For so many of us, life has necessarily been put on hold. In many cases, we are on hold both personally and professionally by order of the Governor. But, for those who need care and who need assistance with their activities of daily living, they are unable to shelter in place alone. Their care needs cannot simply be put on hold until the world goes back to normal. Identifying and securing that care is challenging enough in these times. Paying for that care, once identified, is a whole other ballgame. How are our seniors supposed to pay for the care they need? What about those seniors who need care but cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars a month to the long-term care facility? Medicaid. That’s how. They apply and hopefully qualify, for Medicaid. Medicaid is a poverty program that helps persons who qualify both medically and financially pay for their long-term care needs.
On a good day, the County Boards of Social Service (“CBOSS”) offices are understaffed and overworked. Medicaid applications take—on average—six months to be approved. As part of that process, the State needs to send a nurse to screen (yes, in person) the Medicaid applicant to confirm that the applicant does, in fact, qualify medically for Medicaid assistance. So much for social distancing, huh? And, the financial requirements of a Medicaid application? Five years of financial records. All of them. All of the records. It’s not so easy to obtain five years of financial documentation when many financial institutions are closed and records cannot be obtained. And, yet, I have had at least one client tell me that her caseworker declined to give an extension of time to submit additional information requested by the caseworker, even in this COVID-19 world. Failure to produce documentation requested by Medicaid is cause for the denial of an application. In such a case, the application would need to be resubmitted in its entirety. Trust me, submitting a Medicaid application once is no small task. To have to do it twice is torture. And, far worse than the inconvenience, submitting an application a second time may result in an eligibility date which is later than the date which the applicant needed eligibility.
Wouldn’t it be nice if our state legislature would direct our CBOSS offices to relax some of the rules and extend some of the deadlines? The feds have authorized the States to relax some of the Medicaid processing and eligibility requirements but, so far, New Jersey has not taken the bait. New Jersey Department of Medical Assistance and Human Services (DMAHS) has requested that the State relax of some of the usual requirements, but nothing yet. Instead, with our status quo, I fear that the overworked and understaffed CBOSS caseworkers may deny applications that cannot comply with the ordinary (and statutory) timelines in an effort to lighten their caseloads. Another unintended consequence of COVID-19. Sorry for the doom and gloom, but these are the worries. We are here to help our families navigate these unchartered waters in any way we can.