As the boomer generation transitions into retirement, middle-class families face new health care challenges. Families are shouldering the burden of costs for end-of-life care for their elderly loved ones.

Nursing homes, regular medication and more frequent doctor visits can be prohibitively expensive. Resourceful families turn toward government programs like Medicaid to help cover the costs. Understanding how this program works is integral to securing its benefits.

Medicaid eligibility and benefits

Medicaid is a federal health care program that provides medical coverage to at-need population   s. Managed by individual states, Medicaid helps low-income U.S. residents cover basic health care costs. Over 67 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid as of 2018, securing coverage for doctor’s visits, hospital trips, prescription drugs, and even nursing home care.

An individual’s income determines eligibility for Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act made it easier for families to secure Medicaid coverage, especially for those claiming dependents on tax returns — elderly family members included. Based off Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI), the eligibility requirements consider taxable income and these tax filing relationships and compare this number to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Each state sets the minimum requirements, though federal guidelines recommend making Medicaid available for anyone making up to 138% of the FPL. For caretaker relatives who must look after the health of parents in their declining age, Georgia only offers coverage for those making up to 34% of FPL. The state has not expanded Medicaid coverage to include independent adults over the age of 18.

Though Georgia’s coverage falls behind many other states, many lawmakers are pushing legislation to expand coverage. In November 2019, the state submitted waivers that expand Medicaid coverage to adults making up to 100% FPL if they also work, perform community service, train for a job, or participate in higher education for 80 hours each month. The new ruling takes effect in July of 2021.

Legal protections for America’s seniors

Between caring for aging parents and raising children of their own, many Georgia families face considerable financial challenges. Securing extra coverage for needed medical care for elderly family members and children can go a long way. Those with questions about Medicaid can reach out to a local attorney familiar with estate planning and elder care for answers.