New California Law Allows Retirees to Keep Assets and Qualify for Medi-Cal

Los Angeles, California – A new California law set to take effect on January 1, 2024 could have significant implications for retired individuals. Under this law, assets such as bank accounts, cash, and second vehicles will no longer be considered when determining eligibility for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. This means that even those with significant assets, including a million dollars in the bank, could still qualify for Medi-Cal.

For retired individuals on Medicare, qualifying for Medi-Cal can be like having long-term care insurance without the expensive premiums or the need for a physical exam. Additionally, qualifying for Medi-Cal does not mean losing Medicare coverage, as individuals in this situation are referred to as “Medi-Medi” and are able to keep their same doctors.

The government’s shift of the financial burden of long-term care costs from the public sector to the private sector is another factor to consider. It is anticipated that in the future, Medi-Cal will no longer cover long-term care, and workers will be required to purchase their own long-term care insurance.

Currently, Medi-Cal only covers care in licensed facilities such as skilled nursing homes, and it does not pay for retirement homes or board-and-care homes. However, if individuals are already in a nursing home and privately paying for the costly care, they may be eligible for Medi-Cal to cover the expenses. The income minus a small monthly amount would be owed as the “share-of-cost,” with Medi-Cal covering the rest of the expenses.

In addition to nursing home care, Medi-Cal may also pay for some assisted living under the Assisted Living Waiver (ALW) program. It is important to note that in order to qualify for Medi-Cal to cover long-term care expenses, individuals must be in a licensed Medi-Cal facility.

For individuals who prefer to receive care in their own homes, there is the option of the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program. IHSS is a county program that allows individuals to receive support in their own homes and avoid the need for out-of-home care. Services covered by IHSS include personal care, paramedical services, house cleaning, cooking, shopping, and more.

To be eligible for IHSS, individuals must be enrolled in Medi-Cal. While IHSS does have a limit on the number of hours it will pay for, it can provide significant financial assistance to those in need of part-time care.

Income and assets are factors that may affect eligibility for IHSS. The program is generally not available to seniors with income exceeding a certain threshold. However, there are ways to lower income, such as purchasing supplemental dental or vision plans, in order to qualify.

It is worth noting that individuals who own property and generate additional income from it may still be able to transfer the property to adult children legally without triggering a waiting period for Medi-Cal benefits. However, it is important to consult with an elder law attorney to understand any potential tax consequences before making these transfers.

Regarding the issue of Medi-Cal recovery, the law has changed to allow for greater protection of individuals’ homes. Under the current law, Medi-Cal recovery is limited to estates that are subject to probate. By creating a revocable living trust, individuals can avoid probate and protect their homes from potential Medi-Cal recovery claims.

In summary, the new California law regarding Medi-Cal eligibility and the availability of programs such as IHSS provide opportunities for retired individuals to receive necessary care without depleting their assets. These changes highlight the importance of understanding the options available and consulting with legal professionals to navigate the complex landscape of long-term care and Medicaid coverage.