Payments to Caregiver Subject Medicaid Applicant to Penalty Period

Reversing a lower court, a Michigan appeals court rules that under state regulations a Medicaid applicant’s payments to a non-relative caregiver subjected the applicant to a penalty period because the caregiver did not have a written contract and a doctor had not recommended the service be provided. Jensen v. Department of Human Services (Mich. Ct. App., No. 319098, Feb. 19, 2015).

Jason Jensen hired a non-relative caregiver for his grandmother, Betty Jensen, who suffered from dementia. Mr. Jensen and the caregiver had an informal agreement and no contract was signed, but Mr. Jensen paid the caregiver a total of $19,000 from Ms. Jensen’s assets over the course of the months she worked for Ms. Jensen. When Ms. Jensen’s condition worsened, she entered a nursing home and applied for Medicaid. The state established a penalty period, holding that the payments to the caregiver were an unlawful transfer. Ms. Jensen died before the penalty period ended.

Mr. Jensen appealed, but the state upheld the decision. Under state regulations, payments to caregivers are considered “divestments” and transfers for less than fair market value unless there is a signed contract and a doctor has recommended in writing that the services be provided, among other requirements. Mr. Jensen appealed to court, and the trial court reversed, holding that the regulation requiring that a contract be in writing applied only to relative caregivers. The state appealed.

The Michigan Court of Appeals reverses, holding that the trial court improperly interpreted the regulations and that the penalty period was appropriate. According to the court, because there was no written contract and no written doctor’s recommendation for the services, the payments to the caregiver were a divestment. The court notes that “it does not appear from the factual record that [Mr.] Jensen overpaid for [the caregiver’s] services, or hired [the caregiver] unnecessarily. If we were not bound by the plain language of [the regulations], and were we permitted de novo review of the lower tribunals’ factual considerations, we would reach quite a different result.”

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Feel free to contact me with any Medicaid Planning questions,

Regards,

Brian A. Raphan

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When Is A Guardian Required for an Adult?

Guardianships are set up to protect and help people in need, such as an elder or loved one unable to care for their own financial or health related well being. When is it required? What is the process?

When is a Guardianship Required For An Adult?

It may be necessary to petition a court to appoint a legal guardian for persons: Who have a physical or mental problem that prevents them from taking care of their own basic needs; Who as a result are in danger of substantial harm; and Who have no person already legally authorized to assume responsibility for them. Under some circumstances, it may be necessary for a court to appoint an emergency guardian, who can act on your behalf during a crisis (such as immediately following a car accident) until you regain your ability to make your own decisions.

Free Will

How is a Guardian Appointed?

The precise procedure will vary to some degree from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The typical steps are as follows:The person seeking the appointment of a guardian files a petition with the probate court for the jurisdiction where the allegedly legally incapacitated person resides. This petitioner is often a relative, an administrator for a nursing home or health care facility, or other interested person. A petition is ordinarily accompanied by medical affidavits or other sworn statements which evidence the person’s incapacity, and either identifies the person or persons who desire to be named guardian or requests the appointment of a public guardian.The court arranges for any necessary evaluation of the allegedly legally incapacitated person. Often, this will involve the appointment of a “guardian ad litem”, a person who is appointed to provide an independent report to the court on behalf of the allegedly legally incapacitated person.

If appointed, the guardian ad litem will meet with the allegedly incapacitated person, inform that person of his or her legal rights, and report back to the court on the person’s wishes. The guardian ad litem may also speak to the petitioner, to health care providers, and to other interested individuals in order to provide the court with full information about the allegedly incapacitated person’s condition and prognosis. Depending upon state law, the court may appoint a doctor or professional to examine the allegedly incapacitated person. If the person contests the appointment of a guardian, a trial is scheduled during which sworn testimony will be given, and at the conclusion of which the judge will decide if the petitioner met the requisite burden of proof for the appointment of a guardian. The allegedly incapacitated person is ordinarily entitled to appointed counsel, if unable to afford a private attorney.If the allegedly incapacitated person consents to the petition, or is unable to respond to inquiries due to disability, the court will hold a hearing at which witnesses will provide sworn testimony to support the allegations in the petition. If the evidentiary basis is deemed sufficient, the guardian will be appointed.If a guardian is appointed, the judge will issue the guardian legal documents (often called “letters of authority”) permitting the guardian to act on behalf of the legally incapacitated person.What Are a Guardian’s Duties?The guardian makes decisions about how the person lives, including their residence, health care, food, and social activity. The guardian is supposed to consider the wishes of the incapacitated person, as well as their previously established valued, when making these living decisions. The guardian is intended to monitor the legally incapacitated person, to make sure that the person lives in the most appropriate, least restrictive environment possible, with appropriate food, clothing, social opportunities, and medical care.A guardian may be required to post a bond, unless the requirement is waived by the court. In most jurisdictions where bond is required, waivers are routine.

What’s the purpose of court supervision?

The court supervises the guardian’s choices on behalf of the ward. After the initial appointment of a guardian, an initial review is usually scheduled, followed by annual reports by the guardian to the court. The purpose of this supervision is to ensure that the legally incapacitated person is in fact benefiting from the most appropriate, least restrictive living environment possible, with appropriate food, clothing, social opportunities, and medical care.

Avoiding Guardianship:

It is possible to avoid the necessity of a guardianship through estate planning. A good estate plan will include a medical power of attorney which will enable a trusted individual to make health care decisions for you in the event of incapacity, and a general durable power of attorney to permit a trusted individual to manage your personal affairs. To a considerable extent, those documents can specify how you wish to live, and how you wish to be treated, in the event of disability – whereas a court or guardian may make decisions with which you would disagree. In most cases, when these documents have been executed in accord with the laws of your state, it will not be necessary for your loved ones to seek the appointment of a guardian or conservator should something happen to you – something that can be cumbersome and emotionally taxing at an already difficult time.

Pressures Sores: Frequently Asked legal questions

 

Asking questions is important for any consultation. When it comes to pressure sores and bedsores it’s often helpful to read what others have asked via BedsoreHotline.com

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  • If the patient was at a hospital first and then a nursing home which do we sue?

    It always depends on individual and medical circumstances but the possibility exists that both are liable. Often an injury begins in a hospital, may not be reported and/or is overlooked or neglected on intake at the second facility where it may get worse or lead to infection and other medical issues.

  • Do I have a malpractice case?

    A case may be medical malpractice on behalf of a facility or doctor. There may be hospital negligence and nursing home liability as well. In unfortunate and sad circumstances it may be a wrongful death lawsuit, where a family member or loved one may have the right to recover losses. Our team of experts will help determine the best options for for your bedsore or pressure sore, decubitis ulcer lawsuit.

  • What if the patient is too ill to appear in court?

This is not an issue and often the case with bedsore victims. For bedsore and pressure sore lawsuits there’s a legal team that includes experienced bedsore litigators, and medical professionals that can testify based on patient medical records and treatment or lack of and improper treatment. As well as other expert witnesses that look into hospital procedures, policy  and practices and determine if any federal violations were evident or standards of procedure were not met. Medical records and pictures of wounds are used.

  • How much does it cost to sue?

    There is no fee to you unless we win. When we accept a case we put in the resources and hours of our bedsores legal team because we are confident of a successful outcome based on the facts of the case. If we take on your case it’s because we see huge upside financial potential for the victim or family of the victim. We work on contingency—no upfront fee or time billed to you. When you win we get an agreed upon portion of the award.

  • Will beginning a lawsuit get better care for the victim?

    Once a hospital or nursing home knows a bedsore lawsuit is possible, often the care and treatment of the patient improves. This is because now they know they are under scrutiny and may be even further liable legally if not giving the proper care and medical attention after the sores have been documented by family and bedsore lawyers. Additionally, our law firm will let you know the standards of care that is necessary for you or your loved one. We can even help guide you on the best way to discuss issues with the doctor or staff and get the desired results.

  • I want to sue – does it take long? Does my dad have to appear in court?

    Timing of a case varies. With expertise and experience and a hands-on approach we move swiftly. The size of our firm allows us to focus on cases so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. Unlike some other law firms, our legal team of attorneys, paralegals, research assistants, medical experts and more, have the experience and knowledge to avoid time lags. Many times cases are seåttled before even going to court. Of course, the plaintiff has a say in this decision and we do what is best for our client.

  •  Do I need money to sue-what does contingency mean?

    You will not need to lay out any money. We handle all of our bedsore and pressure sore negligence or malpractice cases on a contingency fee basis. That means that we only charge a legal fee if we are successful and recover money for you. Our fee is typically 33 1/3% of the net recovery after the costs and disbursements that we advance are deducted. The contingency fee may be even lower depending on the facts of the case and the reason the sores happened. With a free consultation, a bedsore law firm that advances all of the necessary costs, and a contingency fee arrangement, you get our reputable law firm with no out of pocket expenses.

  • How do I know if I have a good bedsore lawsuit? The nurse said the sores were caused by my father and existed?

    Don’t put much credence in the opinion of anyone that isn’t a legal expert. Even a medical professional or doctor doesn’t have the legal knowledge and they or facility administrator may even try to persuade you against a bedsore or pressure sore lawsuit. Such tactics aren’t new. Don’t be a victim twice. Consult with legal professionals when medical ones let you down. Then you can use your best judgement on how to proceed with your lawsuit.

  • What happens if my case loses-will i have any fees to pay?

    Absoultely not. We will not charge you one dime if we lose. No matter how much time or money we invest in your case we only get paid when we win. We do not accept every case offered to us. We use our expertise and team approach for cases of value to the victim and the firm.

 

Ask your own question here> bedsores@raphanlaw.com

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Financial Abuse of the Elderly: Sometimes Unnoticed, Always Predatory

Caution to elders and family members of elders. This happens too often:

Via The New York Times 11/27/15 Elizabeth Olson

It was only after Mariana Cooper, a widow in Seattle, found herself with strained finances that she confessed to her granddaughter that she was afraid she had been bilked out of much of her savings.

Over three years, Ms. Cooper, 86, had written at least a dozen checks totaling more than $217,000 to someone she considered a friend and confidante. But the money was never paid back or used on her behalf, according to court documents, and in early November the woman who took advantage of Ms. Cooper, Janet Bauml, was convicted on nine counts of felony theft. (She faces sentencing on Dec. 11.)

Ms. Cooper, who lost her home and now lives in a retirement community, is one of an estimated five million older American residents annually who are victimized to some extent by a caregiver, friend, family member, lawyer or financial adviser.

With 10,000 people turning 65 every day for the next decade, a growing pool of retirees are susceptible to such exploitation. As many as one in 20 older adults

said they were financially mistreated in the recent past, according to a study financed by the Justice Department.

Traditionally, such exploitation, whether by family, friends or acquaintances, often has been minimized as a private matter, and either dismissed with little or no penalty or handled in civil court.

Even when the sums are large, cases like Ms. Cooper’s are often difficult to prosecute because of their legal complexity and because the exploitation goes unnoticed or continues for long periods. Money seeps out of savings and retirement funds so slowly it draws attention only after it is too late.

Ms. Cooper, for example, wrote her first check, for $3,000, in early 2008, and later gave Ms. Bauml her power of attorney. In early 2012, after Ms. Cooper realized that Ms. Bauml was not going to repay her in time for her to afford a new roof for her house, she told her granddaughter, Amy A. Lecoq, about the checks. She later called the police.

Ms. Bauml maintained that Ms. Cooper gave her money for services she provided as a home organizer or as loans.

Later, testing by a geriatric mental health specialist found that Ms. Cooper had moderate dementia, which showed her judgment had been impaired.

The diagnosis “helped the jury to understand why she would keep signing all these checks to this woman as loans when she was never being paid back,” said Page B. Ulrey, senior deputy prosecutor for King County, Wash., who pressed the case against Ms. Bauml.

The case was challenging in part because Washington State does not have an elder abuse statute, said Ms. Ulrey, who is one of a small but growing number of prosecutors around the country with the specific duty of prosecuting those who take financial advantage of elders, whether it is connected to investments, contracts or other fraud.

As the number of complaints grows, more municipalities are trying to combat such abuse, which is often intertwined with physical or sexual abuse, and emotional neglect.

Some organizations also have set up shelters, modeled on those for victims of domestic abuse. In the Bronx, for example, the Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home in Riverdale started such a shelter in 2005. Since then, 14 other such shelters have been opened in various long-term care operations around the country to deal with urgent cases of financial abuse.

One such woman, who agreed to talk only if she was not identified by her last name, stayed at Riverdale after she was threatened with eviction. A neighbor discovered that the woman, a 73-year-old widow named Irene, had not paid her rent in six months because relatives living with her had been withdrawing money from her account and leaving her short of funds.

“I had to leave with one small suitcase,” Irene said. “They were abusing me.”

She was later able to move to federally subsidized housing away from the abusive situation.

To help elders in financial and other distress, more municipalities, using federal funds, are training law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and social workers how to spot the sometimes subtle signals that may indicate someone has been swindled.

“We see many cases where someone convinces an older person to give them the power of attorney, and then uses that authority to strip their bank accounts, or take the title of their home,” said Amy Mix, a lawyer at the AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly, which works with the Adult Protective Services division in the District of Columbia government as well as the city’s police department.

In the most recent fiscal year, 934 cases of abuse were reported in Washington. About one-quarter of those were financial exploitation, according to Sheila Y. Jones, chief of Adult Protective Services. “And they involve millions of dollars,” she said.

But many cases are not counted officially because older people are reluctant to pursue legal remedies against relatives and friends. Louise Pearson, 80, a retired government computer analyst, declined to press charges against a security guard in her building who had befriended her and later obtained $30,000 from her savings.

“There was something about him you just had to take to,” Ms. Pearson said.

When she finally asked Malika Moore, a social worker at Iona Senior Services in Washington, for some assistance with her shaky finances, the social worker realized that the situation was serious.

One clue, she said, was that, “When I opened her refrigerator, it was empty.”

Ms. Moore was able to get Ms. Pearson home-delivered meals, and after the bank confirmed that she was missing savings, help to find a conservator to handle her money. Ms. Pearson, who now lives in a housing complex for the elderly, said, “I get money whenever I need it, and more than I did before.”

In Seattle, Ms. Cooper’s granddaughter expressed determination to educate others on the warning signs of financial abuse. “I wish we had known some of the red flags,” she said.

But even though she’s a trained social worker, it’s not surprising she missed the signs. She was deeply involved in caring for her mother, Ms. Cooper’s daughter, who was fighting cancer and died shortly before the period when her grandmother was writing the checks.

“Our family saw her regularly,” Ms. Lecoq said, “but we just didn’t see indications of what was going on.”

In retrospect, she might have been more suspicious with “my grandmother suddenly having a new friend and a friend who got so close so fast.”

Once Ms. Lecoq and her husband, John, recognized what had happened, they pushed for prosecution. Ms. Ulrey, the prosecutor, said the case required medical tests and search warrants for both the victim’s and the suspect’s financial accounts.

Ms. Cooper was unable to recover her lost money and worries about how long she will be able to pay for her retirement home. “She’s ashamed and embarrassed and feels guilty,” Ms. Lecoq said of her grandmother. “But I tell her: ‘You were a victim of a crime.’”

To help older people, families and friends should be on the lookout for some of the warning signs of financial abuse. These include not being able to cover normal expenses; paying for excessive, unexpected gifts to others; and signing over power of attorney or transferring property to unrelated individuals. 

To learn more about protecting the savings of the elderly and helping them avoid being exploited financially, these publications are worth reading: 

Seeking long-term care? How your local Ombudsman can help…

    • OMBUDSMAN: What is the Program/Service   Via www.aging.ny.gov

      Educating, empowering and advocating for long-term care residents. The Ombudsman Program is an effective advocate and resource for older adults and persons with disabilities, who live in nursing homes, assisted living and other licensed adult care homes. Ombudsmen help residents understand and exercise their rights to good care in an environment that promotes and protects their dignity and quality of life.
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      The Ombudsman Program advocates for residents by investigating and resolving complaints made by or on behalf of residents; promoting the development of resident and family councils; and informing government agencies, providers and the general public about issues and concerns impacting residents of long-term care facilities.

      Mandated by the federal Older Americans Act, in New York the Ombudsman Program is administratively housed at the State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA), and provides advocacy services through a network of 36 local programs. Each local Ombudsman Program is lead by a designated ombudsman coordinator who recruits, trains and supervises a corps of volunteers, currently more than 1000 statewide. These certified volunteers provide a regular presence in nursing homes and adult care facilities are available to help residents with questions and concerns about their care and living conditions.

      Conversations with the ombudsman are confidential and residents or other persons can register a complaint anonymously. Ombudsmen handle a wide variety of complaints involving quality of care, residents’ rights, discharge, medications, lost or stolen items, dietary issues, and quality of life concerns. Ombudsmen can also provide information and consultation about how to choose a facility and how to pay for long-term care.

    • Who is Eligible?

      While the program serves all residents of licensed long-term care facilities regardless of age.

    • Is There a Cost?

      Ombudsman services are provided free of charge.

READ ABOUT PROTECTING YOUR ASSETS FOR YOUR FAMILY WHILE GETTING THE CARE YOU NEED

Medicaid Spousal Impoverishment Numbers Likely to Be Unchanged for 2016

With the just-announced September 2015 Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) actually lower than the comparable figure in September 2014, the betting is that next year’s Medicaid’s spousal impoverishment figures and related numbers will remain the same as 2015. 

In an email to his state colleagues in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Pennsylvania ElderLawAnswers member Robert Clofine points out that the last time the CPI-U was lower than the previous year (in 2009) , the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) did not adjust the Medicaid numbers downward but kept them level.

This means that the 2016 community spouse resource allowance (CSRA) should continue to be a maximum of $119,220 and a minimum of $23,844.  The maximum monthly maintenance needs allowance should remain $2,980.50 a month and the income cap stay at $2,199.  Medicaid’s home equity limits should also be unchanged at a minimum of $552,000 and a maximum of $828,000.

LINK: MEDICAID PLANNING FOR NEW YORKERS

Regards,

Brian A. Raphan

When Should You Update Your Estate Plan?

Estate Planning, RaphanOnce you’ve created an estate plan, it is important to keep it up to date. You will need to revisit your plan after certain key life events.

Marriage

Whether it is your first or a later marriage, you will need to update your estate plan after you get married. A spouse does not automatically become your heir once you get married. Depending on state law, your spouse may get one-third to one-half of your estate, and the rest will go to other relatives. You need a will to spell out how much you wish your spouse to get.

Your estate plan will get more complicated if your marriage is not your first. You and your new spouse need to figure out where each of you wants your assets to go when you die. If you have children from a previous marriage, this can be a difficult discussion. There is no guarantee that if you leave your assets to your new spouse, he or she will provide for your children after you are gone. There are a number of options to ensure your children are provided for, including creating a trust for your children, making your children beneficiaries of life insurance policies, or giving your children joint ownership of property.

Even if you don’t have children, there may be family heirlooms or mementos that you want to keep in your family. For more information on estate planning before remarrying, click here.

Children

Once you have children, it is important to name a guardian for your children in your will. If you don’t name someone to act as guardian, the court will choose the guardian. Because the court doesn’t know your kids like you do, the person they choose may not be ideal. In addition to naming a guardian, you may also want to set up a trust for your children so that your assets are set aside for your children when they get older.

Similarly, when your children reach adulthood, you will want to update your plan to reflect the changes. They will no longer need a guardian, and they may not need a trust. You may even want your children to act as executors or hold a power of attorney.

Divorce or Death of a Spouse

If you get divorced or your spouse dies, you will need to revisit your entire estate plan. It is likely that your spouse is named in some capacity in your estate plan — for example, as beneficiary, executor, or power of attorney. If you have a trust, you will need to make sure your spouse is no longer a trustee or beneficiary of the trust. You will also need to change the beneficiary on your retirement plans and insurance policies.

Increase or Decrease in Assets

One part of estate planning is estate tax planning. When your estate is small, you don’t usually have to worry about estate taxes because only estates over a certain amount, depending on current state and federal law, are subject to estate taxes. As your estate grows, you may want to create a plan that minimizes your estate taxes. If you have a plan that focuses on tax planning, but you experience a decrease in assets, you may want to change your plan to focus on other things.

Other

Other reasons to have your estate plan updated could include:

  • You move to another state
  • Federal or state estate tax laws have changed
  • A guardian, executor, or trustee is no longer able to serve
  • You wish to change your beneficiaries
  • It has been more than 5 years since the plan has been reviewed by an attorney

Contact me, your elder law attorney to update your plan or if you have any questions.

Regards,

Brian

http://www.raphanlaw.com  Email: info@RaphanLaw.com

FAQ’s: Frequently asked questions about bedsore and pressure sore lawsuits:

Bedsores happen more often than necessary and they are not the fault of the patient. The patient is usually a victim with  a right to sue. Below are some answers to frequent questions we have received:

  • If the patient was at a hospital first and then a nursing home which do we sue?

    It always depends on individual and medical circumstances but the possibility exists that both are liable. Often an injury begins in a hospital, may not be reported and/or is overlooked or neglected on intake at the second facility where it may get worse or lead to infection and other medical issues.

  • Do I have a malpractice case?

    A case may be medical malpractice on behalf of a facility or doctor. There may be hospital negligence and nursing home liability as well. In unfortunate and sad circumstances it may be a wrongful death lawsuit, where a family member or loved one may have the right to recover losses. Our team of experts will help determine the best options for for your bedsore or pressure sore, decubitis ulcer lawsuit.

  • What if the patient is too ill to appear in court?

This is not an issue and often the case with bedsore victims. For bedsore and pressure sore lawsuits there’s a legal team that includes experienced bedsore litigators, and medical professionals that can testify based on patient medical records and treatment or lack of and improper treatment. As well as other expert witnesses that look into hospital procedures, policy  and practices and determine if any federal violations were evident or standards of procedure were not met. Medical records and pictures of wounds are used.

  • How much does it cost to sue?

    There is no fee to you unless we win. When we accept a case we put in the resources and hours of our bedsores legal team because we are confident of a successful outcome based on the facts of the case. If we take on your case it’s because we see huge upside financial potential for the victim or family of the victim. We work on contingency—no upfront fee or time billed to you. When you win we get an agreed upon portion of the award.

  • Will beginning a lawsuit get better care for the victim?

    Once a hospital or nursing home knows a bedsore lawsuit is possible, often the care and treatment of the patient improves. This is because now they know they are under scrutiny and may be even further liable legally if not giving the proper care and medical attention after the sores have been documented by family and bedsore lawyers. Additionally, our law firm will let you know the standards of care that is necessary for you or your loved one. We can even help guide you on the best way to discuss issues with the doctor or staff and get the desired results.

  • I want to sue – does it take long? Does my dad have to appear in court?

    Timing of a case varies. With expertise and experience and a hands-on approach we move swiftly. The size of our firm allows us to focus on cases so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. Many times cases are settled before even going to court. Of course, the plaintiff has a say in this decision and we do what is best for our client.

  • How do I know if I have a good bedsore lawsuit? The nurse said the sores were caused by my father and existed.

    Don’t put much credence in the opinion of anyone that isn’t a legal expert. Even a medical professional or doctor doesn’t have the legal knowledge and they or facility administrator may even try to persuade you against a bedsore or pressure sore lawsuit. Such tactics aren’t new. Don’t be a victim twice. Consult with legal professionals when medical ones let you down.

For more information or to see if you have a valid lawsuit, click here.

To download a Free Bedsore Fact Sheet, click here.

bedsores information

The Law Offices of Brian A. Raphan, P.C.

http://www.raphanlaw.com

How to Manage Higher Health Insurance Costs in 2016

There are ways to mitigate the effects of cost increases.

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Via US NEWS & WORLD REPORT By Aug. 5, 2015

If you have health insurance, there’s a good chance you’ll pay more for it in 2016.

Health care and health insurance costs increase year to year, like most expenses. Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, growth in premiums has mostly slowed (as has the rise in health care costs overall), while your share of expenses – like deductibles – has increased. For several reasons, increases in both premiums and other out-of-pocket costs are expected in the coming year.

You can cope with these cost increases by understanding how they’ll happen and what you can do to mitigate their effects. How they affect you depends largely on where you get your insurance.

Employer-Based Health Insurance

About half of all Americans receive health insurance through an employer, less than in years past. Although having a job with health insurance is a perk, that doesn’t mean the benefit comes cheap.

Employer-based insurance premiums have grown relatively modestly over the past few years, according to Sabrina Corlette, senior research fellow and project director of Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms. This is due, in part, to slower growth in health care costs, but also because employers are shifting other costs to their workers, a practice known as “cost-sharing.”

For instance, the number of workers with a health insurance deductible grew from 55 percent in 2006 to 80 percent in 2014, and the average deductible more than doubled, from $584 for individual coverage to $1,217, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Further, more employers are offering only plans with high deductibles.

In 2016, if you receive your insurance through your job, you may see modest premium increases and are likely to see increased cost-sharing, like bigger deductibles.

Depending on the size of your employer, you will likely have a few plan options at open enrollment time, which is usually in the fall. Here are some tips for choosing the right health plan to help keep costs in check:

● Opt for a smaller provider network (HMO) or a high-deductible plan if you’ll feel the pinch in premiums. Both of these options could reduce your monthly costs. Remember, these plans have trade-offs. In an HMO, you have less freedom to go to the doctors of your choice. With a high-deductible health plan, you’ll cover more of your health care costs upfront until your insurance starts picking up the tab.

● Choose a higher premium plan like a PPO if the thought of that big deductible scares you. These plans may have higher monthly costs, but allow you greater freedom to visit the doctors you want without such high out-of-pocket expenses.

● Take advantage of health spending accounts no matter your plan choice. These accounts allow you to set aside pre-tax dollars for out-of-pocket medical expenses, and they’re usually taken directly from your paycheck. The two most common types are health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts. HSAs are available only to people with high-deductible plans, but have benefits over FSAs because you are able to carry your unused balance from year to year. With FSAs, if you don’t use the money you’ve allocated to the account, you’re likely to lose it at the end of the year.

“Marketplace”-Based Health Insurance

During the second open enrollment period of the ACA, an estimated 11.7 million people had selected or were automatically re-enrolled in health insurance plans on the federal and state marketplaces, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Recent media coverage of planned 2016 premium hikes refers to plans purchased by individuals on these health care exchanges. But these reports don’t tell the whole story.

“The data that’s out there about 2016 premiums is a little deceiving,” Corlette says. “And that’s because, in most states, the only rates that have to be posted right now are those that are proposed to be over 10 percent increases.” Insurance companies projecting more modest increases, therefore, don’t have to share that publicly, creating a skewed sample.

But, Corlette says, that doesn’t mean there won’t be premium increases. They’re driven largely by rising prescription drug costs, insurers having a clearer picture of their policyholders’ health care needs and the end of temporary “risk mitigation” programs that gave cash incentives to insurers for approving everyone.

In 2016, if you buy your insurance on state or federal health insurance marketplaces, you’re likely to see both increased premiums and cost-sharing. But unlike employer-based coverage, increased premiums on these plans are often offset by subsidies.

The solution, as with employer coverage, lies in shopping carefully.

● Reapply for the premium tax credit or health care subsidies. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates 87 percent of people purchasing marketplace plans receive this financial assistance to help lower premium costs. Updating your income information each year will ensure you’re getting the maximum allowable benefit.

● Be flexible and willing to part with your current plan. As costs change, the government may label another marketplace plan the “benchmark,” or the plan to which subsidy amounts are tied. If the price of your current plan goes up and another goes down, that lower-priced option may be deemed the benchmark. By switching plans, you’ll likely avoid cost increases altogether.

“The subsidy is almost like a gift card,” Corlette says. “So if you take it and stay in your same plan, even though that plan has gone up, yes, you’ll be paying more. But if you take it and go shop for a lower-priced plan, you should be fine.”

● Apply for Medicaid or CHIP coverage if you have children. If you make too much to qualify for Medicaid, your children could still be eligible for it or for The Children’s Health Insurance Program. Both are designed to provide health insurance to children at no or low cost. Eligibility varies by state, income and family size. In some states, children in a family of four could be eligible even if the household adjusted gross monthly income is as much as $6,000 or $7,000.

Stay Calm

When you’re reading about potentially dramatic health care cost increases, 2016 doesn’t seem so far off. Take this time to understand what is and isn’t working for you on your current plan and what your other options are. This way, when open enrollment comes around, you’re prepared to make savvy decisions about your health care.

Why your Medicaid Application should be entrusted to an Elder Law Attorney:

The New York State Bar Association provides this informational pamphlet for long term care and Medicaid needs.

New York State Bar Association - Elder Law

What Is Medicaid?
Medicaid is the government funded program through which many persons receive care at home or in a nursing home. Medicaid is a state-wide and state specific program, currently admin- istered through each county’s Department of Social Services (with the exception of the five counties comprising metropolitan NewYork, which are administered through the single NYC entity, Human Resources Administration).
The process of applying for Medicaid is complex and often times confusing. Because Medicaid offers many different programs, the eligibility rules and application processes differ. Having an attor- ney who has a full and thorough understanding of the benefits available through Medicaid, the rules for eligibility, and the process by which to secure those benefits provides a tremendous advantage to the applicant for Medicaid benefits.
The Medicaid Application Process
Information Needed
Depending upon the program for which you are applying, different information may be required. All Medicaid applications, regardless of benefits sought, require extensive personal documenta- tion and detailed proof of income. Certain pro- grams require proof of assets and sixty months of records for all assets held during that period.
Help with the Application
An experienced Elder Law Attorney can advise you on the benefits available, the process for obtaining the benefits you need, the provisions of the law that might enable your family to protect assets, and the rights that certain family members of the applicant may have.
In New York State, it is not required that an attor- ney assist with the Medicaid appli- cation. In fact, you can prepare the appli- cation yourself. There are many entities, agencies, or divisions within hospitals and nursing homes which may offer to prepare and submit the application for you
for free or for a reduced fee. However, you must exercise great caution when accepting that help, as those entities and agencies are not obligated to advise you of your rights and are not permitted to give legal advice or implement legal strategies. Using these services might expose you and your family to risk.
Be Wary Of:
• Offers to prepare the Medicaid application free of charge or at a significantly reduced rate—
if it’s“too good to be true,”it probably is!
• Persons holding themselves out as attorneys or giving legal advice without confirming they are admitted to the New York State Bar.
• Guarantees of Medicaid eligibility or other government benefits.
• Agencies, entities or groups which have as their “sole job”the securing of Medicaid benefits for you. These entities may not have any liability to you if they fail to secure Medicaid eligibility.
Exposure to Risks When an Elder Law Attorney Is Not Used 

The law has many nuances and intricacies. An Elder Law Attorney has the obligation to ensure
that you are fully informed of all the provisions of law related to Medicaid, and to accurately answer any questions you may have. The Elder Law Attorney does not work for the nursing home. In fact, the Elder Law Attorney has an ethical duty to advocate for you and your interests.

Failing to use an Elder Law Attorney could expose you to the following risks:
• Failure to be fully informed of spousal rights;

• Failure to be informed of oppor-tunities for asset protection;
• Incomplete or inaccurate application submission;
• Denial of application due to failure to provide information;
• Failure to be informed of consequences of prior actions;
• Imposition of a penalty period for which mitigation strategies could have been implemented;

• Failure to have a dedicated advocate working with you through the process.

To learn read THE TOP 8 MEDICAID PLANNING MISTAKES click here.

Regards,

Brian