The Elder Law Forum

The Elder Law Forum â�?�?The Golden Years: What a Laugh!â�? By Michael Myers
USD School of Law We live in interesting times. We should know.�?  We created them. That was the message delivered by a helpline caller, a 62-year-old diabetic who is losing her sight and employment after 27 years of working as a nurse for a Catholic healthcare system. She and her husband are contemplating bankruptcy.�? â�?�?Iâ�?�?ve been using my credit cards to buy prescription drugs. Iâ�?�?ve fallen behind.�?  What can I do?�? Is there a way I can get help with my prescription drugs?�? I need them,â�? she said. She contends this baby boomer generation has engaged in dysfunctional â�?�?tax-cut-and-spendâ�? politics,â�? weakened retirement safety nets for middle-class Americans, and facilitated a healthcare system that â�?�?deceives and exploits.â�?�? Weâ�?�?ve engaged in political madness,â�? she says, acknowledging she is an angry woman. â�?�?The â�?�?Golden Yearsâ�?�?â�?�? What a laugh!â�?�? â�?�?My advice to seniors,â�? she says, â�?�?is to keep on working; if you can and if they will let you.â�?�? Her hospital, she says, provides its employees with diminished health insurance. It has no prescription drug benefit.�? �? �?  â�?�?Because of my health, I can only work part-time and Iâ�?�?m afraid I wonâ�?�?t be able to do that much longer,â�? she said.�?  â�?�?My husband has Parkinsonâ�?�?s and was forced to retire three years ago.�? I have diabetes and rapidly losing my sight.�? Iâ�?�?ve missed a lot of work this year and just came home from another hospitalization. The doctors have me on a nine different prescription drugs and I need them all.�? Iâ�?�?ve been paying for them with credit cards and canâ�?�?t keep up with the payments. â�?�?If we declare bankruptcy, can we keep our house?â�? she asked.�? â�?�?Itâ�?�?s our only nest egg.â�? It is valued at $140,000.�? They live in South Dakota which until two years ago had an unlimited homestead exemption.�? It is now $30,000 until age 70, at which time the exemption increases to $170,000. â�?�?Youâ�?�?re about eight years too young,â�? I advised. â�?�?All but $30,000 of your home equity will be available to creditors in a bankruptcy proceeding.â�?�?  Increasingly the gold in the â�?�?Golden Yearsâ�? is being transferred to hospitals, physicians, drug companies and health insurers. These are interesting times; particularly for seniors who encounter the U.S. healthcare system.�? Her advice:�?  Stay healthy. Stay on the job.�?  (Pro bono legal advice and information is available to persons 55 and older through the USD Senior Legal Helpline, 1-800-747-1895, mmyers@usd.edu.�?  Opinions solely the authorâ�?�?s and not the University of South Dakota).

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