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Medical Assistance Renewals Return to Pre-COVID Rules

05.08.2024 Written by: Rachell L. Henning

Older woman researches medical assistance.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota’s Department of Human Services (DHS) temporarily paused processing Medical Assistance renewals. The Department resumed processing renewals in 2023 and has been utilizing an unwinding period to complete them more quickly. This unwinding period has allowed participants the option of not providing verification of their assets during the renewal process. This option will no longer be available for renewals due starting in July of 2024. 

Starting in July, individuals who have a renewal for their Medical Assistance benefits will be required to provide verification of their assets with their renewal paperwork. DHS will also be requesting updated and signed AVS (Account Validation Service) forms. This enables the county to utilize the participant’s Social Security number to ping banks nationwide to check for any open or closed accounts in the participant’s name, the other account owners on the account, and the balance of the account on the first of the month. 

It is important to complete and return the renewal notice by the deadline. Failure to do so could result in termination of eligibility for Medical Assistance and a need to reapply for Medical Assistance. Be sure to maintain bank statements and other documentation of assets to be able to timely provide documentation with the completed renewal to avoid unnecessary interruptions in eligibility.

The elder law attorneys at Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd. are knowledgeable in Medical Assistance applications and renewals and can help you navigate the process based upon your individual needs.

Contact us today for assistance.

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A nurse offers medical assistance to an older woman in a wheelchair.

One misfortune, such as a sudden disability or diagnosis, can change the financial outlook of a person or married couple in a drastic way. The typical reason for applying for Medical Assistance for Long-Term Care Services, a program that pays for an eligible applicant’s nursing facility or community-based healthcare services, often includes an unforeseen circumstance that precipitates a need for this level of care. Suddenly, a person’s (or couple’s) plans and visions he or she had for himself or herself have become completely untenable.

For families deciding what to do, it can feel like their world has been flipped upside down in a single moment. There are so many unanswered questions that were not ever a concern before: How will I pay for this? What will happen if I run out of money before being approved for services? Will my spouse have anything left to live on? Will I be left impoverished just for needing this service?

Single persons, couples, or families grappling with these issues—especially when time is of the essence—need answers to these questions quickly. One of the first issues that people considering a Medical Assistance application will face is whether they will apply for the general Long-Term Care program to stay at a skilled nursing facility/nursing home or whether to seek eligibility for a waiver program that allows the applicant to stay in-home or at least at an assisted living facility/care unit. Although both programs fall under the Medical Assistance umbrella, there are important distinctions between the programs that affect people’s choices.

Waiver-Based Medical Assistance vs. General Long-Term Care

Most people prefer to receive community-based services outside of a nursing home. When it becomes apparent that a person may need to apply for Medical Assistance, even eventually, that individual or both spouses often plan a move to an assisted living facility, where they will pay their own way as long as possible, often selling their home or condo to begin paying for services themselves. This may not be the best financial or legal decision available to them. This is because the currently owned home or rental property is often still the most cost-effective place to receive care.

Seeking a waiver-based Medical Assistance program pays for care services, not room and board. The assistance covers broad needs that help an applicant with their needs for daily life, including bathing and dressing, and even chores and cleaning services. However, when moving to an assisted living facility, the waiver program fails to cover the rent; that will be left to the personal funds of the waiver recipient or the recipient’s family. Many people go all-in intending to qualify for the waiver program, only to find that they will still be on the hook for rent at the facility they were desperate to live in and that they sold everything else to get to. This comes as an incredibly unwelcome surprise.

Sometimes, getting into an assisted living facility is difficult in its own right. Assisted living facilities typically require potential residents to prove that they can afford to live there for two years. And because of high demand for assisted living facilities (and difficulty staffing these facilities in recent years), facilities want to assess whether they are even equipped to meet a person’s care needs. It used to be commonplace that residents of assisted living who were able to initially finance their stay privately would always have continuity of care and a place to stay once waiver services were paying for them. That is not necessarily the case anymore. The facility may move a person who has recently gone on waiver services to a different room or claim that there is no space or ability to provide continued service at all.

By contrast, a general Long-Term Care application will entitle the applicant to room and board expenses being paid, but only if a nursing home level of service is required. Therefore, that application requires proof of need for skilled nursing care that is beyond the capabilities of an assisted living facility. As you can see, there are many issues to consider, and the best thing a person can do is consider them with an Elder Law Attorney who practices in this area.

A budget may be the first order of business. People often put a great deal of weight on the large assets that they own, focusing on things like homes, brokerage or retirement accounts, and the like. These funds are what people think of when having to pay for the large costs of care that have only been increasing astronomically in recent years. However, you can least afford to get tunnel vision when it comes to considering your every option. Sometimes, it is helpful to focus on income and expenses because that is what we live on. If one option appears to provide more stability from a financial perspective, that may be the best option going forward.

The discussions you will have with an Elder Law Attorney will be very forthright and will often require finding a way to budget with your utmost goals in mind. These are difficult discussions, but they have an aim and outcome in mind: getting the best, needs-specific care for a client or client’s family member while qualifying for the most appropriate program available.

Trust Henningson & Snoxell

Although it appears like there is no opportunity to plan, it makes sense to proceed thoughtfully. None of these goals can be reached without the knowledge necessary to make a roadmap to get there. Even when there seems to be no room to maneuver, one of our Elder Law Attorneys can make sure you take your next best step forward. Contact us today to get started.

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DHS Assisted Living Report Card

02.14.2024 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

assisted living report card

On January 29, 2024, the Minnesota Department of Human Services launched the much-anticipated Assisted Living Report Card. The information will help families when they are investigating assisted living options for their loved ones and will enable families to search for a facility by name or by geographic area. This will help provide families with a centralized location to begin their search for an assisted living facility while gathering objective information about whether the facility can support a loved one with dementia, and to know how the facility performs on certain key indicators, such as quality of life, resident health, safety, and staffing. While the database is continuing to gather information, the Assisted Living Report Card site will provide families with a solid starting point when they begin their search for an assisted living facility in Minnesota.

The Assisted Living Report Card can be found at:

For families who are beginning the journey and find themselves in need of assistance or guidance, our elder law attorneys at Henningson & Snoxell can provide valuable insight into the process and provide resources to help with covering care costs. Contact us today!

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Keeping the Peace during the Holidays

12.20.2023 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Holidays can be a difficult time for families. Gathering around the dinner table often brings stress, especially if there are concerns regarding money and aging parents. Well-meaning children may bring up ideas on how Mom and Dad can avoid “giving everything to the nursing home” by giving assets to the children. I urge families to proceed with caution. Planning for incapacity and long-term care should be a longer discussion with legal and financial professionals involved to ensure that aging loved ones are protected from unintended consequences.

Long-term care planning is a complex process dealing not only with tax consequences but also possible eligibility issues regarding financial assistance for long-term care. Generally speaking, Medical Assistance prohibits giving gifts of any amount within five years of application for assistance.

Let’s look at an example. Grandma gives each of her five grandchildren $10,000 for Christmas each year for four years. On the fifth year, she finds herself in need of long-term care but without sufficient assets, so she applies for Medical Assistance. Unless the $200,000 in gifts given to the grandkids over the past five years is returned to Grandma, she will be ineligible for Medical Assistance for nearly two years. This is called a penalty period. It is calculated by taking the amount of the gift and dividing it by the Statewide Average Payment for Skilled Nursing Facility (a/k/a SAPSNF). This number is updated every July based on the monthly average cost for care in a nursing home in Minnesota.

There are some options to protect or gift assets, but such strategies should be coordinated by an elder law attorney, the person’s financial advisor, and tax advisors. An elder law attorney who is well-versed in the rules regarding Medical Assistance can work with families to plan a legacy while ensuring that the long-term care needs of the elderly loved one are kept at the forefront.

Planning for Incapacity is also best accomplished with the aid of professionals. Handwritten powers of attorney and health care directives may be valid on their faces, but they can create significant headaches if there are questions regarding the individual’s capacity to execute such documents. This is especially true when concerns of financial exploitation arise. When a healthcare directive or power of attorney is called into question because of a person’s incapacity to execute new documents, the parties must go to court in a guardianship and/or conservatorship proceeding. These are expensive and oftentimes contentious proceedings costing tens of thousands of dollars and splitting families apart in the process.

If you think a family member might need to enter an assisted living or long-term care facility, pick the right time and place to discuss it. Many aging loved ones are fiercely protective of their independence and autonomy. Conversations regarding safety risks of remaining in the home need to be approached respectfully and carefully. This promotes a more productive conversation and a higher likelihood of finding solutions that balance safety concerns with our loved ones’ wishes.  Proactive discussions and support can go a long way toward preventing a need for emergency interventions. Elder law attorneys can assist families with navigating tough conversations. They provide an objective outside perspective and practical knowledge of what the next phases of life might look like. At a time when a family may be overwhelmed and not quite sure what the future looks like, an elder law attorney can help you plot a course for the future while keeping the peace in the family.

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Dementia & Guns: A Deadly Combination

01.12.2022 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

There is a side to gun ownership that is not often discussed: what happens when a gun owner is no longer capable of safely owning or using his or her guns?

It is tragic when an individual with dementia ends up shooting a loved one.

Individuals who develop dementia frequently experience hallucinations or have times where they do not recognize the people around them.  This can be especially problematic if the individual has access to guns.  The individual may incorrectly believe someone they know is a stranger and that he or she needs to defend themselves.  It is tragic when such an individual ends up shooting a loved one.  In West Virginia, a grandfather with dementia thought he saw intruders entering his home, so he grabbed his Glock that he kept under his pillow and shot his wife and granddaughter.  The granddaughter was able to call for help, but the grandmother did not survive. 

Unfortunately, this can and does happen not only in other states but also right here in Minnesota. For families of loved ones with dementia, we commonly grapple with the question of when to take the car away.  Families should also discuss when the guns should be removed from the home or stored in a secure location for safety purposes.  This is a difficult conversation and the loved one may be in the denial stage of dementia.  In situations like this, families may need to involve the courts to initiate a proceeding to have the individual’s guns confiscated. 

Decide what to do with your firearms.

To prevent court intervention, families should engage in the conversations early on in an individual’s diagnosis so that the individual can be involved in deciding what to do with the firearms, to whom the firearms should go after they pass, or whether to voluntarily give them up.  For caretakers and family members, it is best to get this plan in writing and signed by the person when there is a voluntary relinquishment of the firearms.  This will be helpful in the future should the individual forget about the arrangement and make accusations that someone stole the guns.

Families may be forced to deal with this situation before they can bring caregivers or home health into the home.  Such agencies have policies that require that any firearms or weapons in the home be removed before their employees can come to the home.  By having a plan in place and removing the guns before there is a need for home health care or in-home assistance, families can avoid additional stress. 

If your family has a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia, be sure to speak with physicians, elder law attorneys, or care coordinators to help you understand the ins and outs of what is to come. 

Our elder law concierge service at Henningson & Snoxell provides family with a personal touch to help navigate the chaos that comes with a loved one with a dementia diagnosis. Please reach out to see how we can help you and your family through this challenging time.

Rachell L. Henning

Rachell Henning is an Elder Law attorney that brings a wealth of personal and professional experience to her practice.  From an early age, Rachell has been dedicated to assisting elderly individuals and individuals with disabilities to live their lives to the fullest.

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This is why we do what we do! (a testimonial from a client)

06.02.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Experience working with Rachell Henning

We recently received a heartwarming letter from a client regarding her experience working with Elder Law Attorney Rachell Henning:

“I need to share with you my experience working with Lawyer Extraordinaire, Rachell Henning.

“I came upon your firm (recommended through one of my dementia list servs), and immediately wrote to you. Rachell Henning responded to that email the very next day, and I feel that I was being watched over from above, because there is no doubt in my mind that the perfect lawyer was give to me to help me through the emergencies of the past few months. She works tirelessly, and has been there for every single question I have had. Her quick responses are not something I’m used to!

“Rachell Henning has truly been a gift to our family. She has worked so hard to learn all the various aspects of my brother’s diagnosis, along with the multiple layers involved in getting him the care he needs. She was also extremely helpful in finding a person to serve as my brother’s emergency guardian.

“The amount of stress that I was feeling trying to do all of this care myself for over two years, has started to melt away, and I feel unbelievably lucky that the email came to me recommending your firm, and having Ms. Henning reach out to me. She has been everything, and more, that I ever hoped to have in a lawyer!”

Rachell L. Henning

As an associate at Henningson & Snoxell, Rachell Henning brings a wealth of personal and professional experience to her practice as an elder law attorney.  From an early age, Rachell has been dedicated to assisting elderly individuals and individuals with disabilities to live their lives to the fullest. Read more about Rachell.

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When Should You Start Planning for Long-Term Care?

04.07.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Planning for long-term care is an emotional and overwhelming task.  It is difficult to accept aging and even more difficult to accept that at some point in our lives we will be dependent on others for help doing things we find easy to do today.  For most of us, talking about death is difficult, but I have found that talking about long-term care is even more taboo.  For many of our elderly loved ones, mine included, their biggest fear is being “thrown into a nursing home.” 


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Elder Law Concierge Services

09.21.2020 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Adult children with elderly parents are experiencing stress like never before.

They are often caught between raising their own children, working demanding jobs, and navigating their aging parents’ complicated situations and needs.

Our firm offers a service that is specifically designed to assist busy adult children with their parents’ elder law issues. Our Elder Law Concierge Service is a full-service solution that involves hands-on, compassionate assistance by attorney and paralegal staff. Whether helping Dad get the care he needs after hip surgery, researching living and care options when Mom is no longer able to live independently, or working with staff to assess Mom’s needs and gaining her admission at a facility, we can help. We will help you determine the resources that are available and the process for obtaining them. We combine legal and practical knowledge to take a collaborative approach to gathering information and evaluating options. We focus not only on asset protections and legal capacity planning, but on dignity and quality of life.

We take the time to get to know your family and what is important to you.

We learn the nuances of family dynamics and try to anticipate problems that may arise. If problems do arise, we quickly address the issue. Having us in place as counselors and advisors will minimize the stress and burden on family members. We also establish relationships with service providers to create a network of support for our clients. This collaborative approach to assisting clients and their families creates a feeling of personal connection in a world where isolation is the new norm.

If your family is experiencing a stressful time because a loved one needs help at home or needs care at an assisted living or nursing care facility, don’t hesitate to call us. Let us take something off your plate. Leave the legwork to us.

We’ve got your back.

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What is Medical Assistance?

06.11.2020 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

What is Medical Assistance?

In Minnesota, Medicaid is called “Medical Assistance” or “MA”.  Under that umbrella, there are several different programs, but the one that we most often work with at Henningson & Snoxell is Medical Assistance for Long-Term Care Services (MA-LTC).  


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