We’ve all heard the story. A loved one gets a scary diagnosis and ends up in the hospital, followed by a rehab facility and then maybe home with nursing care. The good news may be that he recovers. The bad news—most of his savings, and even his home, have gone toward paying for his care.

A hospital’s goal is to get you out of the hospital as soon as possible, even if you are unable to fully care for yourself. If you go to a rehab facility, Medicare pays for 21 days. After that, you and your family are responsible for the costs. If you need care at home, you’ll have to pay for that out of pocket. In most cases, Medicaid pays your medical costs only after you have decimated your savings, sold your home and used up all of your assets. This is happening all across the country to good people who have worked all their lives.

This is not a call to change the system—even though it seems to need some serious changing. Instead, I am asking you to prepare for the unexpected. Talk to your attorney now about how to protect your assets in case you or your spouse suffer a catastrophic illness. There are steps you can take, but they have to be taken at least five years before that frightening medical diagnosis.

I hope you never have to face this scenario. Please take the right steps to protect yourself in case you do.

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