The state of California has a number of health care programs designed to help the elderly (Medicare) and low income individuals and seniors (MediCal). Among the programs is Healthy Families, which helps insure approximately 860,000 children around the state. The program is currently helping children who do not come from impoverished families, but do come from families who do not qualify for MediCal, but who are still subject to relatively low income requirements.
Healthy Families is part of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is set to expire automatically in 2015. However, California is terminating the program early. Individuals whose children are enrolled in Healthy Families should watch for notices beginning next month and going through September of 2013. When you receive the notice, your children enrolled in Healthy Families will be shifted to MediCal. The state of California anticipates saving money in the shift.
Children’s health has been a major focal point of the President’s term and, particularly, his wife’s turn as first lady. Michelle Obama has been championing children’s health issues throughout the last four years by discussing and advocating against childhood obesity. Her Let’s Move Campaign and School Lunch programs highlight a shift toward preventative care.
Additionally, MediCal will be expanding in general under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as long as it isn’t repealed. Given these changes in the system, any planning done to qualify for the MediCal, program may need to be revisited. For example, income requirements will be increased to allow more individuals to qualify for the program. For many seniors, and those approaching retirement, planning for MediCal may be important to absorb the cost of long-term nursing care. Medicare does not cover the cost of long-term care.
For families who do not have employer-sponsored health insurance, MediCal will also cover more people. Additionally, for those who still do not meet the income and asset requirements to qualify for MediCal, California has already begun creating its health insurance exchange program mandated by Obamacare. The insurance exchange is designed to lower insurance rates by offering a “group plan” and pooling the health of uninsured or underinsured Americans. Additionally, the insurance rates will be capped at a percentage of income and subsidized for the remaining portion. Even if Obamacare is ultimately repealed, the state of California has vowed to institute a similar policy and exchange.
With all the changes happening in health care policy, it is important to remember, that there are no plans to extend Medicare to cover long term care. That continues to be a huge uncovered hole. If that is a concern, then it is important that you speak with a qualified attorney to help you decide which options work for you and whether you should engage in any asset planning to ensure or protect your eligibility. For example, a QMap Trust can help your family keep its home, maintain your eligibility for MediCal, and retain the income tax benefits of owning and selling your home. If you are a veteran, similar planning, such as a QVap Trust, can be done to help certain veterans, especially senior veterans, qualify for V.A. benefits.
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