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Barclay Damon associate knows Medicaid

Helping clients is ‘greatest privilege in the world’

By: Bennett Loudon//July 12, 2019

Barclay Damon associate knows Medicaid

Helping clients is ‘greatest privilege in the world’

By: Bennett Loudon//July 12, 2019//

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Kelly Gusmano
Kelly Gusmano

It didn’t take Kelly Gusmano long to find her legal specialty.

She has always worked in trusts and estates, mainly helping clients qualify for Medicaid insurance coverage.

“I fell in love first year of law school with property law. It’s very formulaic to me,” said Gusmano, who joined Barclay Damon LLP as an associate in April.

Gusmano earned her undergraduate degree at SUNY Fredonia and her law degree at Syracuse University College of Law.

“I knew I always wanted to do something regarding property, not necessarily real estate,” she said.

She worked in an elder law clinic during law school. And, between her first and second years of law school, the Henrietta native worked at a Syracuse-area law firm specializing in estate planning and Medicaid.

“It was there that I really got the introduction to this practice area. Everything has just always clicked with me,” she said. “So I got that hands-on experience in law school doing the same stuff I’m doing now.”

Gusmano was admitted to the bar in January 2015. Before joining Barclay Damon, she was an associate at Lacy Katzen LLP.

Her attraction to the law is rooted in a fascination with language.

“I always loved the way that words work and the fact that certain words have specific meaning,” she said. “I love the fact that I can write something and it puts into motion a series of actions. If I write something on a paper, ultimately it’s going to end up producing some affect in the future.”

“And if I can use that to help people — help people get benefits for Medicaid so they don’t deplete their resources on their health care — I think that’s the greatest privilege in the world. I can take what I love to do and help others in the process,” she continued.

The majority of her time is spent trying to get benefits for clients.

“And in that regard, there’s definitely an evolving area and opportunity for us to help our clients get community Medicaid,” she said.

While Medicaid is generally thought of as health insurance for poor people, the program is actually much more. In general, for people who qualify, Medicaid pays for things not covered by other insurance, such as nursing home care.

“Typically, the normal route is that you spend down all of your assets until you’re poor, then you apply. But what they don’t tell you is there are things you can do to preserve your assets so that you don’t go through $180,000 a year and then have to apply for Medicaid,” Gusmano said.

The portion of the program that pays for nursing home care is chronic care Medicaid, which has strict asset and resource limits. If you give away assets within five years of applying for Medicaid you will be penalized by having to pay for your care for a certain amount of time.

But community Medicaid is another option available for people who are sick and in need of assistance, but living in their home, not a nursing home.

Under the community Medicaid option, Medicaid will pay for in-home aides.

“There are no transfer penalties when you do that type of Medicaid,” she said.

Applicants can give their assets to friends or relatives without having to use them to pay for care, without any penalties.

The typical Medicaid application process takes at least three months. But New York state has had a less well known process in place since 2016 to expedite the application process for applicants seeking community Medicaid benefits.

“We pair with very capable care managers to get the Medicaid up and running within a matter of weeks, so that we’re truncating this months-long process, and hopefully we can keep this person home,” Gusmano said.

[email protected] (585) 232-2035

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