Cassandra Jones and Michael Millward: Deciphering Medicare & Medicaid |

Cassandra Jones and Michael Millward: Deciphering Medicare & Medicaid

As you age, you will be faced with many difficult decisions, not the least of which is how to pay for mounting medical costs. Medicare and Medicaid are two government programs that purport to help you pay for care. But often, these programs are insufficient, encourage you to impoverish yourself and offer poor quality of life. Proper planning, however, can help you avoid these traps and maintain your independence.

The difference between Medicaid and Medicare can be confusing. People often mix them up or think that one provides more medical coverage than it actually does.

Medicare is a program for anyone who is 65 or older or deemed disabled and is available regardless of financial status. Like insurance, it provides limited care for acute medical conditions and there are deductibles, co-pays and limitations on coverage. For example, Medicare only provides coverage for 100 days in a skilled nursing facility in any calendar year. While Medicare covers the first 20 days of costs, the next 80 days are subject to a co-pay by the patient. After 100 days, the patient is 100% responsible for the cost.

Medicare is an incomplete solution for covering the cost of medical care. The challenge many seniors are facing is how to pay for this gap in coverage. Some consider using Medicaid.

Medicaid provides medical care for low income individuals. To qualify for Medicaid in Nevada, an unmarried individual must be over 65 or disabled, earn no more than $2,199 per month and have no more than $2,000 in non-exempt assets. Certain assets are not considered by Medicaid in determining your qualification, including a home with less than $552,000 in equity or a vehicle. However, a person must essentially have no liquid assets and be living near or below the poverty level to qualify for Medicaid.

Medicaid is designed to be used for chronic conditions requiring long-term care, such as home caregivers and home nurses. It covers the cost of medical care 100%.

Medicaid rules can be complicated, but they are not impossible to navigate.

Medicaid is not the only solution for paying for costs not covered by Medicare. Medi-gap insurance programs, long-term care insurance, savings and proper planning can protect assets from having to be spent down to access government benefits while at the same time helping maintain independence.

Cassandra Jones and Michael Millward are the attorneys of Heritage Law Group, P.C. Both are residents of Gardnerville, focusing their law practice on estate planning, business planning, and probate. They can be reached at 782-0040 or