New Jersey COVID-19 MedComm Contains Big Announcements on Medicaid Terminations and Eligibility

An important new Medicaid Communication (MedComm) was recently issued by the New Jersey Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services (DMAHS). As we had previously discussed, due to the COVID-19 emergency, Medicaid has loosened certain eligibility and post-eligibility rules. The MedComm explains and reconfirms our understanding of the changes in these areas:

Terminations: If you were approved for or receiving Medicaid in March 2020, you cannot be terminated for the length of the emergency unless you wish to do so voluntarily.  Terminations occur for a variety of reasons, including changes in resources (like selling a house and getting cash), changes in income (like getting a new pension from a deceased spouse), change in insurance coverage (like getting Medicare for turning 65) or failure to provide information to a Medicaid agency (information is usually requested on an annual basis).  If you had been on Medicaid in March and have been terminated for any reason without your consent, you should be reinstated. Call us if you are experiencing problems with this.

Applications: Medicaid is allowing “self-attestation” of income and resources in certain situations where they may have previously insisted on bank statements or other proofs that cannot be gotten during the COVID emergency. “Self-attestation” is a sworn statement signed by an applicant or representative to declare what their income or resources are as of an application date. Because it is sworn, attestation is a process to be taken seriously in conjunction with legal advice.

Clinical Eligibility: MLTSS Medicaid eligibility will be processed in the emergency without completion of the usual face-to-face clinical assessments that were typically required, as long as the facilities or individuals follow the procedures outlined in this separate guidance from Division on Aging Services Call us with your questions about this change in process.

Stimulus Payments: No stimulus payment will be counted toward resource eligibility for Medicaid. No enhanced unemployment payment ($600) will count toward income eligibility for Medicaid. This reconfirms what we had discussed earlier this month.

Everyone’s individual situation right now is a little different, so this new policy guidance will affect each person differently when applied to the individual’s case. Contact us at 732-382-6070 to discuss how this will affect you or your family members.

COVID-19 Emergency Means Making Tax and Insurance Decisions

As COVID-19 affects employment nationwide, more New Jerseyans will need to make strategic decisions about health insurance and tax filing this year.  Marketplace insurance and MAGI Medicaid are based on your 2020 Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI).  There is special enrollment for a change in employment status. MAGI will include any unemployment you collect as well as any distributions from retirement plans (but not loans from those plans).  When you apply, you are essentially giving the government an “honest guess” of your income for the year, and if your guess is off, it will be reconciled on your 2020 return in the first quarter of 2021.

How you file your return is also a strategic decision.  If you’re under 26, it might not have mattered that your parent claimed you as a dependent, because you were on their insurance.  Now, there is the possibility of a cash payment under the CARES Act, and the parent may no longer have a health plan that can cover you.  So, filing your own return for 2020 and getting Marketplace or Medicaid insurance needs to be immediately considered.  Additionally, now that the filing deadline has been extended to July, you may want to review your dependent status on any 2019 return as well.

As if things weren’t complicated enough, you might be able to change your MAGI income with a strategic 401k distribution to put you in an income bracket outside of Medicaid eligibility but within income limits for Marketplace insurance subsidies.  This might be best if you’re over 55 because Medicaid would put a lien against assets at death for those amounts they laid out–private insurance doesn’t do this.

In short, it’s a lot to take in; and frankly, it might be time for a family meeting!  We’re here to help!  Call us at 732-382-6070.

Marinaro Joins NAELA Board, Continues as Co-Chair of Federal Policy Group

Lauren Marinaro has been selected for a two year term as National Board Member for the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) for 2020-2022.  NAELA  is a national membership organization for attorneys that keeps its members informed and up-to-date on fast-breaking changes in the law — legislation, agency rules and court decisions — that would affect seniors and people with disabilities.  Lauren’s  excited to work with the board on the issues that affect the practice of elder law and our clients.  She will continue her work as NAELA Federal Policy co-Chair.  So much has happened and continues to happen on the policy front as the two political parties bring their contrasting ideas to the world of public benefits–block grants, 1115 waivers, changes to Social Security rules, and ABLE accounts just to name a few.  By taking what we learn from our clients back to our national organization, she will have the opportunity to help bring about meaningful and helpful changes in the programs our clients rely upon.

Federal and state programs that .particularly impact people who are aged or disabled include Social Security, SSI, Medicaid, Medicare, public housing, HUD, food stamps (SNAP). Then there are the programs that govern insurance products, reverse mortgages, predatory lending, state and local tax exemptions, and landlord-tenant issues. The list goes on and on. The NAELA public policy committee looks at all of these issues on an ongoing basis, and Lauren is playing an active role with that process.

for advice and representation on elder law issues, call us at ……….. 732-382-6070

FRE-L Attorneys have been busy teaching Continuing Legal Education

This has been a busy year for the elder law attorneys at our Firm in the realm of community education. We’ve been teaching at programs run by the NJ Institute for Continuing Legal Education almost every month. Among the topics of Linda and Lauren’s lectures were Representing Clients in Medicaid Fair Hearings at the Office of Administrative Law; Getting the Most out of Medicaid/MLTSS Home Care Benefits; Medicare’s Individualized Care Plan Requirements for persons residing in nursing homes; Limited Guardianship and its applications to individuals with intellectual disabilities; preparing and filing Medicaid/MLTSS applications; Ethics in SSI practice before the SSA, and Medicaid from A to Z;     We also spoke at the annual NJ Elder Law Retreat in April. At the November Symposium of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys in Washington, DC., Gene Rosner spoke on elder law issues in divorce and Lauren Marinaro spoke about developments in Federal Policy. Our public speaking engagements included Jewish Family Services of Central New Jersey; the Senior Monthly gathering in Cranford; and our frequent seminars at the Clark Holiday Inn.

We enjoy doing in-service training for health care staffs, financial firms and family services organizations. We can develop a talk on whatever elder law subject is of importance to the group.

Call to arrange a speaking engagement or in-service training ……. 732-382-6070

New Jersey NAELA Lobbies to Support Medicaid Improvement Bill

New Jersey NAELA has been advocating in support of A4569, which provides for an improved, more accountable, more uniform system for eligibility determination for Medicaid.  On March 11th, 2019, Lauren S. Marinaro, Chapter President of New Jersey NAELA and a partner at Fink Rosner Ershow-Levenberg LLC, testified before the Assembly Human Services Committee in Trenton in support of this important legislation.  The bill has now passed the New Jersey State Senate and is currently waiting to be scheduled and heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The bill’s main drafter and Senate Sponsor, Sen. Joseph Vitale, was awarded NJ NAELA’s first “Legislative Leadership Award” on April 10, 2019.