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business

Employers Owe Laid-Off Workers Extra Help

Assistance packages should be sweetened when jobs are scarce in a recession.

What does an employer ethically owe an employee who is terminated in a downsizing?

Ethical employers show compassion to all employees who lose their jobs, especially in a difficult labor market such as the current one. Extra help should be given to longtime employees who have served the company loyally, as well as to workers who face trouble finding new jobs due to their advanced age, obsolete skills or high salaries.

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Most companies have predetermined assistance packages for terminated workers (severance pay, career counseling, extended benefits and the like), which are described in the employee handbook. I think these should be sweetened when jobs are scarce in a recession.

Medicaid planning?

My sister says our family should begin elaborate "Medicaid planning" to shelter our elderly parents' assets and make them look poor enough to qualify for government-paid nursing-home assistance, even though they're in good health today. I think this is unethical. What do you think?

I'm with you, and I wonder about your sister's motive (does she want to make sure that she gets her inheritance early?). People who can afford to buy long-term-care insurance in their early senior years -- say, in their fifties to mid sixties -- should do so instead of resorting to Medicaid subterfuges later in life.

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Medicaid -- a state and federal health-care program that's financially strapped -- was intended for the poor. It was not meant to relieve better-off families of their responsibility for taking care of older family members.

A number of states, including California and New York, offer so-called "partnership LTC insurance," which allows you to qualify for Medicaid if your LTC coverage runs out, but without exhausting all of your own assets.

Ethics aside, a change in the rules several years ago makes it much harder to qualify for Medicaid by coming up with creative ways to divest your assets. I think that's a good thing.

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