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I’m betting we all know someone who has said they are waiting until their kid(s) are out of high school to move. And, if you’re like me, you probably said “that makes sense”. After all, high school marks the end of an era and you want your children to be with their friends. It can be a really tough time to start over.
When you don’t have a child who may qualify for a State Medicaid Waiver this is all good. However, if you’re child is going to need, or has already been approved for, the State’s Medicaid Waiver I encourage you to think twice.
Medicaid services are state-specific. At this time (September 2022) there are no provisions to help families transfer their benefits from one state to another unless you are Active Duty military. According to a Military OneSource article (17 July 2020), the Department of Defense Liaison Office “has 37 states with either no waiting list or with policies that support military members on the waiting list in their state of legal residence while on active duty.”
But what if you’re not military, or you are but you don’t live in one of these 37 states? Then if you were to move you would need to start the process all over again. This would begin with you applying for the Medicaid Waiver in your new state and waiting to see if you would be approved. There is no guarantee your child will qualify because every state is allowed to set its own standards.
For example, some states (like Alabama and Connecticut) may require an Intellectual Disability diagnosis with an IQ lower than 70 to receive support. Connecticut has also set a lower asset maximum for Medicaid of $1,600 (single person). These are just a few examples of things parents need to be thinking about when considering a move to a different state.
Currently, there is no tool I’m aware of that will allow you to compare benefits between states online. If you know where you want to go, or you’ve at least narrowed it down to (3) states, you may opt to work with me using the “Too Many Moving Parts” package. I believe Vitalxchange may also have VitalGuides who can help, but I’m not 100% sure.
I encourage you to not let taxes or cost of living be the sole deciding factor (I acknowledge both are important). I understand sometimes you don’t have much of a choice about moving if you want to keep your family together. I was a geographical bachelor for 5+ years, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Don’t wait until after you move to figure things out. Do your homework, or hire someone to do it for you. Make sure you understand what is, and isn’t, available where you are going.more
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As consumers, we owe it to ourselves to be informed. This goes for everything from healthcare to services for our children. Personally, I find it extremely tempting to take things at face value. Who has the time or the bandwidth to fact-check everything? If you can’t trust who you’re working with then why are you with them?
I’m not suggesting you question everything. However, I do believe if you are working with a professional for the first time it may not be a bad thing to ask them to “show their work”. For example, if you are getting life insurance and the agent quotes you a number, I think it would be helpful to understand where the value came from. The same is true when you are meeting with your child’s IEP team and they are proposing goals (this was an area I feel I could have done much better at). Dig deeper into what the goals are meant to accomplish, and how are they going to help your child after they leave school.
This is especially true if you are talking to anyone about public benefits. Over the years I’ve found many people don’t understand that public benefits have different rules and eligibility requirements, even when they seemingly work together. For example, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In most states, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicaid when you qualify for SSI.
However, these are separate programs. It’s possible for you to lose your SSI and keep your Medicaid. Especially if you start receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) because you qualify under the Disabled Adult Child Benefit. Sometimes you may lose your SSI because you are working and earning too much. This doesn’t mean you can’t have Medicaid. Some states have programs allowing employed individuals with disabilities to buy in.
SSI is a Federal program, meaning it’s pretty much the same in every state. Some states will supplement the benefit, but generally speaking, if you qualify in one state you will qualify in every state. This is NOT the case with Medicaid. Every state administers its Medicaid program differently. You need to be very clear on what the eligibility requirements are if you are considering a move.
Even temporary relocations, like going out of state to attend college, can be perilous. Medicaid may not pay for medical care in the new state. If you are receiving benefits from a Medicaid Waiver you can expect those benefits to be put on hold. And if you are receiving SSI you will want to make sure you are clear on what the requirements are for a “temporary absence”. You don’t want your state to interpret your situation as you changing residency.
But you may not get any of this information if you talk to a college counselor. Most are not experts on benefits like SSI and Medicaid. When you, or your child, has a disability it becomes imperative to ask the right questions. If you’re like I was, you don’t know what you don’t know. So how can you ask the “right questions”?
You can start on Google (or the search engine of your choice). Write out the question in as much detail as you can. For example, “will I lose my SSI benefits if I go to college out of state?” Questions like these will often lead you to articles and/or blogs. Follow the thread to the author and see if there is any contact information for them. If there is, reach out. It’s not uncommon for me to get 2 or 3 emails a week from people who have follow-up questions about a YouTube video they watched.
I’m betting most people would be happy to answer your question and “show their work”. If they’ve gone to the trouble of writing an article or blog then they probably researched the topic pretty extensively (or maybe I’m just projecting what I do on everyone else).
I wouldn’t expect, or demand, a “free” consult, consider paying them for their time and knowledge. I switched to charging $49 for the first 30-minute call because I found I could often answer my client’s questions during this call and it didn’t make sense to me to set up an hourly consult. There’s an opportunity cost to consider. Time spent on a call with one person is time you don’t have to spend researching or creating new content to help the many.
The sources they give you are what you will reference if/when something comes up. I’ve had quite a few clients around the country get their benefits back after they made their case using the state’s instructions with the local agency. The important thing to remember is these workers are human and deserve to be treated with civility. Many aren’t trained on all the regulations they are expected to enforce. Being polite and trying to work collaboratively with them will get you much further than letting the anger and frustration you may be feeling get the best of you.
If all of this seems too overwhelming or you want to talk it through, reach out – the first 15-minute call is free and I will refer to another expert if I’m not the best fit. The worst thing you can do is nothing, especially if you have a child who is getting ready to leave High School and start adult services. Contrary to how it can feel sometimes, most of us are not out to “get you”. We want to help. Let us be your lifeline.more