LTC Bullet: Medi-Cal (California Medicaid) is for Everyone?
Wednesday February 10, 1999
So says Medicaid planner and National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) member Zoran Basich. His web site http://www.medi-plan.com promotes his aggressive Medicaid planning services with a potpourri of multi-media hype. He encourages unsuspecting seniors to tap into Medi-Cal's long-term care benefits by impoverishing themselves. Basich's organization is a perfect example of what the long-term care insurance industry and responsible legal and financial planners are up against.
Any advice to plan ahead with long-term care insurance? No way. Mr. Basich dismisses long-term care insurance outright in an on-line video clip that tells a room full of seniors "I personally don't have a lot of confidence in long-term care insurance.... [A]ny of the really good policies are really very expensive." He then goes on to instruct attendees on the creative use of annuities to become eligible for Medi-Cal within one month.
Any warning about Medi-Cal's problems with access, quality and institutional bias? Not a word. Evidently, it's caveat emptor when you buy discounted welfare eligibility from a Medicaid planner.
Is anyone listening to Mr. Basich's seductive message? You bet. According to Basich's web site, his organization has given "hundreds of lectures to the general public, hospital workers, doctors, nurses, social workers and discharge planners throughout the state of California."
Below are excerpts from the text of Mr. Basich's web site that typify Medicaid planners' characteristic sales pitch which responsible citizens find so maddening:
"'My husband (wife, parent, grandparent) needs nursing home care and I don't know how I'm going to pay for it.'
"We hear these two statements from distraught callers at least a dozen times, every day. The most important thing that we tell them in response is:
"'It's all alright. You don't have to lose everything you've worked for. In fact, you don't need to pay anything out of pocket.'
"Hard to believe? Let us explain. You can pay privately, out of your own savings. Or, you can let us help you get those nursing home costs paid, at little or no expense to you."
"Medi-Cal is a public benefit program, not a welfare program. A public benefit program, such as Medi-Cal, is available to all Americans, including the elderly, who are the most likely group of people to need government assistance at some time during their lives. Medi-Cal is not just for those classified as needy or poor."
"Politicians and others continually perpetuate the myth of the 'rich senior on public assistance' because it sounds good to a significant uninformed section of our society."
"One does not have to be impoverished before applying for desperately-needed Medi-Cal benefits! This is where a competent professional comes in.... [W]e have assisted many elders and their families over the past 20 years. These elders and their families have been eco-nomically diverse, i.e., they have ranged from lower middle class to rather well-to-do individuals.... Now, more than ever, it is important to consult with a competent professional before entering long-term care so the proper planning can be done!"
"The asset protection aspect of our services include preparing all documents (will, durable powers of attorney, deeds, etc.,) necessary to complete the process and protect the home, savings, pensions, IRA's, annuities, and a variety of other assets that do not need to be 'spent down'. With our planning in place, a family can far exceed the $80,760 limit for married couples set by Medi-Cal. The healthy spouse at home can also keep a monthly income flow of a minimum of $2,019.00."
"WITH PROPER PLANNING ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE."
How can long-term care insurance agents compete with lawyers who offer free coverage after the insurable event occurs? They can't! Is there any wonder why so little LTC insurance is being sold?
Unfortunately, the more negative publicity the Medicaid planners receive, the more people seek out their services. That's why Jane Bryant Quinn told us she hates to write on the topic. Even when she excoriates Medicaid planners in her syndicated column, her phone rings off the hook with readers asking for referrals!
When will the long-term care provider and insurance industries get behind efforts to stop these legalistic abuses?
Zoran Basich can be contacted at:
NURSING HOME FINANCIAL SECURITY