Governmental Assistance in Paying for Nursing Home Care
Crisis Planning – IT’S NEVER TOO LATE
Medicaid planning can begin anytime, even if your loved one is already living in a skilled care facility. But the sooner you plan, the more options you will have to protect what’s important to you.
YOU CAN KEEP YOUR HOME
If you’re married, and you or your spouse needs to go into a nursing home, your home is exempt from Medicaid’s calculation of what your contribution to the cost of care should be. If you are unmarried or widowed and you go into a nursing home, your house may be exempt if you follow certain procedures. But planning is key to preserving your home.
DON’T GIVE AWAY THE STORE
Since major changes to laws in 2006, “gifting” away your assets creates unforeseen circumstances for years. Far from protecting yourself, you will be undermining your own security.
MIND THOSE SAFE HARBORS
Congress has created a number of “safe harbor” provisions for protecting your assets. These exempt certain assets and allow transfers to children or siblings who meet certain eligibility requirements, as well as putting assets in certain kinds of trusts.
CAREFULLY CHOOSE WHEN YOU APPLY
Applying too early can mean a longer wait for Medicaid qualification than necessary, while applying too late can mean having to pay for months of care you may not have had to. Rule of thumb: Do not apply for Medicaid without a plan to ensure you qualify.
GET THE RIGHT HELP
Medicaid planning is a complex matter. You need expert assistance to keep your assets safe. Be sure to find legal counsel who limits their practice to this area- someone with proven expertise in Medicaid law.
WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR MEDICAID QUALIFICATION?
Medicaid is a federal program that provides health coverage for people with limited assets and incomes. It covers the cost of nursing home care for those who meet the program’s economic requirements for eligibility.
Though it’s a federal program, Medicaid is administered by the states. Federal law empowers each state to enforce Medicaid eligibility rules according to its own interpretation. This means that application of these rules can vary significantly from state to state and, in some states, from county to county.
Your Medicaid planning advisor can best help you determine how the rules apply to your specific circumstances in your specific locality. Before you get into the specifics, however, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the general federal guidelines for Medicaid qualification.
Generally speaking, assets fall into two categories: “countable” and “non-countable”. To qualify for Medicaid benefits, a nursing home resident can have $2,000 in countable assets in 2011. The spouse of a nursing home resident, or “community spouse”, can retain between a minimum of $21,912 and a maximum of $109,560 (2011) of the couple’s joint countable assets. (These amounts are adjusted annually for inflation. See our blog for updates) The important thing to know here is that with proper planning more money and assets (sometimes substantially more) can be protected.
What happens to a Medicaid recipient’s estate when he or she passes away? Like so much else, that depends on whether they have properly planned to protect it. When a Medicaid recipient dies, the state must attempt to recover the benefits paid to that individual from his or her estate – that is a requirement under federal Medicaid law.
If you have a parent or loved one who may need home health, assisted living, or long term care assistance in the near future contact our office to arrange a FREE 1-Hour Initial Consultation.
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