What is the Home Care Program?
The Home Care Program is for elders with limited income and with low-to-moderate needs in terms of in-home services. The program also includes respite care for caregivers.
Elders are eligible for the Home Care Program if they meet the income criteria detailed below; are not residing in a rest home, nursing facility, convalescent home, or assisted living residence; are not receiving services from an all-inclusive program such as Adult Foster Care (also known as Adult Family Care), Group Adult Foster Care (GAFC), or Program for All-Inclusive Care (PACE); and have been assessed and determined to be in need of in-home services by a local Aging Services Access Point (ASAP) case worker.
The amount of services an elder receives through the Home Care Program depends on his or her needs and the availability of funding. There may be a waiting list for services. Those elders with critical unmet needs such as personal care, meal preparation, food shopping, and transportation to medical appointments receive higher priority.
Services through the Home Care Program are either partially subsidized through the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) or fully by MassHealth.
Services through the Home Care Program include assistance with personal care (bathing, dressing, etc.), adult day health services, homemaker services, laundry, transportation, companion services, food shopping and delivery services, laundry, chore services to maintain the home or yard, and other services.
What are the income and asset rules for the Home Care Program?
There is no asset test; however, the income generated by the assets will count toward the income limit.
As of 2014, the maximum gross annual income for the Home Care Program is $24,838 for family size of one and $35,145 for family size of two. The family consists of the elder and his or her spouse, if living together. The fees for Home Care Program in-home services are on a sliding scale, based on the elder's gross family income. As of 2014, for individuals with incomes of $10,924 to $24,837, the monthly co-payments are $9 to $130. As of 2014, for couples with income of $14,646 to $35,144, the monthly co-payments are $17 to $140.
What is the Enhanced Community Options Program (ECOP)?
The Enhanced Community Options Program (ECOP) is a program within the Home Care Program that provides a higher level of service (at least twice the services of the Home Care Program) to elders who are clinically in need of nursing home care.
How Can an Elder Law Attorney Help?
There is nothing more important than avoiding nursing home care (not always possible, but if possible). Often the key to avoiding nursing home placement is in-home care. Elder law attorneys are an important resource as they know the ins and outs of the various programs available to assist elders in covering the cost of in-home care.
Elder law attorneys often assist elders in applying for in-home care programs. Notwithstanding asset limits of the various in-home care programs, there typically are methods for attaining eligibility even if the elder exceeds the limit.
Elders also need to be mindful of "estate recovery" as the Division of Medical Assistance is entitled to recover against the probate estate of any individual for whom MassHealth benefits were paid when he or she was age 55 or over. In order to do so, the agency must file a timely claim against the estate. Typically, there is no probate estate when an elder is on MassHealth as the asset limit is $2,000. However, many elders on MassHealth own a home as the home is noncountable as long as the equity value does not exceed $750,000.
There are steps that can be taken to protect the home from an estate recovery claim. An elder law attorney can assist by providing legal guidance regarding the home and MassHealth estate recovery.
Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice as this is a complicated area of the law. The author Brigitte von Weiss of VON WEISS LAW OFFICE is an estate planning lawyer and elder law attorney serving clients in Easton, MA, as well as nearby towns and cities, including Abington, MA, Attleboro, MA, Avon, MA, Bridgewater, MA, Brockton, MA, Canton, MA, East Bridgewater, MA, Foxboro, MA, Mansfield, MA, North Attleboro, MA, Norwood, MA, Norton, MA, Plainville, MA, Randolph, MA, Raynham, MA, Rehoboth, MA, Rockland, MA, Sharon, MA, Stoughton, MA, Walpole, MA, West Bridgewater, MA, and Whitman, MA.
Brigitte, a graduate of Boston College School of Nursing and an honors graduate of Loyola University of Chicago Law School, stands out from other elder law and estate planning attorneys in that she worked as a registered nurse for four years and earned a Master of Science in Taxation with high distinction from Bentley College. This unique combination of legal, nursing and taxation backgrounds enables Brigitte to provide outstanding legal guidance to her clients in their time of need. Call (508) 238-3005 for a free phone conversation with Brigitte to learn if she can help. You also may reach her through her website at www.vonweisslaw.com.