits. 

Medicaid's focus on the "cost" of such planning is misplaced.  It is not the "cost" of the fee that is important, but the "value" that the fee represents.  Compare, for example, a "free" application with the aid of Medicaid employees that results in the loss of all but $4,000 of an applicant's assets, vs. an "over-priced" $8,000 plan that results in saving the family $100,000 in assets -  Which of these represents the greater value? 

While I am sure that somewhere in the state there are probably those that hold themselves out to be "Medicaid planners" and do nothing more than file an application, as Medicaid suggests, I am personally unaware of such individuals.  What I am aware of is a small committed group of elder law attorneys in Mississippi who work hard to advocate for their clients and utilize lawful techniques provided for by the Mississippi Division of Medicaid and the US Congress to maximize the assets that families can preserve once a loved one becomes a resident of a nursing home. 

As with hiring any professionals, you should conduct significant due diligence before engaging the services of a Medicaid planner:

  • What training has the individual received that qualifies him to perform Medicaid planning? 
  • Are they selling you any products that pay them a commission?
  • Do they hold a law degree?  Frequently planning involves trusts, wills, and other legal documents that non-lawyers are simply not permitted to perform.
  • Do they perform training for other professionals?
  • Do they frequently challenge Medicaid rulings successfully?
  • What organizations are they members of, such as the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, or the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys?
  • Are they accredited to apply for benefits before the Veterans Administration?
  • What elder law Certifications do they hold?  Do they hold the highly regarded and difficult to obtain Certified Elder Law Attorney designation, or merely the simply acquired via internet Certified Senior Advisor designation?

These types of questions will ensure that you are hiring a quality planner that will do ethical, comprehensive planning for your family. 

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