The buzz for months was that the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world on December 21st. Well, Christmas occurred as scheduled and so did the new year of 2013. Between the “Fiscal Cliff” negotiations of New Years Eve and the other legislation scheduled to come into effect, January 1st brought in a new set of laws affecting seniors. Here are but a few of the most important:
1) Fiscal Cliff Deal Threw New Senior Program Over the Cliff
The Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) created a provision known as the CLASS Act, which is short for Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act. This provision was meant to create a self-supporting fund made up of voluntary employee contributions in exchange for long term care coverage that would allow a person to reside at home using home-based services as an alternative to nursing home placement on Medicaid. Instead, the Fiscal Cliff Deal has repealed this program and mandated that a Long Term Care Commission be established to recommend legislation to curb the costs of and establish viable alternatives for long term care needs.
2) Fiscal Cliff Deal Fixes Estate Tax
The Bush tax cuts on Estate taxes (the tax on the value of one’s assets at the time of their death) were set to expire on December 31st. Without the Fiscal Cliff Deal, the estate tax would be assessed on an individual’s estate that was worth more than $1 million at a rate of 55% on everything over that amount. The Fiscal Cliff Deal sets the tax at 40% and only taxes everything over $5 million for an individual and $10 million for a couple.
3) Police Officers in Illinois to Get New Training
Illinois has three new laws concerning elder abuse and neglect. These include (1) requiring police officers to get training in how to recognize crimes against the elderly, including exploitation; (2) law enforcement and fire department access to reports of abuse and neglect, and (3) expanding the definition of “intimidation” of the elderly and disabled.
With the economy as it is, the elderly have become a more frequent target of scammers and family members needing a quick buck. Law enforcement often times does not recognize such incidences, especially when seniors are either unable to look out for such acts because of health problems or because they are embarrassed to come forward.
4) Medicaid Allowances Unchanged
Whenever a spouse continues to reside at home after the other goes to a nursing home, the spouse at home (i.e. the “community spouse”) is allowed to have total income of $2,739.00 per month and non exempt assets totaling $109,560.00, plus the residence and one car among other nominal items. These limits are reviewed annually, but remain unchanged for 2013.