My 95-year-old friend will have to go into a nursing home next year because she will run out of money. Once “Jane’s” money is down to $2,000, she will be required by law to move into a nursing facility, sharing a room with another resident, to qualify for Medicaid. She does not need nursing-home care, but she must move there to qualify and to survive. There is no room for any of her furniture.
Here’s the back story: Jane is no slacker. After graduating from college in North Carolina, she was accepted into medical school, but then rejected after failing the hearing test. Instead, she got her master’s degree and became a medical researcher. She met and married a veterinary student, and they eventually moved to Orlando.
After her 25-year marriage ended in divorce, she paid for a condo in an up-and-coming area of Orlando. She worked full time in Orlando, paid into Social Security, saved her money and retired at 65. She does not have children and was an only child. She has several cousins who are in their 60s and live in North Carolina.
Fast-forward to 2014. Due to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, Jane sold her condo and moved into assisted living. She currently lives in a studio apartment in an assisted-living facility that she pays for with savings. She has lived on her savings and Social Security check (now $880 per month) for 30 years. She does not have dementia, and constantly worries about money. However, once she hits that magic $2,000 limit, she will have to share a room in a nursing home to qualify for Medicaid.
The application process for Medicaid is arduous and time consuming, and Jane has consulted Medicaid experts for options. One option as she spends down her money is for her doctor to place her in hospice care. Hospice can then help her fill out the necessary paperwork to apply for Medicaid.
But all roads eventually lead to shared nursing-home space, even though she does not need nursing care and it is more expensive than assisted living.
I am not blaming anyone for Jane’s situation. I am thankful that Medicaid exists for her. She has pared her expenses to the lowest common denominator — except for buying her favorite lipstick, which costs $17 a tube. Who can fault her for this one small luxury every three to four months? Still, she will run out of money if she lives.
My questions are these: Why uproot a 95-year-old woman who does not need nursing care and move her into a place that costs more? Why can’t Medicaid pay for her to stay in assisted living? I imagine that one reason for the law is that some people will scam the system. She is not one of them. What is the reasoning behind this rule — and what can be done to fix it?
You may never be in a situation such as this, but your tax dollars go for Medicaid. Why not pay less and let the elderly keep what independence they have left? Contact your state representative and senator today and tell them to fix this.
Barbara L. Martin lives in Orlando.