February 23, 2011 10:13 ET

MassNAELA Hosts Breakfast Programs to Raise Awareness of Legislation to Address Current Rules Affecting Seniors' Financial Resources

The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Continues Its Advocacy Campaign to Ensure Financial Security and Independence for Elders During the Economic Crisis

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwire - February 23, 2011) - The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (MassNAELA), an organization dedicated to improving the lives of seniors, is hosting state-wide breakfast programs joining members, affiliated professionals and legislators to raise awareness of proposed legislative solutions to issues arising from MassHealth's treatment of transfers of assets and retirement accounts. The five bills MassNAELA is supporting in the 2011-2012 legislative session focus on improving the ability of elders to remain financially independent and in their home while dealing with the cost of long-term care.

At breakfasts held February 11th in Easthampton and February 15th in Hingham, Natick and Peabody, several legislators and/or their aides attended and participated in the program and discussion. Legislators who attended include Senator Brian Joyce, Representative Rhonda Nyman, Representative Alice Peisch, and Representative Joyce Spiliotis. Aides for the following legislators were also in attendance: Senator Robert Hedlund, Senator Michael Knapik, Senator Thomas McGee, Senator Karen Spilka, Senator Bruce Tarr, Representative Garrett Bradley, Representative Robert Fennell, Representative Kimberly Ferguson, Representative Michael Kane, Representative Steve Kulik, Representative James Murphy, and Representative Theodore Speliotis.

"It is our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, especially during the current economic crisis," states Tracey Ingle, president of MassNAELA. "The proposed legislation will direct MassHealth to review current issues that severely impact an elder's financial and personal well-being and to address those issues by putting necessary criteria in place. We join with many Representatives and Senators in driving this legislation that will benefit the state's elder population."

The following five bills supported by MassNAELA will help elders preserve their financial resources and allow them to live independently for as long as possible:

"An Act to Help Families Care for Elders," sponsored by Senator Mark Montigny and Representative Kay Khan, would allow elders to compensate family members providing in-home care-giving services without violating MassHealth eligibility rules. The bill would permit family members to leave employment to care for loved ones, thus preventing nursing home placement and saving costs to the MassHealth program.

"An Act Regarding the Assets of Medical Assistance Recipients," filed by Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Alice Peisch, would help community spouses of nursing home residents retain their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA's) as non-countable assets when the resident applies for MassHealth. Allowing spouses to keep their retirement assets provides them with additional income and resources while they are dealing with the substantial cost of nursing home care.

"An Act Relative to Nursing Facility and Long Term Care Claims," sponsored by Representative Chris Fallon, concerns MassHealth's exemption of the estates of individuals with minimum long-term care insurance coverage from its estate recovery claims. This bill would allow the use of such coverage for community-based care before entering a nursing home without forfeiting the exemption from MassHealth estate recovery. Allowing seniors to use their long term care insurance for community-based care will enable many more elders to remain in their homes rather than forcing them into institutional care.

A new bill filed this session, "An Act Relative to Transfers of Assets by MassHealth Members," sponsored by Representative John Fernandes, would protect elders from ineligibility for MassHealth nursing home care by clarifying that a period of ineligibility for nursing home care does not apply to an applicant who transferred assets for a purpose other than to qualify for MassHealth. This bill would establish specific criteria used to determine intent, such as a regular pattern of small gifts, donations, or assistance to a relative in financial crisis. If an individual demonstrated one of these criteria, MassHealth would then bear the burden of proving that the transfer was made to qualify for MassHealth benefits.

Another new bill filed this session, "An Act to Establish Criteria for MassHealth Hardship Waivers," would establish criteria to be used by MassHealth to determine whether a penalty for a transfer of assets would constitute an undue hardship to an applicant. When an applicant cannot prove the transfer was for a sole purpose other than qualifying for MassHealth, they are determined to be ineligible for nursing home care for a period of time, which would risk serious harm to the individual. This bill would create a refutable presumption establishing that the applicant would be granted a waiver of the ineligibility period if certain criteria are met.

About MassNAELA
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the premier organization of elder law attorneys in the country, is dedicated to developing awareness of issues concerning the elderly. 485 attorneys are members of the Massachusetts Chapter, which comprises 13% of all NAELA members nationwide. They work directly with the elderly population in areas as diverse as planning for catastrophic care costs, disability planning, age discrimination in employment and housing, benefits planning, estate planning, veterans' benefits and more. For more information about MassNAELA, visit

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