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What you may not know about long-term care planning

Did you know that 30 percent of seniors in Denver live on less than $20,000 per year? And 24 percent of those 60 years old or older receive food stamps? That is a whopping number of the aged population that probably have not planned for long-term health care.

If you didn't know that, you probably also didn't know that when it comes to long-term health care, low-income seniors may be more prepared than higher-income seniors. Not all higher-income seniors -- just those who have failed to include long-term health care in their estate planning or in their private insurance plans.

All seniors are automatically covered by Medicare at the age of 65. This is not the same as Medicaid (known as Health First Colorado). There are some major differences between the two. For one, Medicaid is based on income. If you, or you and your household, exceed a certain amount of income, you do not qualify for Medicaid. Medicare is not based on income; therefore, if you do not qualify for Medicaid when you turn 65, you qualify for Medicare.

Another big difference is that Medicaid pays for long-term health care, such as home health care and nursing home care, while Medicare does not. The average monthly cost of a semiprivate room in a nursing home is $6,996. For home health care, the average cost is around a $4,195 per month. It is easy to see how quickly one could go through his or her savings and commodities if he or she has to pay out of pocket for long-term health care.

The answer: Medicaid planning. You can plan to qualify for Medicaid before you become a senior citizen. An attorney can help you do this while doing your estate planning. It doesn't mean necessarily that you have to get rid of all of your possessions either. You can alternatively place your valuable property and items in an irrevocable trust for your beneficiaries. Turn savings or cash into things that will not be counted toward qualifying for Medicaid, such as a term life insurance policy or a prepaid burial plan. There are many different ways of protecting your assets and your money and your attorney can provide more information.

Source: SeniorCare.com, "Denver, CO Senior Guide," accessed Nov. 17, 2017

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