Friday, April 3, 2009

Is Planning to Access Public Benefits Ethical?

While longevity is increasing for both men and women, people are suffering from more debilitating diseases, and requiring more long-term care than ever before.

The cost of that care promises only to increase; and, were it not for the Medicaid Program (called Medi-Cal in California) created by Congress, many Americans would be without the means to pay for that care or would risk financial ruin. Seniors and their families deserve to live and age with dignity. They should not have to choose between securing necessary care and financial ruin. Indeed, providing a payment source for seniors and the disabled to cover long-term care expenses was a social policy decision made by Congress years ago.

Avoiding impoverishment by taking steps to qualify for an available long-term care subsidy may require planning and the services of an Elder Law Attorney.

Is this ethical? Think of it this way: The wealthy plan their affairs and design their business strategies to minimize their tax burden. They may hire a team of expert financial advisers, accountants and attorneys to assist them in their efforts. Their success is applauded and the creative efforts of their "team" members are often highly compensated. When logic is applied, what is so different about the middle class planning their own affairs in a similar fashion, in pursuit of benefits to which they are entitled? Except for an inherent class bias favoring the wealthy, the answer is nothing. The impact upon the public treasury -- whether the planning involves tax avoidance, or securing a Medi-Cal subsidy -- is precisely the same. Such middle class "tax planning" is not only ethical, it is becoming absolutely essential.

Gene Osofsky is an East Bay elder law attorney in California. Gene Osofsky specializes in Medi-Cal planning, wills, probate, trusts, nursing home issues, special needs planning, and disability planning. To learn more about elder law and The Law Offices of Osofsky & Osofsky, visit

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