Elder law attorneys, with expertise in estate planning, incapacity planning, and end-of-life care for seniors, are essential in working to protect a vulnerable population.
The Senate and House have cleared the passage of a year-end $1.7 trillion appropriations bill that will benefit older adults on a number of fronts.
The bill, which runs more than 4,000 pages and includes a wide variety of legislation, heads to President Biden next for his signoff.
Here is a breakdown of some of the highlights that relate to supporting older Americans:
Health and Housing
- Opt to age at home – The Money Follows the Person (MFP) Program has been helping older adults age in their own home or a community setting, rather than in nursing homes, since 1972. The newly passed bill extends MFP through September 2027.
- Age in place safely – The omnibus bill has also doubled funding for the federal government’s Older Adult Home Modification Program from $15 million to $30 million.
For seniors with limited income, this program covers the cost of simple, low-cost home modifications – such as railings and temporary wheelchair ramps – that help them age in place safely.
- Provide for your healthy spouse if you are on Medicaid in a nursing home – Medicaid beneficiaries who must reside in a long-term care facility but have a spouse still living at home will continue to see their healthy spouse protected from poverty.
Known as spousal impoverishment rules, these protections ensure that the healthy spouse receives income while their institutionalized spouse keeps their Medicaid eligibility. These protections, which are adjusted each year, will continue to be in place until September 2027.
- Continue to see doctors online – Lawmakers have extended access to telehealth services for Medicare enrollees for another two years.
- Find affordable housing with support services – The Housing for the Elderly Program has received a billion-dollar bump in funding as well.
This program seeks to aid seniors with very limited income in securing housing that is within their means while also offering supportive services such as assistance with cooking and cleaning.
- Contribute more to retirement – For older workers, the omnibus bill raises what are known as “catch-up” contribution limits for retirement savings. Taxpayers ages 60 to 63 will be allowed to contribute an extra $10,000 to their 401(k) starting in 2025.
- Access 401(k) funds for emergencies – If you need to take money out of your 401(k) before reaching age 59½, under certain circumstances you will no longer have to pay the 10 percent penalty fee for withdrawing money early. As of the end of 2023, you will be allowed to withdraw up to $1,000 a year for unforeseen emergencies without incurring a penalty.
- Wait longer to withdraw money from your retirement accounts – Previously, you were required to begin withdrawing money from your retirement plan account starting at age 72. This mandatory withdrawal is known as a required minimum distribution (RMD).
As of January 1, 2023, the new bill allows you to hold off until age 73 to take funds from these types of private retirement accounts.