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Contracts adding legal twist to family health care
Date:5/27/2009

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Financial contracts to care for sick or aging relatives nearly unthinkable just a decade ago are drawing new interest as everyday Americans wrestle with the time and expense of providing long-term health care, a University of Illinois legal expert says.

Law professor Richard L. Kaplan says the rise in so-called family caregiver agreements is far from a groundswell, and most people still bristle at the notion of being paid to care for parents or other relatives who may have once cared for them.

"To most, the idea is abhorrent because they consider this a family responsibility," said Kaplan, whose research on caregiver agreements appears in the current issue of the Canadian Journal of Elder Law. "I'm not sure I've seen anyone who has reacted positively on the first or even second hearing."

But he says more Americans are considering the agreements as a result of tougher standards imposed three years ago for Medicaid, a government program that covers nursing homes and other long-term health care costs after older Americans exhaust their own assets.

Under the change, officials now look back five years rather than three to see whether Medicaid applicants gave away homes or other assets that could have paid for their care.

If so, the government assesses a stiff penalty that denies Medicaid coverage for the amount of time the gifts would have covered health-care costs. For example, if a patient in a nursing home costing $5,000 per month gave her daughter a residence worth $200,000, the penalty period would be 40 months.

But there are no penalties if the assets are part of a family caregiver agreement, making them payments for services rather than a gift, said Kaplan, an expert on elder law and a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance.

"The biggest motivator for these agreements is the transfer of assets penalty, and that will only grow if the Obama administration implem
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Contact: Jan Dennis
jdennis@illinois.edu
217-333-0568
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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