What is Medicaid?
Medicaid is a health care program for certain individuals and families with low income and resources. Medicaid is a means-tested program that is jointly funded by the state and federal governments and is managed by each individual state. In order to qualify for long-term care benefits through the Medicaid program, you must be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, meet certain income and resource requirements, and be 65 or older, disabled, or blind. Poverty alone does not necessarily qualify someone for Medicaid.
Medicare paid for Dad’s hospital after his stroke. Won’t Medicare pay for a nursing home, too?
No. Medicare will only pay for up to 100 days of rehabilitation. After that, Medicaid may pay for long-term care if your dad qualifies. Medicaid rules are complicated and change over time.
Mom can’t take care of Dad at home anymore.To qualify for Medicaid, will they have to sell their house and spend down all their investments?
Your parents' residence is exempt, so they can keep the house. Depending on the value of their investments, your parents may have to “spend down” some assets. They can spend down “dumb” or they can spend down “smart.” With help from an experienced elder lawyer, they can spend down “smart” or even avoid a spend down entirely.
Will Medicaid take my parents’ house or put a lien on it?
No. Medicaid does not put a lien on the house. However, Medicaid may make a claim against your Dad’s estate for payback after he passes away. An experienced elder lawyer may help your parents with legal ways to avoid a claim entirely or at least delay the claim until after your Mom passes away.
Is it legal for Mom and Dad to retitle or transfer their property to me so they will qualify for Medicaid?
Actually, it is perfectly legal, but it must be done very carefully because Medicaid recipients will face a “period of ineligibility” based on the timing and the amount of the gift. There is a 5-year “look back” that applies in ways you may not expect. Don’t try this at home.
Mom and Dad had their wills done years ago. Is there anything else they should do to plan ahead for long-term care?
Yes. Here is their homework assignment:
1. Get a durable power of attorney from an experienced elder lawyer while Mom and Dad still understand what they are doing. For transactions to obtain Medicaid eligibility down the road, special provisions are required. A cheap power of attorney from the stationery store may be “legal,” but it may not work.
2. Get an advance directive for end-of-life health care decisions.
3. Consider long-term care insurance.
4. Plan ahead with an experienced elder lawyer to preserve their assets for their care.
If you or a loved one is in need of long-term care benefits through Medicaid, call us today.