Riverwoods law office addresses Medicaid reform
Long Grove resident Steven Peck's Riverwoods law office specializies in safeguarding clients' assets in light of new and revamped legislation. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 9, 2012 8:56AM
RIVERWOODS — New Medicaid regulations have some Illinois residents worried, but local attorney Steven Peck said he’s focused on helping residents through the unknown.
Peck, who specializes in estate and tax planning out of his Riverwoods firm, is still wondering what members of the state legislature were thinking when they restructured the health program to cut costs earlier this year.
“I’m still trying to figure it out,” he said of the new Medicaid laws.
“I don’t know what the answer is to make (Medicaid) affordable but we have people that we need to take care of.”
Advising clients — particularly local seniors — on safeguarding their assets in light of new and revamped legislation is a constant challenge for Peck, especially when rules change from year to year.
Yet looking ahead is what Peck said his practice is all about.
He assists people of varying incomes in all aspects of estate planning, including wills and trusts, wealth transfer planning, asset protection, and long-term care planning.
While the Long Grove resident primarily works out of his Riverwoods office, Peck also is licensed in Massachusetts (his home state), New York (where he held his first job), and Florida (where many clients have retired).
Peck worked his way through law school at Boston College as an insurance agent.
“Because of that background, I’m always yelling at clients ‘you need life insurance,’” he said.
He initially moved to the Chicago area from the East Coast to do real estate work. Yet the recession of the early 1990s thwarted his plans and by 1995 he opened a solo law practice.
A people person, Peck said he prefers talking with and assisting clients to litigating in a courtroom.
“This is an enjoyable field of law because I’m always helping people,” Peck said.
He said several components of the revised Medicaid program make it important for families to begin planning now for aging adults.
The law’s most significant change, Peck said, was making the look-back period on asset transfers five years from three.
In order to use Medicaid to cover the cost of long-term nursing care, an individual has to meet certain income requirements. Giving away all one’s assets seems like an easy way to meet the threshold, however, the government places restrictions on those transfers.
The new regulations imposed a five-year waiting period to applying for the program.
Peck said the elimination of the ability to employ spousal refusal would also affect families. Previously a person could declare he or she would not pay for a spouse’s medical expenses. In effect, the spouse in need could rely on Medicaid.
Now that spousal income is counted, “what you’ll see is a spike in 85-year-old divorces,” he said.
Peck said his goal is to advise clients on how to work within the restrictions to provide for themselves and their families.
Setting up trusts and having advanced directives in place give families peace of mind, he said.
This helps ensure seniors can maintain both their physical well-being and financial health, he added.
“It’s not an either or,” Peck said. “You can be able to live decently and protect your assets.”