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Medicaid Mills and Pension Poachers are companies usually run and staffed by non-attorneys that prey on individuals’ fears of paying catastrophic long term care costs, in order to sell financial products, create legal entities and dispose of the victim’s assets to create Medicaid or Veterans benefit “eligibility.”  Their actions harm elderly consumers in need of long term care, their families and taxpayers.

The costs of long term care can be more than $6000 per month.   Mills and Poachers promise that families can avoid these costs with miraculous returns that will cost less than seeking the advice and guidance of a qualified elder law attorney.  However, Mills and Poachers have no obligations to act in the consumer’s best interest, no specific training or education requirements, and nothing that makes them reveal the substantial commissions they make from the often inappropriate financial products they sell to the frightened consumer.  In addition, when a Mill or Poacher damages a consumer’s financial health, the bad guys usually have no professional liability insurance to cover the damages and there is no standard entity (government or private) with whom to file a complaint.  Often Mills and Poachers claim they work with attorneys, but the consumer never meets or consults with the attorney. This is illegal.

Unlike Mills and Poachers, qualified elder law attorneys are required to work in the client’s best interest, disclose all conflicts, clearly state their fees, meet education and testing requirements, and disclose whether they are making additional money from you beyond the fees they charge for their legal services.  When a consumer has a  problem with the conduct of an attorney, they can file a complaint with their state Bar Association.  In addition, most attorneys have professional liability insurance that covers any errors they might make in providing services.  That means the consumer isn’t left holding the bag.

Many elderly consumers are victimized by Mills and Poachers when they are conned into purchasing inappropriate financial products such as annuities, engaging in unnecessary financial transactions, and creating layers of business or trust entities after being told these actions will “protect” the elderly consumer against the costs of long term care.  Often these transactions place the elder’s money beyond their own control, come with large undisclosed penalties when an elder tries to access the funds during a crisis, and have significant tax consequences.  In many cases, these “investments” are unnecessary because the elder is already eligible for Medicaid or VA benefits.  Some of these Mill and Poacher transactions can actually make the elder ineligible for necessary benefits, leaving the elder and their spouse with insurmountable health care bills and debt.  In still other cases, the elderly consumer is forced to seek government benefits to cover their costs after suffering significant financial losses.

The harm doesn’t end with our elderly.  The facilities in which the elders live, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities, are often left with large unpaid bills and no way to collect against the elder who has lost his/her assets.  Families are also harmed because they are often forced to make sacrifices to provide care for a sick, frail elder that has been discharged from a facility for non-payment, or they have to pay the outstanding debts of a facility.  In some states, facilities can sue adult children for these debts.  Finally, when more elders are forced to use public benefits such as Medicaid because their assets were stolen, the burden to taxpayers grows.

When consumers need assistance with long term care planning, they should remember that a qualified elder law attorney can provide them with a conflict free assessment of their options.  With the right advice and planning, the elder can obtain quality care while managing their costs, and avoid the devastation caused by those out to do them harm.

Do you know of someone this has happened to or do you fear it could happen to a loved one?  Let me know in the comments section!